USC's "Portraits of Excellence" 2012
USC Auditorium; Sunday March 18, 2012.
A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.
-- Proverbs 29:11 (NKJV)
* * *
As promised, here is a recap of the “Portraits of Excellence Pageant” 2012.
Again, as last year, I will first frame the context for this recap. I've attended each of the pageants thus far, and have noted the growth or evolution of the pageant through the years. Thus, at times, various perspectives may be lent to the retelling of the story. Two perspectives you can look out for: (1) a historical perspective, (2) a spiritual perspective – that is, what is the pageant trying to achieve from a Christian context?
Even as I write, my current feel of the now concluded pageant is: mixed. I’m hoping that this can change by the end of the recap. You may have wondered why the quote from Proverbs above… well, having come from the Bible, I think it’s good counsel. You may note gaps or things unmentioned in the recap – in few cases I may have missed things – but generally, if I’ve left out something major, you can rest assured that I have chosen not to mention it, in an attempt to deal ‘skillfully’ with it.
My apologies (again) for the length of the article. A four-hour long programme can hardly be sculpted into a short, yet comprehensive, article.
Credits and much appreciation goes to Rany Horne for allowing me to use his photos as part of this work. His complete photo album for the pageant is here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150630033470784.390651.520230783 . You'll find it a great companion to this article. Great work!
Let’s begin by recapping the ‘minors’.
Not wanting to be late, I arrived at about 5:45pm, to make sure I got a good vantage point for this review. I was not surprised to see the Auditorium sparsely populated at that time. Billed for a 6:00pm start, we started at approximately 6:28pm; but credit goes to the host (Kevin) for letting us know (early) that they were aiming for a 6:30pm start.
My (simple) advice here is to advertise that patrons should be seated at an earlier time; say, 5:45pm. (…a wise man holds them back…)
I wasn’t happy to learn that there were no (written) programmes for the non-VIP patrons, but it wasn’t a huge setback.
Opening Prayer, National Anthem
Uneventful. (Thank you, Father.) The anthem was rendered simply, and well.
The hosts for the evening were Kevin Pierre and Usha Ramlakhan.
I must give kudos to Kevin. In my estimation, his politeness, charm, and humour added significantly to the pageant. Kevin was the more outgoing of the hosts – no problems with that – and sought to politely engage the audience in delegate support, jokes, et cetera. He dealt skilfully with a ‘tough crowd’ while telling his joke later down. It was a good joke though! His contribution was quite huge, so I chose to devote a paragraph to this.
Lorenzo’s Performance: Rice Husk
This was pretty good. Not as engaging as the last time – but one could not expect it to be, either. The actors and props were on point. The change-up in the beginning (started with a reggae version of the song) was interesting. A couple more novel ideas would have boosted the performance. But it was enjoyable, and well appreciated by the audience. It was good to see it again.
Generally good. The delegates, coming from the back of the auditorium, did catch the audience off-guard. Tied in with the music, the choreography of the first part was on point. The costumes (black) were good, and added to the scene.
The second part of the choreography (costumes in red, yellow, blue, green) was ok. A little too much repetition here, though. Here the delegates introduced themselves. This was pretty good. Each delegate confidently introduced themselves, their territories and the topics they were presenting. Each delegate was greeted by loud cheers of support, so indeed there was a good representation for each in the crowd.
The video presentations were well done. Professionally done, I might add. These take quite a bit of planning and doing, so kudos to Creedkool, whom, I believe, are responsible for the work.
The first video explained quite clearly that the delegates’ performances did not entirely constitute the final result. In fact, the percentage gained on the night of the pageant itself constitutes less than 50% of the final result.
This is a probably good place to suggest to the management of the pageant to make public the totals that the delegates would have gone into the pageant with. This could be published after the results have been announced (possible on USC’s website); perhaps a total percentage of what each delegate would have achieved before the night. This may go a long way to diffusing the animosity and ill-feelings that are harboured after each pageant.
Generally good, but the coloured flood-lights… I’m not sure if those things are useful, if you’re pointing it toward the audience.
I am just as impressed this year as last. Those guys get things on and off the stage in a jiffy! Very, very efficient stuff. It was unfortunate that in the haste, the backdrop for the pageant came down – all unintentional of course. I doubted the effectiveness of placing the bottom half of the backdrop back on stage.
