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San Jacinto College Central Steel Drum Band and Chorale | In the Shadows of the Forest

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In the Shadows of the Forest

by San Jacinto College Central Steel Drum Band and Chorale

"In the Shadows of the Forest" is the first concert-length composition for steel band and choir. The libretto is based on Trinidadian folklore and musical styles include african 12/8, samba, cha, new and old calypso, odd meter and classical.
Genre: World: Caribbean
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sleep Well
4:06 album only
2. Papa Bois
6:10 album only
3. Duppies
4:46 album only
4. Ah Brodder Anansi
5:38 album only
5. La Diablesse: Behind the Veil
3:59 album only
6. She de Soucouyant
6:49 album only
7. Douennes
4:51 album only
8. Pan Jumbies
4:51 album only
9. Finale: What to Believe
6:40 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Notes from composer Gary Gibson:

This work was originally commissioned by Michael Mizma and the San Jacinto College Central Steel Drum Band in December of 2009. It was completed seven weeks later on January 19th, 2010, and premiered on March 25th, 2010, at San Jacinto College Central in Pasadena, Texas.

1. Sleep Well. With the sun going down, and after relating several of the scarier folkloric tales to his grandchildren, a grandfather tells them it is time for them to run home. He advises them to not even look over their shoulders to see what might be lurking behind them in the shadows. Once safely at home, he advises (somewhat sarcastically), “sleep well.” This story is based upon an interview I did with a Trinidadian friend in my research for this work. I’ve based it on an Afro-12/8 rhythm, as recognition that much of this folklore is rooted in African culture.

2. Papa Bois. (Pronounced “Papa Bwah”) Also known as “Daddy Bouchon,” this character lives in the forest and is generally even-tempered. He is perceived by many to be a steward of forest life. If you cross him by killing a forest animal for sport or unnecessarily cutting down a tree, he will cast a spell on you or turn you into a wild hog or other creature. Here we have a casual stroller coming upon Papa Bois in the forest, and extending his utmost courtesies to him. This was written as a slow, relaxed samba, and uses several common French phrases as recognition of the partial French origin of the myth.

3. Duppies. Basically, duppies are the spirits of ghosts that have not yet moved on into the next world. They dwell in the roots and branches of silk cotton trees by day, and come out at night to cast disease or other misfortune on their victims. Written as a simple cha-cha, this piece is intended to sound very tropical, with a hint of the 1960’s Tiki lounge sound.

4. Brodder Anansi. There are many stories about Brother Anansi, the little spider who outwits his much larger prey. Many of them are collected in children’s books popular throughout the Caribbean. This movement tells three of the tales, entirely in Trindadian dialect. There is a soloist (a high, theatrical tenor) taking the role of Brodder Anansi, with the chorus singing the part of his victims. This piece is written as an old-style calypso.

5. La Diablesse. (Pronounced “LA jah-BLESS”) This is a mysterious woman who appears at parties or in bars and lures men into the forest, where she disappears, leaving them for dead. Some say this is in retaliation for transgressions against women. This is written in 7/4 meter and in a somewhat minimalist style, and is intended to sound mysterious and airy.

6. Soucouyant. (Pronounced “Soo-koo-YAH”) By most accounts, this character is a combination of the European “vampire” character with a similar African character. The soucouyant is an old hag, usually living in a dilapidated
house on the edge of town. At nighttime, she wakens, sheds her skin, turns into a ball of fire, and flies out of her house to go suck the life force out of her victims. Before sunrise, she must make it back to her house and slip back into her skin (with a little help from the oil of a corpse’s liver) or else her haunting days are over. One sociological explanation for the myth holds that since most women outlive their husbands, there are bound to be old widows in every village living in houses that they simply cannot maintain. These widows were often perceived as something of a burden or outcast in their community, which made them easy targets for this myth. This piece is written as a fusion of gospel choral style with three rhythmic styles of Reggae origin.

7. Douennes. (Pronounced “doo-ENs”) These are the lost souls of infants who died before they were baptized. Their awful fate is that they float around the forest forever, with no face and with their feet turned backward, and try to lure living children into the forest to perish and join them. This piece is a gentle commentary on the concept of original sin. It is written for a cappella choir.

8. Pan Jumbies. More urban legend than folkloric character, the Pan Jumbie is a modern concoction that combines the enthusiasm of steelband fans (and players) in Trindad with the general concept of a Jumbie (any malevolent spirit); so modern, in fact, it remains open to interpretation and its use is varied. But the basic origin of the term as this composer knows it arises from the panyards in the weeks leading up to Trinidad’s “Panorama National Steelband Championship,” as all of the nation’s bands (and their neighborhood supporters) prepare for the competition.

9. Finale: What to Believe / Sleep Well Reprise. Like the opening, this final movement is another reaction to the personal interpretations encountered in researching the folklore. While many modern Trinidadians do not openly heed superstition or regard the characters of Trinidad’s folklore as real tangible beings, there is among many a feeling that odd coincidences are worth noting, and some recognize a sense of evil energy in certain surroundings. A balanced appreciation of reality and superstition is advised, therefore. After settling on this, the performers now take the role of the grandfather in the first movement, and tell the audience to run on home to “sleep well.”



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