Heritage: Art Music by Grenadian Composers

In 2011 the International Journal of Bahamian Studies (Vol 17, No 1) published an article about the music of the Caribbean called “From Classical to Calypso: An Interview with Bahamian Composer and Conductor Cleophas R. E. Adderley” [link] by Christine Gangelhoff, Ruebendero Gibson and Crashan Johnson. This sparked a project to discover each of the Caribbean islands world of what is now called art-music.


Classical music has not traditionally been the domain of European musicians – although we have been led to believe that from publications, concerts, and text books. But it is not exclusively European property and was never claimed as such. This myth was perpetuated by the musicologists, who were also, not accidentally, European.

Nonetheless, the performance of music for an attentive audience who remained silent until the work was ended, is a concept rather antithetic to the purpose and function of music in many cultures, and remains so in many social environs. The preponderance of this music is improvised, or at least realised by the performer from a pre-existing source. That demands an ear and insight that is challenging and distinctive, but it does not allow for the creation of a work demanding more than momentary attention and instantaneous creation. If the musician seeks an extended form or wishes to give inner voices a more complex role, something else is needed. Polishing ideas in this manner can increase the time needed for the creation of the work. Once finished, it can be played outside of the immediate locale, its details are notated so that others may per form it, at a distance of space or time from the original creator.

When such a work is to be created in a new region, the composer may try to follow a European model, but this is dressing up one’s own culture with foreign clothes. That is then the time to idealise the local impetus. In the United States, we struggled with this problem for decades, too few initially heeding the words of Antonín Dvořák when he was a visitor to New York in 1893. He had faced this situation when he tried to write music that reflected his own homeland, rather than the power of a German invasion. He urged the Americans not to follow Leipzig, but to acknowledge their distinctive roots. But these were the creation of slaves, at a time lynchings and minstrel shows were forms of popular entertainment. A few followed his advice: African Americans of course, like Harry Burleigh and William Grant Still with the spiritual and blues, and a few whose ancestry did not experience involuntary importation, George Gershwin, being the most successful.

Gradually, people outside the Caribbean had begun to learn music that was not of European origin. We owe that discovery to ethnomusicologists who alerted the musicologists to humanism and social relevancy, who subsequently infected the educators and their students, from whom came those subversives who have begun to remove myopia from the repertoires. Now we are enjoying the richness of the music of contemporary Africa and Asia. It might seem difficult to comprehend now, but there was a time when jazz could not be performed in the campus practice rooms, when no course was offered in the universities on American music. The change in the US came about with the government funds made available to commemorate the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976. And money changed philosophies. Our own sentiments of cultural inferiority began to vanish and the repertoires and course offerings were augmented. In the end, if art music is the focus of attention, that study must be informed by all idioms. All we in the United States might know now of The Bahamas and much of the Caribbean is tourism, adorned with a paternalistic attitude. So what message Dvořák offered over a century ago might relate to The Bahamas? What of the spirituals brought here by those immigrants who served the Loyalists? How has your music taken the British choral tradition as a point of departure? What dialect does your jazz speak? What of your traditional dances and your own lullabies? What of your folklore? That which is taking place now so dramatically in The Bahamas will further define classical music to the world. And herein are the means whereby these prob lems are addressed and these questions are answered.

Discoveries that are reported as a mere list of names are dead-end, providing no immediate amelioration. From this initial point, one needs to know what works these individuals have created, how to locate those that have been made available to the public, and which of these have been played or recorded. Now the work becomes functional for private collectors, libraries, and archives. Even this is not enough. The obligation now falls on those in a posit ion to disseminate the information – authors, performers, educators, and those in the media. Simultaneously, the works must be seen in the light of the culture in which they were created and which they normally are designed to enhance. By that process, others develop a concept of the distinction of this culture and the people for whom it was created. The music now becomes securely located within the humanities and the culture gains a better understanding of humanity.

Had anyone guessed there had been so many art composers, so prolific, from these countries? We knew about Christiane Eda-Pierre, the soprano born in 1932 in Martinique who captivated Parisian opera lovers; Edward Henry Margetson who migrated from St. Kitts to the United States, continuing his work in church music; baritone Willard White, born in Jamaica in 1948, who was knighted in 1995 by Queen Elizabeth II and ranks among the major artists of opera. What now of those others born in the Caribbean who enhanced not only their homeland, but also the musical life of London, New York, or Paris? This work of Dr. Gangelhoff and Ms. LeGrand now creates opportunities for those who may hope to benefit from these efforts.