These guys are truly professional. I can’t fault the musicians on the night. Live music should be encouraged, and congratulated when done well. The brass line was more on less in tact, and added to all the pieces in which they performed.
Generally good. There was good support for each of the delegates. They were participative, and less rowdy than in previous years.
I did not get to gauge this aspect fully. I did see a couple ‘causes for concern’, but being up front, I didn’t get to survey a wide enough cross-section. I will leave it to your perusal of the pictures that appear on Facebook.
I would really like to see improvement in this area. Please? The artwork of the various slides was quite tasteful… but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Your station is a serious one… it is dark, and whatever is displayed on the screen is expected to be on point. Slides didn’t change on time. Spelling errors on the slides (“Keisha Alleyna”). Please?
Audio comes in for some flack as well. Have a seat… let’s talk.
I understand the challenges that come with the job, I really do. But don’t get caught up in the complexity of it. At the end of the day, you have to put first things first.
The first, and primary thing, is that the delegate must be heard, and clearly. Yes, musicians want to hear themselves too. But that’s secondary. The musicians aren’t judged on the night – the contestants are.
Most of the delegates opted for songs this year (which isn’t your fault, I’ll deal with that later down). This means that all the other stuff – background tracks, backup vocals, and musicians – have to be set at a level that does not overpower the singer. That’s your job, and entirely in your control.
A word, to the wise, is sufficient.
Generally good work from the organisers. The pageant flowed smoothly from section to the other. Good use of special items to transition from one segment to another.
Regarding the positioning of delegates, I think the format last year was better. Grouping the performances by gender would have been the better choice. A random order per grouping would have been better across the categories.
I’ve still wondering how a pageant of 8 delegates could have lasted four hours and fifteen minutes - without an intermission. It was a hard decision – taking a self-imposed intermission, or staying tuned-in to the action. I opted for the latter.
For good measure, I’ll reiterate: a prompt start shows respect for time and sacrifice.
And now, the competition.
Here’s a list of the delegates: their country of origin, and the topic they chose. The order below is the order in which they appeared/performed.
- Daryl St. Clair (St. Lucia) - Obesity and Life Style Diseases
- Cleojenny Severin (St. Lucia) - Male Underachievement
- Leriano Webster (Anguilla) - Crime in Trinidad and Tobago
- Sabilla Luke (Dominica) - The Changing Role of Women in the Caribbean
- Kadeem Graham (Trinidad and Tobago) - Drug Abuse - emphasis on Marijuana
- Keisha Alleyne (Guyana) - Ethnocentrism within the Caribbean
- Dwayne Daniels (Guyana) - Child Abuse
- Faith Walke (Trinidad and Tobago) - At Risk Youth
The competition on the night consisted of three categories: Talent, Cultural Wear and Final Question. Let’s review each category.
The talent section was a gauge for the delegates’ creativity.
Daryl St. Clair (St. Lucia) – “Dealing with the Issue of Obesity” (Spoken Word)
The skit at the beginning was engaging/interesting. The mimes were quite humorous, actually.
Daryl’s spoken word piece was a bit shaky at the start, but gradually he got his composure. The piece spoke directly to his theme – ‘Dealing with Obesity’. He spoke clearly about God, and God’s ability to remove human beings from the shackles of obesity. I noted that the crowd was into the piece. He used his facial expressions, gesticulations and voice quite well.
Cleojenny Severin (St. Lucia) – “Even the Score” (Song – Calypso)
Cleojenny’s rendition of “Even the Score” was up next. The actors and props were quite good here too. As in most cases on the night, the words did not come out clearly. I missed the first few lines of the song, and quite a bit of the lyrics.
Maybe I can say this here. If you’re opting to do a live song, you’re taking a risk. The risk is that you won’t be heard clearly. The judges can judge only based on what they hear. If they can’t hear you, you’re at a disadvantage. I hope that future delegates understand this dynamic.
