As the birthplace of many musical genres, the Caribbean is synonymous with island tunes that complement the region’s laidback lifestyle – including the captivating, casual-chic ambiance of St. Barth. Continuing an enduring and lively annual tradition, the island just concluded another successful slate of programming for the St. Barts Music Festival in January.
Organized and funded by a nonprofit, and largely volunteer-driven, the festival has been a revered event on St. Barth since its inception in 1985. Now in its 35th consecutive year, the St. Barts Music Festival has been intricately woven into the island’s artistic and cultural landscape. While the program changes each year to welcome new artists, music, and performing arts into the fold, it continues to hold true to its roots in classical music.
Photo: Evaneggers via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY
Like previous iterations, the 2019 edition provided more than a dozen nights of internationally renowned classical music, opera, jazz, dance, and educational children’s programs hosted within historical churches scattered throughout the island.
Also similar to years’ past, this season’s festival kicked off with two nights of ballet dance performances on the dock at Quai de Gaulle on January 4 and 5. While this beloved tradition has historically featured dancers hailing from the Paris Opera, this year’s organizers welcomed talent from the prestigious New York City Ballet Company, who performed seven choreographed routines in colorful fashion.
The following Saturday evening on January 12, the roster of musical programs began with a Brazilian-themed concert featuring a 13-song set performed by a six-piece band, complete with violin, percussion, guitar, and flute, as well as soprano and tenor singers.
Photo: St. Barts Music Festival
In an homage to classical jazz, Sunday evening featured a performance from the Victor Provost Quartet. Centered around the steelpan, the quartet blends calypso, samba, R&B, and bebop styles into a unique musical experience unlike any other.
After a one-day hiatus, festivities resumed Tuesday with a Chamber Music Concert in the Catholic Church in Gustavia, with Heidi Gorton’s harp complementing her fellow performers on the flute, violin, cello, piano, and woodwind. On Wednesday, at the Catholic Church in Lorient, audience members enjoyed a children’s concert by the talented youth of St. Barth Harmony, followed by a full orchestra concert led by Paul Watkins, which included a rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica.”
Thursday evening’s chamber music was headlined by USC School of Music professor and world-renowned pianist Phillip Bush in a performance accompanied by wind and string instruments. Returning to the Catholic Church in Lorient, Friday featured an opera soiree purveying the four acts of the celebrated Italian opera La bohème.
The festival was bookended with Hawaiian Night on Saturday and Sunday evenings with performances in Lorient and at the Anglican Church in Gustavia, respectively. Apart from acoustic melodies from Makana — a Grammy-nominated slack-key guitarist who has become a staple in the event’s programming each year — spectators enjoyed island-inspired beats from award-winning Hawaiian percussionist Lopaka, which provided a soundtrack for traditional hula dancing and costumes.
Those who visited St. Barth during this signature event delighted in world-class boutique shopping and pristine beaches by day. At night, patrons filtered into various venues to savor the shows before coalescing to dine at any of the island’s charmingly sophisticated restaurants, often amid an array of visiting celebrities as well as the musical artists themselves.
Equal parts whimsical and entertaining, this year’s music festival was a resounding success across the island. By the time the event returns for the 36th time, Le Guanahani looks forward to welcoming guests back to our beautifully reimagined paradise.
Featured Photo: St. Barts Music Festival