Dominique-René de Lerma
Professor Emeritus, Lawrence Conservatory of Music, Lawrence University, Appleton Wisconsin

Art-Music by Caribbean Composers

by Dr. Christine Gangelhoff

Assistant Professor of Music at The College of
The Bahamas
since 2007 and a member of the C-Force Chamber Ensemble 

Musical genres associated with the Caribbean region typically include popular and traditional styles such as reggae, calypso, soca, merengue, and zouk. These musical styles are, in general, well documented both in the scholarly and popular realm; writings on and recordings of these styles are easy to locate. Art-music from the Caribbean region is much less examined and, indeed, less well known. Many composers of art-music have emerged from Caribbean nations, often to little notice. Research and documentation of this tradition exists but is scattered, easily overlooked and, in general, difficult to locate. The goal of this project, now in its second volume, is to identify and list all available information on the art-music tradition of the Caribbean region. It will, ultimately, form a comprehensive document of value to musicians, ethnomusicologists, historians, researchers, educators and students. We recognized a need to broaden somewhat the original scope of the project. Initially, only composers born in and native to the Caribbean were to be considered for inclusion. However, it became clear that some important composers, not born in the Caribbean but long resident there, have been influential in the art-musical tradition of certain islands. As excluding those influential composers from this project would render inaccurate its depiction of art-musical life, the authors decided to change the original restrictions. Therefore, non-native-born composers of particular importance to an island are included as is a notation of the composer’s place of origin. This sec ond volume of the project provides a listing of scores and sheet music; recordings (sound files, CD’s, etc.); websites; a bibliography of books and articles; and a listing of research institutions and libraries regarding composers of Caribbean art-music. Whenever possible, we included information on the potential sources of these materials (directions to where they can be acquired, either by purchase, by download, or by borrowing). We have intentionally excluded materials existing exclusively in outdated formats (such as 78 LPs, audiocassettes, and microform). We also have excluded those works for which a record exists but no copies can be located. (If an item cannot at least be borrowed from a library or purchased from a vendor, it is not included here).

Defining Art-Music

Art-music is a difficult concept to define. The distinction between art music and folk music is indeed blurred and, as a result, is difficult to articulate. For this project, we used the following criteria to distinguish art music from popular, traditional and folk music (styles which, again, are not covered here, being already well-represented elsewhere). These criteria do not arise from elitist intentions and are outlined in order to demonstrate clearly which works are included in the scope of this work:

  • Art-music descends from the western classical tradition.
  • Art-music may draw inspiration from or make use of melodies from folk music or dance tunes, as composers have done throughout history. But, while the subject matter may be borrowed from the folk or popular traditions, the style remains formal, often with advanced musical structure.
  • Art-music is fully composed. Parts are arranged and written in western staff notation. Music preserved only by oral tradition and not fixed in a written medium does not qualify. (This criterion serves to distinguish classical music of non-western traditions).
  • All parts are played as written. Interpretation, as opposed to improvisation, is the dominant focus of the performer. (Accordingly, music played from a lead sheet or a jazz chart is excluded under this definition).
  • The composition and performance or interpretation of art-music requires specialized skill and knowledge, unique to the classical style.
  • The experiential focus of art-music is on listening to the performance as opposed to physical engagement such as dancing.

Art-Music excludes the influence and continued wide use of classical European religious music in the form of Hymns, Carols and Organ music in the Caribbean religious world.

Art-Music in Grenada

Grenada is among the southernmost of the Windward Islands and its two dependencies, Carriacou and Petit Martinique (“the Grenadines”), lie between it and the even more southern island, St. Vincent (McDaniel, 1998).

Columbus landed on Grenada in 1498 and encountered a large population of Carib natives who had long resisted colonization. Europeans were not able to successfully colonize the island until the 17th century. Control of the island was passed back and forth between France and Great Britain during subsequent centuries (“Grenada,” 2001). In a final change of colonial hands, authority was eventually ceded to Great Britain. French and British influences affect Grenadian cultural traditions, as do Trinidadian influences, owing to Grenada’s proximity to and close ties with Trinidad (Bugros-McLean, 2005).

European colonists established plantations, first growing sugar, and later, nutmeg and cocoa (Kaufman, 2005). The cultivation of these latter crops earned Grenada the nickname the Spice Island (Bugros-McLean, 2005). Large numbers of African slaves helped maintain the plantation economy and, as in

most Caribbean nations, the descendants of these slaves make up a large percentage of the modern population. Grenada achieved independence from Great Britain in 1974 (Kaufman, 2005).

Calypso is “the dominant popular music genre in the country” (Bugros-McLean, 2005, para. 6). At the annual Carnival, bands parade in a festive display of dance, costume, and music – steelpan in particular.

“European dances lost in Europe survive in Carriacou” (McDaniel, 1998, p. 868). The music and movements of the quadrille on Carriacou have adapted “indigenous meaning and stylistic reinterpretation” (p. 871). The island of Carriacou also continues to enjoy the traditional “string band music that had been an integral part of the local culture during the Christmas season” (Bugros-McLean, 2005, para. 10). The Parang Festival, which began in 1977, affords an annual venue for string band music in competition. The Mount Royal Progressive Youth Movement, organizers of the Parang Festival, “has become a major social and cultural institution in Carriacou” (Bugros-McLean, 2005, para. 11).

Other music festivals, such as the Big Drum in Carriacou and the Grenada Spice Jazz Festival, help preserve national cultural identity and feed the tourism industry. The Big Drum, derived from African slave traditions from the early 18th century, survives on Carriacou in spite of suppression efforts by the British colonists (Bugros-McLean, 2005).