I did wonder after Cleojenny’s performance: it the disparity really that bad? We need to invest less in video games then…
Leriano Webster (Anguilla) – “2020” (Song – Calypso)
After such a great, engaging introduction, it was a disappointment to see that it had to be run again from the very start, because the microphone for the delegate was not working. But that video was funny! The entire crowd erupted – I don’t know… seeing Officer Baptiste with a ‘real’ gun was perhaps too much for an already gleeful crowd. Leriano’s dramatic entrance, with Officer Baptiste hauling Leriano to the stage from the side entrance (a continuation of the movie) was quite intriguing, and a very innovative idea. Could we but hear the words, I think this may have been a strong contender for best talent of the night.
Leriano’s performance suffered as well from the fact that we couldn’t hear the words properly. The props were good, the actors were well attired… but they were under-used. The music for this song was probably the best on the night.
Sabilla Luke (Dominica) – “It’ s Woman Time” (Song - Calypso)
Sabilla’s presentation was quite energetic. The actors were pretty good. She definitely had great crowd response.
I registered some concerns about this performance though – which I will preface by stating that my loyalties are to the Christian values. I believe that the attack of the male/female dynamic (as it relates to families) is rooted in a more subtle attack on the word of God, and His model for the family. I am surely not accusing Sabilla of aiding and abetting this ‘subtle attack’, nor am I a proponent of the degradation of women. This issue is surely beyond the scope of this article. I also thought that the outfit was a bit… loud. That’s the best I can do without raising tempers.
Otherwise, she really gave 100% in energy to this song.
Kadeem Graham (Trinidad and Tobago) – “Little Black Boy” by Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters (Song – Calypso)
Kadeem appeared to have struggled through this piece. In light of that, he did ok. He didn’t use many props. The actors that came out afterward lent more to his presentation – they were quite good. He sang a verse for USC… The crowd liked that one, and they supported quite well.
Keisha Alleyne (Guyana) – “Ethnocentrism – Stop It” (Song)
Keisha brought quite a bit of energy to this one! It was a creative piece – I can say that.
Keisha, like the others, suffered from not being heard. The lyrics were deep, but I didn’t hear them clearly. Good use of actors, minimal props used. The verse about USC really got the crowd going there.
Dwayne Daniels (Guyana) – “These Stripes” (Song: R&B)
I am pretty sure that Dwayne would have done better if we could have heard the words better. In this case, the microphone was pinned to his jersey, which was far from his mouth. There’s little the Audio technicians can do in that situation. As I already stated, it’s a risk that must be factored in.
Good props, Good actors. I liked this song actually: original and well executed. Lyrics were good. The song captured his theme well.Faith Walke (Trinidad and Tobago) – “Imagine Me” – Kirk Franklin (Song - Gospel)
Faith’s presentation was quite interesting. Her fault would probably be in not hitting the notes well – mind you, she wasn’t off; just at times was not confident.
Excellent use of actors and props – they really added. Kudos to the guy who sang with her. He has a great voice. And I’m particularly happy that he didn’t overpower Faith’s performance. Very tasteful stuff from him.
‘Gifted Hands’ did something in the end – good stuff. Well put together. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.
Good, fierce competition here; this was definitely going to be difficult to judge.
The songs were all quite good, but some diversity would have made it a bit better – that is, too many delegates opted to do song. As stated above, it is risky to attempt live music – but not impossible. One can use strategic periods of silence to ensure that your lyrics come clearly across.
Also, there are many avenues whereby one can show creativity. I recall pageants of yesteryear when some attempted monologues, some instrumental, some poetry (I recall a Shakespearean act to be specific…).
At this point co-host Kevin Pierre decided that he would tell his joke – and take long (for spite) while doing it. It was pretty good joke, but he had some hard customers in the audience. Good stuff though.
Laurence Gudge (Instrumental, Tenor Sax) : “Heal The World” – Michael Jackson
Excellent stuff from Laurence here. I enjoyed this rendition for the most part. The videos were a touch too graphic in my opinion, and took away from his rendition. I would suggest a still picture, so that the audience can focus in on the art of the live musician. Nevertheless, Laurence has great skill, and this can be taken for granted, if not highlighted. The ability to produce notes at that speed, with proper breath control… this is skill/talent (and a lot of practice). Having enough creativity to expand Michael Jackson’s original idea – without losing the essence of that idea… this is art.
Cultural Display Segment
On to the highly anticipated Cultural Display section. The criterion here is creativity and relativity to the delegate’s theme.
