Thursday, February 28, 2008

L'Hymne à St. Barthélemy (French/English)

Poème par: Isabelle Massart Déravin Musique par: Michael Valenti

Ile oubliée des dieux et inconnue des hommes,
Tu dormais alanguie attendant qu’on te nomme,
Quand le tambour des pieds foulant tes anses blondes
T’arracha à ton rêve et t’ouvrit sur le monde.


Ouanalao ou Saint Barthélemy,
Ile des Antilles et île de France,
Garde ta foi, ton espérance,
Ta liberté sera notre devise.

Arawaks, Caraïbes, Bretons et flibustiers,
Anglais, Flamands, Français, Espagnols et colons,
Pirogues, caravelles, galiotes et galions
Ecrivirent ton histoire dans le fond de tes baies.

Ouanalao ou Saint Barthélemy, etc…

Tes enfants, hommes de mer, d’îles en îles ont cherché
Ailleurs cette fortune que tu leur refusait.
Mais de paroles de rois, Suédois puis Français,
Ils reçurent en partage honneur et dignité.

Ouanalao ou Saint Barthélemy, etc…

Terre d’espoir, de feu, de peine et de courage,
Défiant l’océan, les vents, les ouragans,
Tes filles et tes fils sans plainte refont l’ouvrage,
Comme l’ont fait toujours avant eux leurs parents.

Ouanalao ou Saint Barthélemy, etc…

A tes mornes arides, offre tes belles plages,
A tes années sans pluie, tes heures d’abondance,
A tes fils en exil, leur force et leur puissance,
A tes moments de doute, la parole des sages.

Ouanalao ou Saint Barthélemy,
Ile des Antilles et île de France,
Garde ta foi, ton espérance,
Ta liberté reste notre devise.

English Translation: Hymne à Saint Barthélemy by Isabelle Massart Déravin

Isle forgotten by the gods, unknown by the men,
You were sleeping, languid, waiting for a given name,
When the drum of the feet trampling your blond coves,
Tore you out of your dream and opened you to the world.

Ouanalao or Saint Barthélemy
Isle of the Antilles and isle of France
Don’t give up your faith, don’t give up your hope
Your freedom remains our motto

Arawaks, Caraibes, Bretons and pirates
English, Flemish, French,Spanish and settlers
Canoes, caravelles, galiotes and galions.
Have written your history at the bottom of your bays.

Ouanalao or Saint Barthélemy, etc…

Your children, seamen they were, went from isle to isle
To catch elsewhere the fortune you didn’t give to them
But from the kings’ words, Swedish and then French
They received as inheritance honor and dignity.

Ouanalao or Saint Barthélemy, etc…

Land of hope, of fire, of pain and of spirit
Defying the ocean, the winds, the hurricanes
Without complaint your daughters and sons they rebuild
As their parents have always done before them.

Ouanalao or Saint Barthélemy, etc…

To your barren hills give your beautiful beaches
To your years of drought, your hours of plenty
To your exiled sons their strength and their power
To your moments of doubts the word of the wise men.

Ouanalao or Saint Barthélemy, etc…

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The History of the Hymne à St. Barthelemy

St. Barthélemy’s Original Island Anthem
Charles Darden

Many people, island French, metropolitan French, American and others, often ask me how the ‘Hymne à St. Barthélemy’ was produced. Since it was my idea, I imagine I am the best person to tell the history of our island’s anthem.

After my arrival on St. Barth in 1998, I did not seek to become the director of the island’s choir, ‘La Chorale de Bons Choeurs’. This position came to me when Marjorie Romney, a choir member, heard me play the piano for the first time at a mass in the Anglican Church and she invited me to come to a rehearsal of the choir. I was not interested in another job on the island, but I knew that since I worked seven nights a week at the hotel, it would be essential that I find another musical diversion to balance my life in general on St. Barth. We all know that it’s nice to keep busy on our island paradise. I had been living in New York where I was doing diverse musical jobs from conducting orchestras in music festivals, to playing concerts for homeless persons at the Salvation Army, to playing for wealthy clients on Park Avenue, or sometimes traveling as far away as Sri Lanka to perform at large first class hotels.

