SINGING IN CASTARA
a course in Tobago for choral singers led by Justin Doyle and Sarah Latto
16 to 22 February 2020

A week of music-making in the idyllic village of Castara Bay on Tobago’s Caribbean coast. We rehearse a programme of largely early music every day in the morning and late afternoon for a concert at the end of the course. This is one of Lacock’s occasional ventures to this part of the world; previous courses have been held in Havana and in San Miguel de Allende and Cholula in Mexico. The aim is always to combine music-making with a chance to explore, in good company and a relaxed and convivial setting.

A mass for the beginning of Lent
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina ~ Missa Emendemus in melius
William Byrd ~ Emendemus in melius and Miserere mei Deus
other motets by Byrd and Tallis

frottole, canciones, Doyleisms

We do not know the model for Palestrina’s Emendemus (Let us amend our sins . . ) mass, only that the great penitential text, traditionally sung at the imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday, inspired him to write a really beautiful small-scale masterpiece for four voices that deserves to be better known. Between the movements of the mass we will sing motets by Byrd and Tallis, but leave the final choice of titles until we have a better idea of the final size and balance of the group. But before Lent comes Carnival, so after the mass we will let the dim religious light be rudely shattered by a few dazzling secular songs from the early sixteenth century and some of Justin’s brilliant choral arrangements of world music.

This year’s Singing in Castara will be followed on Saturday 22 February by the first ‘Castara Song Harvest’, a small festival of music and food involving our group and a small number of Tobagonian choirs. This event, suggested by the villagers themselves, will showcase some local traditions – the village African drumming ensemble, a steel band, bread baked in their clay ovens, barbecued fish from the bay, rum punches and who knows what else.

Andrew van der Beek writes: “I discovered Castara Bay on a family holiday a few years ago and was immediately struck by the thought that it would make an ideal Lacock course venue: an idyllic Caribbean fishing village with two glorious swimming beaches, surrounded by virgin jungle crashing down into the sea, the choice of a church and a community hall to sing in and no large-scale tourist development. It was the perfect place to go when the northern winter begins to pall. The bird life was fantastic, from the motmots, trogons and amazing variety of humming birds to the pterodactyl-like frigate birds. Edmund de Waal (yes, that one) liked the place too; he visited Castara a few years ago and wrote about it here.”

Further details of the programme, travel, accommodation, fees and enrolment.

The villagers fish the bay daily with seine nets, dressing and selling the catch at a small market on the beach. Thanks to the oil and gas fields in the sister island, Trinidad, the whole country is surprisingly prosperous, with income per head higher, for instance, than Portugal.

Tobago is 26 miles long and no wider than seven miles. It is not in the hurricane belt and by dint of the southeasterly trade winds has a pleasant equable climate. The interior is mountainous with many waterfalls, including the spectacular Argyle Falls on the Atlantic side of the island. The one shown here is a short walk from the centre of Castara.

The island has an exceptionally rich and diverse range of bird life. It is on a migratory route and the proximity of  South America brings additional species visiting from the continental mainland. The best way of seeing as much wild life as possible without getting lost in the rain forest is to engage the services of one the very knowledgeable specialist guides.

Further details of the programme, travel, accommodation, fees and enrolment.