Daryl St. Clair (St. Lucia) – “A Nation Revival”
Daryl sauntered on initially with a costume that had most persons silent. It looked like shell-shaped piece of cloth. Even his faced seemed to say, “Yep, this is it.” Most persons were as confused as I. Eventually though, he backed the audience, and released the entire costume. It was a nice effect – tactfully done. The costume itself was good. Good choice of theme music in the background.
Cleojenny Severin (St. Lucia) – “Epitome of Achievement”
Cleojenny’s costume had to come from the side of the auditorium… it was quite tall. I liked it for its simplicity – proper use of colour, contrast, et cetera. Good concept, worked very well with her theme. Enjoyed this one.
By the way, the English pronunciation of ‘Epitome’ is “ippitta-mee”.
Leriano Webster (Anguilla) – “Crime, the Harbinger of Death”
Leriano’s costume was quite interesting indeed. Backing the audience, he showed first the vulture side of his two-headed costume. Deathly indeed! After a few moments, he displayed the flip side: a white dove. On each side, the words were etched in: ‘Death’, ‘Murder’, ‘Suffering’ on the vulture side; ‘Family Values’, ‘Faith-Based’, ‘Religious Background’ on the other. He also carried the costume quite well. This was one of my favourites on the night.
Sabilla Luke (Dominica) – “The Timeless Woman”
Ah! Here was my pick of the night. This was a beautiful costume, from the start. Sabilla entered first with folded arms, giving us time to really take in the beauty of the material of which the costume’s wings were made. Then she unfolded her arms to show the huge Dominican flag at the front. What a sight. Really good!
Admittedly, the back of the costume, while nice, didn’t convey the aspect of ‘timeless’ or ‘time’; which may have been forgivable, depending on who you are.
But I think it was quite creative. I enjoyed the colour, the patterned cloth, the structure of the costume and the concept.
Kadeem Graham (Trinidad and Tobago) – “Life & Death”
Kadeem’s portrayal of “Life and Death” was next. His costume imbibed the legendary Carnival character, ‘The Midnight Robber’. The costume, of itself, was a good portrayal of the character.
I have some issues with this costume, and can boil them to one word: colour. I didn’t like the colour choices. The fluorescent green was loud, and the colours used for the ‘life’ side was more ‘pastel-ish’. Though the materials used was pretty decent, the colour offset much of the presentation. It was also quite difficult to understand the drawing on the ‘life’ side.
This may be a point of disagreement for most, but the colour subtracted largely from the presentation, in my opinion.
Otherwise, he did quite well on stage, using the smoke and his ‘fanning’ motion quite effectively. That definitely added.
Keisha Alleyne (Guyana) – “Queen of the Birds”
I really enjoyed this costume; from the time it entered the stage, to the time it exited. It may have been smaller (compared to the size of the others), but it was an intricate work. Beautiful costume.
What added significantly is how the costume was displayed. Keisha did great justice to this costume; I think she ‘wore’ hers better than anyone else on the night. The colour coordination was pretty good. Did I mention that this costume was intricate? Shoulder pads, sleeves, head-piece, waste band: each expertly crafted. I can sum this piece up in one word: Wow. The audience seemed quite impressed as well.
Dwayne Daniels (Guyana) – “Like a Child / Like a Tree”
I thought about this quite a bit before commenting. I’m going to say that this was a good effort. Good, because it was difficult to attempt, and it didn’t come out bad.
Well, firstly, the costume did depict exactly what he set out to portray: the struggles of children suffering from child abuse. The flip side portrayed children who, having escaped such abuse, are joyful and happy.
Further to this, the choice of materials was quite good, and made the portrayal quite realistic.
It was always going to be difficult to portray a tree. You don’t get to move around much like the others. So standing in one place, or moving slowly around was actually a good fit for a tree.
Give or take… good portrayal.
Faith Walke (Trinidad and Tobago) – “S.P.I.C.E.S.”
Faith’s S.P.I.C.E.S. was next. This was the simplest of the lot, and was creative in its own way. The hat and garland around the shoulder were quite creative. Admittedly, coming after the others, it seemed a bit too simple. Otherwise, good colour picks, and her movements on stage actually added to her depiction.
Really good costumes this year; very good creativity for the most part. Good reception from the crowd. This was another hotly contested category.
