Published On: Tue, Dec 20th, 2022

Youth Orchestra and Family String Band highlight cultural heritage with concert at Divi Resort

PHILIPSBURG — The National Institute of Arts (NIA) hosted a concert at the Divi Resort with the Family String Band with its lead vocalist Edsel Eusebius and NIA’s Youth Orchestra.

“With this project we would like to continue the legacy of St. Maarten’s cultural heritage,” NIA-director Arlene Halley said. “This is about instilling a sense of national pride and identity in youngsters via the Youth Orchestra by exposing them first-hand to the ‘older heads’ with their cultural music and instruments. In turn the youth orchestra will share their skills and culture with visitors to the island and with the general public. We know that tourists are no longer looking for a sea, sand and sun experience. Instead they are looking to immerse themselves in the island’s authentic cultural offerings.”

The arts institute aims for a positive impact on a social, economic and tourism level, Halley added. Promoting knowledge, artistic collaboration and the island’s history, music and stories are part of this approach. NIA also aims to provide work for artists and musicians and by doing so, create a new experience for visitors. The institute furthermore wants to eradicate taboos around arts and money, arts and sustainability and art and careers.

The concert at the Divi Resort triggered memories of days gone by, when Tanny and the Boys played at Holland House on Sunday evenings. NIA revived the tradition of those memorable evenings with a unique performance combining traditional string band music with the classical music performed by the Youth Orchestra.

The musicians performed well-known string band songs like Santa Claus, Saxophone and a string of medleys that triggered memories of the days when string bands went caroling around Philipsburg.

Many members of the Family String Band are related to the old-timers that used to play with Tanny and the Boys, including Carlson Velasquez who learned to play with the band when he was just fifteen. The band played well-known Caribbean songs from Lord Kitchener and Harry Belafonte.

The Family String Band consists of the following ten members: Edsel Eusebius – Banjo and Vocals, Nacio Eusebius – Marimba Box and Vocals, Kevin Arrindell – Guitar, Louis Richardson (Porkchop) – Tambora Drum, Marita Blijden – Percussion (guiro) and Vocals, Reno Eusebius – Trumpet, David Eusebius – Percussion (cowbell and woodblocks), Carlson Velasquez – Tray (3 string guitar), Bobby Velasquez – Percussion (maracas) and Albert Chance –  sound engineer.

The Youth Orchestra had the support of seven teachers: Pedrin José Pacheco – flute, clarinet, Connis Vanterpool – saxophone, Leroy Vlaun – percussion section, Georgie Stankov – base guitar, Maestro Dennis Amajan – string instruments and conductor Chamber Orchestra, Maestro Neville James – brass instruments and director of Youth Orchestra and Maestro Juan Cristobal Palacios – special conductor.