  • Bertha Pitt-Bonaparte (1936— )
  • Richardo Keens-Douglas
  • Louis Arnold Masanto (1938— )
  • John George Fletcher (1931—2015)


COMPOSITIONS, by composer


  • Hail Grenada (1974, national anthem)


  •    Ecce sacerdos magnus (2001)
  •    Missa consolata (2005, revised 2012) (mass)2
    •       Amen
    •       Sanctus
    •       Lamb of God
    •       Lord guide my feet — meditation (motet)
    •       Memorial acclamations
      •            Save us saviour of the world
      •            When we eat this bread


  •      [see Art-Music by Caribbean Composers: Barbados]



National anthems of the world, vol. 3: Denmark – Grenada [CD]. (2006). Hong Kong: Marco
Polo. Catalogue no. 8.225321; Track 49. Hail Grenada (1:31)


Miller, R. S. (2000). “The people like Melée”: The Parang festival of Carriacou, Grenada. Dissertation, (Ph.D), Brown University.

Miller, R. S. (2003.) “Me ain’ lie on nobody!Locality, regionalism, and identity at the Parang string band competition in Carriacou, Grenada. The World of Music, 45(1), 55-77.

Miller, R. S. (2005). Performing ambivalence: The case of quadrille music and dance in Carraicou, Grenada. Ethnomusicology, 49(3), 403-440. Available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/20174404

Miller, R. S. (2008). Carriacou string band serenade: Performing identity in the Eastern Caribbean. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 9780819568588



Calypso is “the dominant popular music genre in the country” (Bugros-McLean, 2005, para. 6). At the annual Carnival, bands parade in a festive display of dance, costume, and music – steel pan in particular. “European dances lost in Europe survive in Carriacou” (McDaniel, 1998, p. 868). The music and movements of the quadrille on Carriacou have adapted “indigenous meaning and stylistic reinterpretation” (p. 871). The island of Carriacou also continues the traditional “string band music that had been an integral part of the local culture during the Christmas season” (Bugros-McLean, 2005, para. 10).


Bugros-McLean, P. (2005). Grenada. In Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world: Locations and primarily sourced from Cowley, John, (1996). Carnival, Canboulay and Calypso: Traditions in the Making:- “Elements of the Trinidadian carnival, especially the calypso, have been adopted by several neighboring islands, such as Grenada, Carriacou, Dominica and St. Lucia. Steel pans have become popular in Jamaica. In other parts of the Caribbean, distinct traditions mark the festivity. In Haiti, for example, carnival is celebrated to the sound of rara bands, in which ditties containing veiled critiques are accompanied by interlocking melodies produced on bamboo trumpets (vaksin).“Kaufman, W. (2005). Grenada. In Britain and the Americas: Culture, politics, and history. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/abcbramrle/grenadaMcDaniel, L. (1998). Grenada. In D. A. Olsen & D. E. Sheehy (Eds.), Garland encyclopedia of world music, volume 2: South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (pp. 864-872). London, England: Routledge.

Grenada (W.I.). (2001). In The companion to British history, Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/routcbh/grenada_w_


The 2013 Bahamas International Symposium on composers of African & Afro-Caribbean descent Symposium coordinators: Dr. Christine Gangelhoff and Marlon Daniel

The 2013 Bahamas International Symposium engages musicians, composers, and scholars from all over the world in presentations, performances, and conversations around composers and performers of African and Afro-Caribbean descent. Organized around the theme Caribbean Art Music: An Unexplored Tradition. Musical genres associated with the Caribbean typically include popular and traditional styles. Although many composers of art music have emerged from Caribbean nations and from the Caribbean Diaspora, information on this subject is scarce. As composers are slowly gaining recognition, a new understanding of and visibility for Caribbean art music is emerging. The mission of this symposium is to explore this topic of regional and international interest, drawing perspectives from a wide range of disciplines.

Bertha Pitt-Bonaparte references the works of Rebecca S. Miller to make contributions to this chapter which was submitted by Dr. Christine Gangelhoff, Assistant Professor of Music at The College of The Bahamas and Member – The C-Force Chamber Ensemble,  has been a member of the music faculty of The College of The Bahamas since 2007. Previously, she served on the faculties of Memorial University of Newfoundland and St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She holds degrees from Yale University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of North Texas.
As a flautist Dr. Gangelhoff has established her career through solo and chamber performances in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe. As an orchestral player, she has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Portland Ballet, and the Vancouver Island Symphony.In addition to performing, Dr. Gangelhoff has done extensive research on art music from the Caribbean region. The first volume of her bibliography on Caribbean art music received The College of The Bahamas Stanley Wilson award for Excellence in Research in 2012. She continues to work on subsequent volumes as she seeks to promote a deeper understanding of and greater visibility for this little-known tradition.Rebecca (Becky) S. Miller, associate professor of music, received an A.B. from Bryn Mawr College, an M.A. from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. from Brown University in ethnomusicology. She conducted dissertation research as a Fulbright Fellow on the Caribbean island of Carriacou (Grenada). Professor Miller’s book, Carriacou String Band Serenade: Performing Identity in the Eastern Caribbean (Wesleyan University Press, 2008) examines social and political change through the performance of traditional music, song, and dance in Carriacou.

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