In many cases, the hostess’ reading of the descriptions did not match what was happening on stage at the time. I noted that the delegates moved more in time with the background music. This is quite possibly a case of providing too much description. It takes a bit of doing, but timing the description with the actual presentation will be quite helpful.
Jean-Claude’s Spoken Word
This guy continues to show great talent and ability. He has an excellent understanding of control, balance, poetry, expression – art. Quite a phenomenal talent Jean-Claude possesses. I was seated nearby some young ladies who were taking the lyrics to heart. I fear that Jean-Claude may have to copyright this work…
At this stage, to my mind, there were no clear winners. There were some pretty good presentations, but no-one captured the hearts of the audience (ahem… the unbiased, impartial audience, that is) as yet. Now to the final segment, the Question and Answer segment.
I can’t save this till the end: This year was the best Question and Answer segment I’ve ever witnessed. Thank you, Father. Intelligent answers, that actually answered the questions posed. Kevin Pierre’s charm was also quite helpful in this aspect of the programme. For the sake of your patience, I will employ the art of brevity.
Daryl St. Clair (St. Lucia)
He took quite a bit of time to answer his question. It was a long answer, but it did answer the question – maybe too in depth. Good answer overall.
Cleojenny Severin (St. Lucia)
Very positive, composed, and balanced answer. I must say this: hers was the best answer I’ve ever heard in any previous USC pageant, and any other pageant for the matter (e.g. Miss Universe). How refreshing to see such intelligence and poise displayed! Can I get that on DVD?
Leriano Webster (Anguilla)
He composed himself through his answer, though he seemed to fight through it at points. Still, pretty good.
(Somewhere around here, the audience was presented with a “blue screen of death”. Not right.)
Sabilla Luke (Dominica)
Sabilla got one of the harder questions of the night. Though she fought through her answer, she did pretty good here.
Kadeem Graham (Trinidad and Tobago)
Long question. Shortest answer. I think Kadeem struggled here, but he persisted through to the end. Good effort.
Keisha Alleyne (Guyana)
Ah, the joy of seeing someone answer a question intelligently! Excellent answer from Keisha here. Very good explanation, proper English, nice voice to listen to. One thing I noted here is that Keisha’s answer was not a list. Answering a question is not just giving the right answer – one must leave the person (who asked) with a sense of understanding. Great job here.
Dwayne Daniels (Guyana)
I’m not sure Dwayne grabbed the essence of the question, but he did fight valiantly through.
Faith Walke (Trinidad and Tobago)
Faith had a long question to contend with. The level of difficulty was a bit higher for this one, and should have been factored in. It took quite a bit to answer it, and not go off-course. Hers was a good answer; she answered the question (fully), without being too long (though it was a bit long)… great effort from her.
As mentioned before, this was a wonderful display of intellectual and professional ability. Each delegate was very cordial, offering salutations to the audience and judges. Kevin (host) played a great part. After a while, I started to anticipate what Kevin’s response would have been to the delegates asking him to repeat the question. He proved to be a good sport.
Drama Mags presentation
Good performance from the USC Drama Mags group. They presented a scene from their upcoming presentation: “Still His Child” on March 24, 2012 at the USC Auditorium (7:30pm). Excellent costuming, script, and actors. It seems like a production that should be attended. I’ve already purchased my ticket.
Mr. USC / Ms. USC 2011 – Speeches
This was a great idea. Most persons are unaware (or unclear) of the roles of the Pageant winners after the night is over. Jean-Claude and Kershama, sharing their experiences, gave great insight into their portfolios. One complaint would have been the length of time taken; but it was forgivable, seeing that these individuals shared from their hearts. Thanks guys!
* * *
So now, let’s look at the prizes and results. I’ll offer brief commentary, as appropriate. Please note, as of the rest of this article, the views are those of the author.
Congeniality Award – Keisha Alleyne.
Community Project – Mr. Leriano Webster.
Woolford Scholarship Award – Mr. Leriano Webster.
Best Talent – Daryl St. Clair.
Cultural Wear (Male) – Kadeem Graham.
Cultural Wear (Female) – Sabilla Luke.
Bakers’ Flags Award – Kadeem Graham.
25% Scholarship Awards (Male) – Kadeem Graham, Dwayne Daniels.
25% Scholarship Awards (Female) – Sabilla Luke, Keisha Alleyne.
