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Marlon Legall: ‘Music made me’

TRE GREAVES, [email protected]

Marlon Legall: ‘Music made me’

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MARLON LEGALL’s love for music grew from going to choir practice and listening to old hymns and Negro spirituals at the Cane Vale Seventh-day Adventist Church.

It also helped that his family was a musical group – mum Olga Gale sang soprano, dad Chesterfield Legall was the bass singer, sister Natalie Waterman was the alto and Marlon sang tenor. They all made up the Legall Family Quarter from Lodge Road, Christ Church.

Now the choir director of the award-winning Coleridge and Parry Voices, he said music got him through a painful time in his life when his parents divorced.

 “I could remember countless nights singing at home with my family and we used to record our individual vocals on this cassette tape. And my mum would huddle the tape recorder and record our lines individually and somehow she’d overdub all of all of our voices. It took a while but by the time she was done, you’d get a bigger sound,” he said.

“Everything was okay for me at age 11. Then I heard the word divorce, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant.”

Reality kicked in when the family house got dismantled.

“I was playing outside with my friends and I think I had ignored the idea of the divorce, but one Sunday this large truck came and I saw the truck pull into the drive and they lifted the house off the prop and it was the first time I realised I couldn’t mask it. There was nowhere to run and hide it was simply what it was,” he painfully recalled.

“I went through that season of primary to secondary school with a face of confidence until up to that point and when the house moved there was nothing to hide.”

Marlon found refuge in a flute.

“I remember feeling so hurt at times with the noise that was happening during a broken family and the flute was the instrument I could afford at the time,” he said.

“Many nights I was in a place of pain and I blew this flute and felt like I was blowing all the hurt, all the pain and confusion from inside me out through it. It was as if the negativity blew past the hole into the atmosphere and the beautiful sound which remained was the life I could only imagine.”

Marlon said he put on a brave front, though it was difficult at times.

“I was always taught to be the best you can be. Just because you were going through something at home doesn’t mean that everyone has to know. As a performer you are taught to suck it up and so music became not just a mask, but an armour. It was my pedestal to stand on,” he said.

Life for Marlon has now come full circle with the striking up of his artistic brand Chattel Abode platform.

This premium and promotional creative company which is a play on his childhood home. It was conceptualised after high demand from people asking his help with their music and as a publishing hub for his original compositions.

A major part of Chattel Abode and its accompanying website is The Bridge Project programme which encourages collaboration among selected musicians, artistic students, and business professionals.

Under this platform he has worked with the recent Lion King production on May 25th and the Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in collaboration with Gospelfest and Praise Academy of Dance where he served as the musical director of the large vocal ensemble made up of representatives of the Harrison College Choir, the Alleyne School Choir, the Coleridge and Parry School Choir, The Barbados Mass Choir and friends.

He has also worked with artistes including classical singer and tutor of the Barbados Community College BA Arts and Entertainment Management programme Mrs Dionne Timothy, gospel singer Larix, Honey Jazz sensations Tionne Hernandez, Jessica Rose, and stylist Gigi Farrier, and collectively put on showcases, including the recently held Marlon Legall Voice Project hosted by Jewel Forde which is scheduled for an encore performance on September 30.

However before he launched this platform Legall’s 15 years had become synonymous with musical feats coming out of the Coleridge and Parry school. Over the years he was able to write songs, including Tell Em’, Come See, Happy Birthday Barbados, and  Puh-Ruh-Puh-Pum-Pum which have earned the school numerous awards at the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA).

Even after he left briefly to continue his studies in Music Culture and Arts Administration in London, he did not forget where he came from.

He returned to the school in 2012.

Throughout the hour-long conversation, the former Deighton Griffith student spoke very highly of his own teachers who helped to hone him,  including Susan Henry, Roger Gittens, Dexter Norville, Anthony Nurse, a ‘Mr Connell’, Claudine Phillips and education officer with responsibility for music Joy Knight-Lynch.

It was Knight-Lynch who gave him the start at the school.

“She simply walked up to me and asked if I would be interested in this opportunity. I was 19 at the time and I said sure because I figured it would involve music, so it was easy to accept,” he said.

“When I first started teaching was it was like I was a cat looking in the mirror but seeing a lion, because not too long ago I was in their shoes and also I’m a small young man and many students were bigger and looked more mature than I did however I kept focused and didn’t let that discourage me. But the energy was good, rapport was easy, there was never a case of serious disrespect,” speaking on his time at the St Peter school.

Outside of his impeccable choir directing abilities, he has had the option of playing several musical instruments. In addition to specialising on the flute he also played the oboe, the trumpet, and spend most of his time playing and arranging on the piano.

“From since primary school, now called The Milton Lynch Primary, under the direction of Mr Nurse my passion for music was to the extent that I didn’t care which instrument I got. As a matter of fact the bigger it was the more excited I was to play it.”

“I don’t think that I chose music; I think that music chose me. It’s as if I was born with the gift of musical discernment and my hands are just trying to keep up. It wasn’t that I saw it and just decided to get involved.  If I didn’t get involved I became miserable and irritable if I couldn’t’ practice,” he said.

Music may have been his self-fulfilling prophecy however; he will soon have to decide where he intends to capitalise on the Prime Minister’s Award scholarship, that he recently received.

Marlon has another big task ahead of him – deciding where he intends to capitalise on the Prime Minister’s Award scholarship, that he recently received at the NIFCA awards ceremony held at Ilaro Court. (TG)