GLORIOUS SOULFUL MESSIAH
WORD magazine/November 2004
By P. Vassell
Like The Nutcracker before it, Ballet Creole hopes to launch a whole new tradition with Glorious Soulful Messiah for the upcoming holiday season and for future Christmas holidays. The African-Caribbean dance organization promises to present two great evenings of a ballet set to a contemporary rendition of the music of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah as performed by some of Black America’s top artists. Performance dates are set for Glorious Soulful Messiah on December 10th and 11th, 2004. Choreographed by Ballet Creole’s founder and Artistic Director, Patrick Parson, the production will feature popular contemporary dance fused with African-Caribbean forms. WORD caught up with Patrick Parson at the Ballet Creole School in downtown Toronto.
WORD: What inspired you to produce this as an annual production for Torontonians?
PATRICK PARSON: A couple of things inspired me. I always wanted to do something that runs in parallel with The Nutcracker for us, for our culture, for our people. But I also wanted it to be something that all cultures that can delve into. When I listened to the music I realized it runs through the gamut of Black music – the Caribbean, the Jamaican, the Highlife, the Jazz, the Soul – so when I listened to that I said, this is most fitting. Knowing the Handel variation deals with religious themes and being a Catholic myself, I started to put some of the structure together.
WORD: So you are currently working on it?
PP: Yeah. It’s an ongoing process that will be a full-length ballet. A couple years before I did Handel’s Soulful Messiah with other pieces from our company. This year I added a piece that’s more fitting called Glory which is classical Black gospel music. It is a better fit. So the inspiration comes from doing something that will become a classic, hopefully.
WORD: Do you think there will be a market for this in Toronto?
PP: Yes because, Handel has a following and then put in a soulful, Afro-American, Caribbean feel, it starts to open the circle for the people who like Handel’s music; for the people who want to see what Black Americans have done to Handel music. Add a Caribbean rendition, get these top class acts and you get to see what the choreographer and this type of company will do to that type of music.
WORD: So your hope is that it becomes an annual affair?
PP: Yes. This is the 3rd time. And I keep adding new elements every year. If you look into the classical music, people go back year after year to see The Nutcracker, so I’m trying to build that kind of awareness within the African Caribbean community and the external community.