After my first rehearsal with the choir, which was at that time, about 10-15 members, I knew that I wanted to stay and help them and that eventually they would be singing the classical, popular and gospel repertoire. These were the areas of my own musical experiences. The rest of the story you might know by now. The choir numbers about 30 members and we have performed many times with the symphony orchestra ofthe Festival de Musique, and we have done at least three concerts per year with a variety of repertoire in English, French, German, Italian, Creole and even Swahili.

After almost a year on St. Barth, I noticed that, although is was a French territory, the lifestyle here was not the same as it was in metropolitan France. I had lived and worked in Cannes on the French Riviera for two years prior to coming to St. Barth and I had performed numerous times in France in the earlier stages of my career as an orchestral conductor and pianist. It did not seem appropriate that St. Barth’s anthem should be the same and the French metropolitan national anthem the ‘Marseillaise’. After all, we have no army here and in some sense this island has more of a sense of peace and loyalty than is portrayed in the national hymn of France. So, I felt it would be appropriate to produce an anthem that had both elements while at the same time describing the history of, and life on, St Barth.

At one of the choir rehearsals, I asked if there was anyone in the choir who could write a poem about St. Barth. Immediately, everyone suggested the Isabelle Deravin write the poem. Isabelle had been singing alto in the choir for sometime but I did not know she was also a poet. Isabelle is one of the most intelligent and warmest persons I have ever met anywhere in the world, not just on St. Barth. She is fluent in both languages and had a deep love for the island. I agreed that Isabelle should write the poem.

Ten days later, she presented me with a poem with five verses that gave not only a beautiful physical description of St. Barth but also a very accurate history of the island. Also, she realized that the rhythm of the poem had to be symmetrical in order to be set to music. So, I had the poem but no composer to write the music. I am not a skilled composer, that is to say, Isabelle’s poem deserved a professional musical representation. After all, the anthem would belong to the island forever.

While on my usual summer stay in New York City, I was playing a private party for one of my wealthier Park Avenue clients who always invited interesting people from all walks of life to her events. This client had been to St. Barth (as a guest aboard the Ultima III yacht), and she introduced me to Michael Valenti, a talented Broadway composer who had also written the music to be played for the visit of the Pope to New York some years earlier. I asked Michael if he could compose an anthem for St. Barth if I gave him the poem. He immediately said yes. Michael did not speak French so I would actually have to monitor the birth of the anthem as a liason between Michael and Isabelle.

This began a series of many faxes and phone calls adjusting the poem. Humming melodies over the phone. Each person asking the other what this or that meant. Listening to various ideas and alternate ways of singing or saying phrases. After several submissions, I finally heard the melody that I thought fit the poem and more importantly, the sense of life on St. Barth. In the verses which are written in the minor key, this melody had elements of reflective thought and the loneliness that all islands have, yet in the refrain which is written the major key, it shows all the beauty of our surroundings and a loyalty to France. The three of us agreed that the ‘Hymne à St. Barthelemy’ was born.

Michael came to St. Barth in the autumn of 1999, and the choir gave the first performance in a concert at the Anglican Church. Now, many school children have learned the anthem by memory and it will last, we hope, forever.

St. Barts Chorale (La Chorale De Bons Choeurs)

This photo was taken during one of our concerts in 2007. Please continue to read this blog to find out up to date information about our schedule for the New York visit April 29-May 6, 2008.

Stay tuned
Charles Darden
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February Concerts Fevrier

I wanted to tell everyone that the concerts of the chorale Feb 22/23 in the Anglican Church on St. Barth were wonderful and I thank all who participated and attended. Merci!

Charles Darden
Chorale Director