General Comments (Prizes)
I was sure that this one would have caused contention. When announced, it caught the audience (and even Daryl) by surprise. But having thought about it, the issue of words/lyrics not being heard is an important one. He didn’t have to battle with that problem… because there was no accompaniment, or background music. His piece was quite good: good creativity, good lyrical depth, and good expression. I eventually accepted the decision of the judges here.
Best Cultural Wear – Male
This was a tough category to adjudicate… but my personal pick would have been Leriano. I’ve mentioned my issues with Kadeem’s costume above. Was it a question of relativity to the delegates’ theme? I’m not sure, but while the judges’ decision has already been made, I respectfully disagree with it.
Best Cultural Wear – Female
Another tough choice. I will settle with the judges decision here as well. I think Keisha’s “Queen of the Birds” came in a very, very close second. But, hats off too Sabilla!
1st Runner-up (Male) – Daryl St. Clair.
1st Runner-up (Female) – Cleojenny Severin.
Mr. USC – Leriano Webster.
Ms. USC – Faith Walke.
General Comments (Results)
I had to think about this for a while too.
The night’s performances did not make Leriano the obvious choice. What is informative, however, is that he won both the ‘Community Project’ and ‘Woolford Academic’ Awards. I can infer from this that he placed first in both categories. Now, added to that knowledge, I can say that Leriano deserved the win. It must be remembered that the competition is largely academic, and that previous results would have more weight than what happens on the night. To this end, I congratulate Leriano on his success. I am also happy with Daryl (St. Lucia) copping second place (1st runner-up).
The more contentious of the results would have been with the female results. Indeed, the female competition was fierce this year – it was surely fiercer than last year!
Likewise, I don’t think it would have been Faith’s showing on the night that would have clinched it for her. She did not do poorly, but not exceptionally well. We do not have the benefit of checking the prizes to get a better gauge (as with Leriano). In fact, only one female won a prize that actually would have contributed – which was Sabilla’s copping of the best cultural wear.
This seems to be a good spot to mention (again!) that this is the predicament faced when the audience has no reference point. Most persons will judge by what they saw on the night. If it were based on the night alone, Cleojenny may have copped it – but I think Keisha was vying right up there. Please, dear organiser, consider this dilemma. Make public the pre-night standings some time after the pageant ends.
However, do not discount the fact that Faith did quite well on the night itself. I think she fell in the Cultural Wear aspect, but came strong in the ‘Talent’ and ‘Question’ segments.
I finally resigned to accepting this result. Faith showed great composure throughout, and ended up being the ‘come-from-behind’ winner. For me, any of the ladies this year could have won. In the absence of more thorough data, I can only accept and congratulate Faith for a good showing.
Unfortunately, most of the audience had trickled out and missed Dr. Valley’s comments, commendations and congratulations. This time, I stayed till the end.
The pageant ended at 10:48pm.
* * *
Kudos to you, dear reader, for making it to the end of this article. You deserve an award too, but unfortunately, the prizes have already been shared.
The pageant came off quite nicely. It kept rolling, even with some hiccups. For most, it was an enjoyable evening, and I thank the organisers for that.
I though that eight (8) delegates would have resulted in a shorter show; but I’m actually thankful this year for just eight. Two more may have taken us to midnight!
Strong crowd participation is always a nice gauge of success of the programme, and this was definitely present.
The more major of my concerns would have been that of the unabated flow of humanism that continues to creep into the pageants. It is important to keep in focus the ideals and values for which the school stands. It is quite easy to ignore our value set for the expediency of novelty, current events, and modern philosophy. But we must never remove ourselves from the foundation on which we stand.
To this end, I implore that the organisers of this pageant keep (ever clear) before future delegates and sponsors, that this is a Christian institution. This shouldn’t be ‘inferred’; rather, it must be steadfastly and proudly announced, and displayed.
For the sake of your eyes, I will not unpack this important tenet stated above; rather, I will take it up with the relevant persons, as opportunity affords. And more importantly, “a wise man holds them back.”
Congratulations to all the delegates! You made this a very enjoyable pageant! Thanks for your time, sacrifice, effort, and patience!
Thanks also go out to the organisers and the audience. Special thanks the members of the delegates’ clubs. You know there would’ve been no pageant without you.
And that’s it.
Next year then!