Students Exposed to Full Folk Experience
Ientered the National Cultural Centre on Tuesday to a full house of joyous shrieks, clapping and snippets of the entire crowd singing “Woy Tinday”. The Schools' Folk Festival reemerged since it last occurred around 2009 after only two outings, one in Piaye the other at the then Marigot Secondary School. “We had to stop it,” said organiser Jason Joseph this week. “The main reason was the lack of funding. Through Events Company of Saint Lucia and the Folk Research Centre I was able to bring it back this year on a small scale.”
The aim was for a better than ever comeback. There was a focus on entertaining the students while educating them about folk culture. In Joseph's vison, he meant for it to be exposure to all the elements spanning masquerade, storytelling, some modelling of the traditional wear, Kwéyòl songs and dances. Usually students experience only a few aspects of folk culture in the classroom and learn just one song or dance by the time creole month swings around. This time every participating school performed its own tailored number which contributed to having some of everything. The students were also afforded opportunities to ask questions about any new concept, and encouraged to speak Kwéyòl throughout the show.
“It also helped the teachers who had to do research for the performances,” Joseph said. “Some were not familiar with certain aspects of the folk culture.”
A workshop was held for music and theatre arts teachers from all over the island two weeks prior to the Schools' Folk Festival. They explored the sounds and elements of folk music and festivals participating in practical exercises to reinforce information and to learn new details to relay to their students.
“The point of it was so that they can go back to their schools with solid material,” said the organiser.
A music teacher at the Babonneau Primary School, Mrs. Small-Biro, found the experience especially informative. “I learned some of the drumming patterns, which were quite difficult, and I had to try to perfect my timing with the shak-shak so I could properly teach my students. Even 'Mary Ansente', although I'd heard the song before, I didn't realize there was so much to it.”
The festival started at 10 a.m. and went on until lunch time. I personally enjoyed 'Cock Chante' as rendered by the St. Aloysius R.C. Boys' Primary School, featuring a saxophonist on the melody and eight little drummers keeping the beat. Throughout the show the young audience, giggling self-consciously at some of the Kweyol phrases, sang along to popular folk songs, and even got up and danced, despite their teachers' urges to remain seated—understandably!
Students learned how to wear their national dresses the correct way in preparation for the Schools’ Folk Festival.