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ABYSO and Kanneh-Masons: Inspiring beyond Antigua

All thoughts of disaffected youth were forgotten as the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra (ABYSO) was joined by the schools’ choir, Kanneh-Masons, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) and musicians from Jersey as well as soprano J’Nai Bridges to demonstrate the talent, hard-work, and commitment of young people in Antigua.

A night of unadulterated joy and inspiration raised the roof on the SJPC on 9th March.  Playing to Inspire 6 brought music and voices, the like of which are normally heard in such venues as the Royal Albert Hall in London.

From the first bars of the national anthem, the choir raising their voices and hearts to the orchestral music, the audience was enraptured. Old favourites and new compilations brought tears and laughter. A medley of Bob Marley with soloists Alijah Richards, Tarik Mussington and Téja Joseph, gave us new names to watch as their voices did full Justice to Marley’s music.

Soloist J’Nai Bridges made a dramatic entrance stage left in a gorgeous yellow gown to the opening bars of the Habanera from Carmen. The performance left the audience screaming for more, which was finally rewarded in a dramatic encore.

The rendition of Graham’s “You raise me up,” sung by Bridges and the choir, with young dancer Christina Taitt moving gracefully to the power of the music, moved people to their feet and definitely “raised us up.”

ABYSO was formed in 2018 in partnership with the Kanneh-Mason family, at the very first Playing to Inspire event. A twelve-day tour of the UK in 2023 cemented Antigua as a musical leader and celebrated a new partnership with the prestigious RPO.

Antigua and Barbuda leads the world in many things; as part of their UK tour ABYSO and the Kanneh-Masons visited Jersey.  Paul Milbank, from the Government of Jersey, said they played to “sold out concerts…. set the island alight.” This, he said, inspired the island to build its own youth orchestra and hold similar events, a moving accolade to Antigua’s young people.  What disaffected youth? The two islands share many challenges and are building strong educational partnerships in many areas; “we have become friends” he declared. 

Conductor Ryan Bancroft of the RPO matched the vigour and enthusiasm of the evening; many in the audience could be seen conducting in sync as he went!

Kaddi Kanneh-Mason said that the concert was the best ever, as the ABYSO has gone from strength to strength; the whole audience would agree. Finishing the evening with a medley of songs from Queen, the final “We are the champions” said it all.

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