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TONY BEST: Arturo brings the church down


TONY BEST: Arturo brings the church down

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A CHURCH’S HIGH altar, waist-moving secular music, a worthy cause and a maestro on a saxophone were an excellent combination.

The religious edifice in Brooklyn was St Mark’s Episcopal Church; the music ranged from rhythm and blues, jazz and rock and roll to calypso and reggae;  the special project was Barbados’ first hospice, a $5 million enterprise whose doors may be opened next year.

The quintessential instrumentalist whose trademark is stirring audiences’ emotions with his superb artistry was Arturo Tappin, who has made his name playing with the likes of Roberta Flack, the late Luther Vandross, Maxi Priest, Eddy Grant,  Roy Haynes, perhaps the world’s greatest living drummer, and the South African legend Hugh Masekela.

“It’s the first time I am playing in a church like this and I wasn’t sure what I should play,” Tappin told the audience of at least 250 souls who were brought together by the Barbados Cancer Association USA (BACA)  Inc.,

If he had any doubts, they were washed away when scores of concert goers felt compelled to rise from their pews in the predominantly Caribbean church to hail Tappin, midway through and at the end of his performance, just to let him know that he had given them a treat of a lifetime that was worth much more than the US$50 per ticket.

“It was simply magnificent,” said Selwin Hart, Barbados’ new Ambassador in Washington after Tappin brought down the proverbial curtain by playing Bob Marley’s classic One Love, the number that was voted by the BBC as the 20th century’s best song. “We must find ways to bring more of our excellent Barbadian professionals to the US.”

Tony Marshall, Barbados’ top diplomat at the United Nations, said: “It was simply stunning in or out of a church”.

The idea of a concert to help raise funds for the hospice, whose plans are now awaiting final approval by the Barbados Town and Country Planning Department, began as an invitation to participate in a tribute to mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of Ricardo “Tony” Cadogan, a top flight Bajan and Caribbean musician who died of lung cancer in New York in 1991.

Cadogan, a former Lodge School student, was the brother of Valda and Pamela Cadogan. He was a musicologist to the core, playing with different groups, including the Tropical Serenaders, and touring the United States at a time when he was teaching music, a subject which earned him Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

“When I approached Arturo with the idea to come to New York, he readily agreed and for that we are eternally grateful,” Pamela Cadogan-Hunter, told the audience.

“Thank you, Arturo.”

That sentiment was shared by Heather Marsh, BACA’s new president and Dr O’Neal Parris,a prominent paediatrician on Long Island who heads BACA (Barbados), which is a partner with Living Waters Community.

“The Barbados Hospice, a joint venture of the Living Water Community and BACA (Barbados), is attracting considerable support from various Barbadian organizations, private firms, individuals and institutions in and out of Barbados and the US,” explained Parris.

“Hospice and palliative care are inextricably linked andare key public health issues. The Hospice in Barbados will be a 14-bed state-of-the art inpatient facility that will offer understanding and high quality end of life care.”

Appropriately labelled An Evening Of Love, the annual concert featured several excellent performers, including Dr Grace Hackett, a mezzo soprano who is a familiar to European and American lovers of classical music; Franklin McIntosh, a pianist; Geoffrey Grannum, a saxophonist; Avis Joseph, a violinist; Mijou Zula, an African-born baritone; Natasha Radix, soprano; and Archie Miller, a Bajan calypsonian.

They were ably supported at the piano by Steven Legall, founder and owner of one Brooklyn’s largest funeral homes and a well-known organist, and by behind-the-scenes contributors such as Jessica Odle, a former Barbados Consul-General who resides on Long Island; Culpepper’s, a leading Brooklyn eatery; and Dr Donna Hunte-Cox, the current Consul-General.

As he has done everywhere he performs, Tappin, who has played for presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, brought the audience to its feet and in the aisle; and that was true whether he was playing  God Bless You, Lou Rawls’ You’ll Never FindLocked Out Of Heaven, You Make Me Feel Brand New, Boogie Wonderland or September.


Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: [email protected]


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