Hardworking and dedicated carnival volunteers lauded
November 12, 2018
In one way or another, Angela Pierre has been engaged with the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival (TCC) since its inception.
She arrived in the city just two weeks before the August 5, 1967 inaugural parade that attracted 15 bands and almost 30,000 spectators.
Pierre has played mas’, worked in mas’ camps decorating costumes, served as the festival committee’s officer manager and was the Organization of Calypso Performing Artists (OCPA) secretary and program co-ordinator for seven years up until 2015.
She made her most significant contributions to the festival in that role by aiding the development of the calypso tent music series and producing the calypso finals, the calypso awards gala and the first junior calypso showcase
In her second year on the board, Pierre increased the visibility and profile of local calypsonians whose music was played on Wack Radio 90.1FM which is an internet radio station in Trinidad.
“I took the calypsonians CDs, converted them to MP3 files and sent them to the radio station that dedicated an hour to Canadian content during the calypso tent music series,” said Pierre who was honoured with a Tribute Award at the Festival Management Committee’s (FMC) annual pioneer awards and volunteer appreciation banquet on October 18 in Scarborough.
Playing mas’ once in Trinidad & Tobago and attending carnival shows before migrating 51 years ago, she sits on the FMC board of directors that includes retired Toronto Police deputy chief Keith Forde, former Ontario assistant deputy minister Joe Halstead and Order of Canada recipient Rita Cox.
“Arts and culture are appealing and I have relished the opportunity to make contributions in these areas in my adopted home,” said Pierre. “It’s fulfilling when your peers recognize your body of work to the point they feel you are deserving of recognition. I accept this award with humility.”
Afropan, the longest participating and most successful steelpan in the TCC, and Jessie Matthews were also the recipients of Tribute Awards.
In 1972, Toronto Police Services Board member and former festival committee chair Ken Jeffers founded Harriet Tubman Centre which had a resident steel band, the Tubman Survivors, which became the Avenger Steel Orchestra and then Afropan.
The band’s long-time arranger, Earl LaPierre Sr., and his son, Earl LaPierre Jr., accepted the award on behalf of the outfit that has won the Panorama competition a record 28 times.
“It’s because of Earl Sr. creativity and dedication that the band became very popular and successful,” said Jeffers.
LaPierre Sr., 72, was a T & T Invaders member and the arranger for the twin-island republic Junior Chamber of Commerce steel orchestra that played at Expo 67 in Montreal and at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre a few weeks later.
Since 1986 when he was a member of Earl Wong’s Trinstars band that toured the Cayman Islands for the annual 10-day Pirates Week festival, La Pierre has been a resident of the British Overseas Territory where he introduced steelpan programs into the schools just as he did in Toronto in the early 1980s.
He taught steelpan music at the University of Toronto and in the former North York Board of Education schools and was instrumental in pan music being offered as a credit course in the mid-1980s before accepting a hotelier invitation to introduce steelpan to the Cayman Islands.
Matthews, who resides in Florida, led the Calabash Company Masquerade Band that featured drumming, dance and other Caribbean cultural performing arts as part of their stage presentation.
For the first TCC parade, Kenrick Bruzual brought members of North America’s first Trinidad & Tobago-styled masquerade band from Montreal.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said the Pioneer Award winner. “It turned out to be a very impressive event and seeing revellers playing mas’ down Yonge St. is a memory that will last forever.”
The former T & T police officer came to Canada in September 1964 to pursue a one-year electronics & engineering program at Radio College of Canada. When the twin-island republic police service rejected his claim for no-pay leave while he was enrolled in Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) electronics degree program, he quit the law enforcement organization and held a fundraising party with 10 long playing records – five calypso and five Fausto Papetti albums.
“I cooked the food and was the deejay,” he recalled. “About 60 people attended and we had a great time.”
Bruzual also organized fundraisers for the defunct Trinidad & Tobago Association in Montreal. The money accrued was used to start a soccer team and bring Caribbean entertainers, including late Barbadian vocalist Jackie Opel, to perform in Montreal.
Leaving university a year short of graduating, the former Mellotones Steel Orchestra member organized calypso monarch contests and was a judge for over a decade. In the last 15 years, Bruzual has published an internet newsletter, ‘Culture Chest’.
“The development and evolution of the Caribbean Carnival Arts in Canada cannot be documented without the inclusion of the contributions of Ken Bruzual,” said retired Ontario Institute for Studies in Education business professor Lennox Borel who made the presentation. “He has been involved in all things Caribbean as a mas’ producer, a distributor of Caribbean music, writer, photographer and calypso judge. He is indeed the quintessential Caribbean icon.”
Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, the chair of the city’s liaison committee for the festival for the last 20 years, and Drew Gonsalves and his Juno Award-winning band, Kobo Town, were the recipients of the Beyond Excellence Award.
“When I got the call from Rita Cox about this award, I was in awe,” said Gonsalves, the product of a Trinidadian father and Quebecois mother, who was born and raised in Diego Martin. “I take my kids to the Rita Cox Park where I sit down and read books to them from the Rita Cox Collection at Parkdale Library. My wife is a ‘wannabe’ librarian for whom Rita Cox is the gold standard of knowledge in that profession.”
Trinidad & Tobago Association of Ontario vice-president Jean Turner-Williams was presented with the Kathy Searles Memorial Award.
Searles, who died in December 2008, made an extensive and continuous contribution to the carnival from its inception in 1967. She served on the Caribbean Centennial Committee board up until 2007 when she attended her last parade.
“One of the proudest moments in my life was when the Festival Management Committee established the award to honour my mom,” said Kathleen Searles, the oldest of the three children, who made the presentation. “Jean is the ideal person to be the winner this year because she embodies so many of the values that were important to my mother. Jean is very active in the community just like mom was and she has a particular interest in youth education and development which was my mother’s passion.”
Neville Jeffers, who migrated from Montserrat at age 11 and has been a festival helper since 1997, was presented with the Volunteer Award while community activist and vendor Ricardo Keane was the recipient of the Culinary Award.
The married father of three children dedicated the honour to community stalwarts Lennox Farrell and the late Dudley Laws and Charles Roach.
Freelance photographer and video producer Anthony Berot received the Multimedia Award.
A moment of silence was held to honour renowned T & T pannists Ellie Mannette, who passed away last August at age 90, and Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore who died six days after a single vehicle accident in September.
“When you were in Ellie’s presence, you knew you were in the presence of something that was great, wonderful and visionary,” said Master of Ceremony Itah Sadu. “As for the professor, I met him for the first time at an event at the T & T High Commission in Ottawa. That was such a special moment as he made every person in that room toes and ears dance. Every fibre in our being came alive when he played. He was embraced by all Canadians that were there that evening and he placed that music in our DNA.”