The 33-year-old Heritage Singers, a staple in the Jamaican and Caribbean communities in Canada, are spreading their wings.
The 30-member strong group was chosen to showcase their culture in The Fringe, Toronto’s largest theatre festival. The group has already performed their pantomime, ‘Olde Tyme Country Wedding’, on July 2 and 3 and is slated to repeat the performances today (July 9) and 10 at the Walmer Centre in Toronto.
The Heritage Singers along with dancers, Caribbean Folk Performers, performing ‘Linstead Market’ in the musical ‘Old Tyme Country Wedding’, in Toronto, Canada.
In an interview with JIS News, Founder and Musical Director of the Heritage Singers, Grace Carter-Henry Lyons, said the group is made up persons who have a love for Caribbean culture and want to see it preserved. She noted that being in The Fringe Festival has been very positive for the group.
“We are showcasing our vibrant culture and taking it to Canadians who might not have been exposed before to our musical repertoire,” she said.
‘Old Tyme Country Wedding’, which was performed in front of sold-out audiences last October and December, tells the story of Babs Spencer, a young Jamaican Canadian living in Toronto, who wanted to visit the village of her birth after a 10-year absence. Despite her parents’ concerns, she travels to Uphill and soon finds herself entangled in a love triangle. In the end love prevails for Babs and her childhood sweetheart Baldwin, and for her special day she requests “an old time country wedding.”
The audience is treated to a potpourri of things Jamaican – folk songs, a typical market scene, balm yard, a corner shop, and of course an old time country wedding, complete with a wedding godmother, a wedding godfather and the wedding cake procession through the community.
The procession of the wedding cake through the community in ‘Old Tyme Country Wedding’, being performed by the Heritage Singers.
Grace Neita, who performs as Babs, said the musical really showcases Jamaica and its wonderful culture.
“There is a song that is relevant to each scene. We also dress the part as they dressed in those days. It’s in a village setting with a postmistress, a district constable, a village drunkard, the resident just back from England, and the market vendors who see everything, hear everything and comment on everything,” she said.
The Heritage Singers was formed in 1977 for the development of Caribbean and African folk music and theatre; to facilitate the growth of Caribbean and African folk culture through workshops and seminars; to utilise folk music and dance as a tool to bridge cultural gaps; and to enhance ethnic music and social traditions.
The group sings in Patois, English, Spanish and French, and has performed extensively across Canada and participated in festivals in the United States, Holland, Germany, Taiwan, Mexico, Venezuela and in Jamaica.