Adjudications for The E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival began at the beginning of March in Nassau and were held on Abaco during the week of March 20- 24. This festival highlights the talents of students at primary, junior and senior high school levels in the fields of dance, drama, music and the visual arts. It is a truly national festival since it covers not only Nassau and Grand Bahama but all of the family islands also.
Students do not just compete against each other on their own island but against all of the other students in their class throughout the Bahamas. Therefore the winners are the most outstanding musicians in the entire Bahamas.
The festival got off to an exciting start in Abaco at the Every Child Counts School. Synovia Pierre, Senior Cultural Officer for the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, who was the Organizing Secretary for the E Clement Bethel National Arts Festival opened the adjudications by announcing that since ECC was the first school performing in Abaco they would be setting the bar for everyone else.
She understood that although some were shy she advised them to not be afraid and applauded all the hard work. The first item on the agenda was the junior choir who sang a very sweet rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” from the Lion King.
Music adjudicator, Pastor Trent Davis, congratulated them saying they have wonderful potential and he loved to see the lights in their eyes. The song, “So Much to be Thankful for” was sung a cappella by the choir and led by Ronell Escarment and received praise from the adjudicator along with admiration for the two young men accompanying them in sign language.
A duet of the song “Hallelujah” by Ronell Escarment and Alexander Curry and “We are the heartbeat” by the senior drummers also received high praise.
The final presentation from the school was a solo by Ronell Escarment who has had much success in the music festival over the years and has matured from a sweet soprano to a lovely baritone. The adjudicator praised his showmanship and his first-class presentation telling him; “You are a gift and have a very bright future in music”.
While some schools just performed in the music category others performed also in dance, drama, choral speaking and arts and crafts. One such school was the St. Francis de Sales which culminated the adjudications for the week and made a very fitting close to the week’s competition.
While Philip Burrows, drama adjudicator, had some harsh words for students who had not prepared their presentations thoroughly enough, the remaining items by the St. Francis de Sales School were of a very high standard and formed a very uplifting climax to the National Arts Festival on Abaco.
Some outstanding choral items included a moving rendition of the song “My Heart Will Go On” by Ashanti Duncanson, performances by the combined staff and senior student Gospel Choir andPop Band and the staff male voice choir.
The recorder group received very high praise from the adjudicator. Their music was of a very high standard and he was also very pleased to see that they were the only group in the entire adjudications that he had seen hold their recorders in the correct starting position.
“You are the group to beat”, he told them.
Also putting on a very noteworthy performance was young Amari Russell, solo drummer.
Other schools participating were: Treasure Cay Primary, S.C. Bootle High, Coopers Town Primary, Agape Christian School, J.A. Pinder Primary, Forest Heights Academy, Central Abaco Primary and Man O War Primary.
Two of the other schools which were singled out by the judges as having performed to especially high standard were the SC Bootle School for music and the JA Pinder School for dance.
Once all of the islands have been judged the highest scorers will be selected to perform in an awards ceremony at Government House. According to remarks made by the adjudicators after their experience on Abaco, there will be several winners from this island.
Other adjudicators not previously mentioned above were: Lawrence Carroll- Dance, Abby Smith- Art. The adjudicators were assisted by Wendell Demeritte and Geonise Ewing from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. All of the adjudicators are very experienced in their fields and gave much helpful advice to the young contestants.