Singer Maxwell-Smith Wins Festival Competition

Winning notes: judges Heather Nova, Gita Blakeney Saltus and Sheila Smith flank Massassi Maxwell-Smith, who took top place in the second annual Bermuda Festival On Stage Competition (Photograph supplied).

The Earl Cameron Theatre was packed on Wednesday night with a local audience eager to witness the Bermuda Festival’s On Stage Competition for youth.

John Rankin, the Governor, was among those present as seven novice acts, ably backed by the Wall Street Band, were appraised by singers Heather Nova, Gita Blakeney Saltus and Sheila Smith.

First up were The Struggles, an all-girl group who performed an authentic and harmonically perfect Abba cover, Super Trooper, and an energetic Little Shop of Horrors.

Next up was Thomas Evans with Paul McCartney’s Yesterday followed by Frank Loesser’s I’ve Never Been in Love Before — his voice had a lightness and freshness which suited the material well.

Massassi Maxwell-Smith sang Almost There from the Disney film, The Princess and the Frog, as well as her own composition, Mello Vibes. She was perfectly at home on the stage without a trace of nervousness and her costume, voice and movement coordinated in a way that was completely mature and professional. She exuded star quality.

Solo singer Nekoda Bascome then took the stage with Adele’s Hello and Daniel Caesar’s Best Part, both with excellent piano and guitar accompaniment. He dispensed with a lot of Adele’s melodramatic fortissimo to give a more contemplative, ballad-like flavour to the song.

Pianist Sediq Simons gave two virtuosic renditions of the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness and Mary Mary’s Thank You.

The Geckos played instrumental versions of Fly Me to the Moon, Take the A Train, Take 5 and Chameleon; Gareth Cooper’s saxophone was particularly enjoyable in the way he captured the crispness of Paul Desmond’s sound in Brubeck’s Take 5.

Last up were the violin sisters, Naphisa and Sari Smith, performing the first movement of Bach’s double violin concerto and then playing an electrifying, epic fiddle slugfest, Roundtable Rival by modern composer Lindsey Sterling. I think that throughout the evening any applause meter would have been short-circuited from sheer overload. Every number played by these young musicians brought a tsunami of applause.

I could completely relate to the judges, who confessed they had an almost impossible choice as to who would be the winner — deservedly, Massassi Maxwell-Smith took the honour.

But as the judges pointed out, all the participants were proof positive that talent within the performing arts is alive and well in Bermuda.