The bad news about last night's celebration in the Baird Auditorium is that it was not professional in style I suppose that is also the good news about it.
Billed as "A Celebration of Caribean Rhythms and Rhymes," the evening turned out to be a two-man show, semi-impromptu and devoted exclusively to the English-speaking sector of the Carribean-chiefly Barbados, Jamaica and the Virgin Islands. Most of the music performed by Victor Brady was European in origin (Bach, Beethoven and Chopin), though it was given an undeniable and intriguing Caribbean flavor in performance.
The poems interpreted very eloquently by Elliot Parris were primarily from the English-speaking islands and included such notable poets of the region as Edward Brathwaite of Barbados.
But Parris stretched his repertoire to include a favorite Washington poet, E. Ethelbert Miller, writing on a familiar Washington subject (an unwed mother, disgusted with men and fearful of eviction from her home). The poem was a good one and beautifully presented, so that it seemed a mere formality when Parris mentioned that Miller traces his ancestry to Barbados.
Victor Brady is an eloquent exponent of the instrument he calls the "steel piano"-eloquent both in words and in music. The sound of the steel piano is familiar to anyone who has been fascinated by a Caribbean steel band, but in Brady's hands it is a solo instrument often similar in sound to a piano but with the capability of an almost orchestral richness of tone.
Accompanying his music with an informal lecture, Brady called his instrument the "most original contribution ot musical arts in the 20th century" and protested against those who call it "the steel drum."
"Though these instruments are made from steel drums," he said, "in their present musical state, they are no longer steel drums."
He has a point. I cannot think of any drum capable of playing the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" as they were played last night-recognizable but strangely transformed in the instruments shimmering overtones. "I want to do some classical music," Brady said, "not the way they did it 200 years ago, but with some of the essence of my people." That's exactly what he did.
The program was a part of the celebration of Caribbean Independence Week, sponsored by the Caribbean American Intercultural Organization. Other events in the week will include a festival tomorrow night at Blackburn Auditorium, Howard University, a cricket match Saturday morning in West Potomac Park an an Independence Ball Saturday night at the Capital Hilton.