Helpert 'inspired by Bermuda' during stint as Musician in Residence

"Brilliant, inspiring, opportune, rich, treasure-filled, picturesque, stunning and evocative," are some of the words Leslie Helpert uses to describe her time on the Island.

She arrived in late March as the first Musician in Residence under a new programme set up by FreeUp Productions' Lindsey Ternent with funding from the Ministry of Culture and Social Rehabilitation.

During her tenure, Ms Helpert held a Billie Holliday Tribute concert, hosted workshops and regularly participated in Chewstick, a popular weekly open mic session now being held alternate Sundays at The Spinning Wheel and Level.

  • <b>Leslie Helpert</b> the outgoing Musician in Residence with FreeUp Productions.

    Leslie Helpert the outgoing Musician in Residence with FreeUp Productions.


"Brilliant, inspiring, opportune, rich, treasure-filled, picturesque, stunning and evocative," are some of the words Leslie Helpert uses to describe her time on the Island.

She arrived in late March as the first Musician in Residence under a new programme set up by FreeUp Productions' Lindsey Ternent with funding from the Ministry of Culture and Social Rehabilitation.

During her tenure, Ms Helpert held a Billie Holliday Tribute concert, hosted workshops and regularly participated in Chewstick, a popular weekly open mic session now being held alternate Sundays at The Spinning Wheel and Level.

As a farewell performance, she took the stage at St. Andrew's Church on Sunday night with violinist Taylor Rankin during the Students Gala portion of the 5th Bermuda Guitar Festival.

She performed one of her own songs, inspired by Bermuda, at the event.

She told The Royal Gazette she has found her time on Island both enriching and inspiring.

"I've truly enjoyed offering vocal classes and workshops at The Bermuda School Of Music," she said.

"I've found each of the students who have come through my classes and individual lessons to be so attentive and capable, I've been really thoroughly impressed with the calibre of person I've interacted with during these lesson days; very diverse and skilled Bermudians, all with different interests in sound and voice and how to apply it to their lives."

One of her first showcases upon arriving on Island was the Billie Holliday tribute at the Fairmont Southampton Wine Cellar. It featured music dear to the artist's soul. "It was music that she made famous," Ms Helpert said. "I'm always on the hunt for songs that I feel are meaningful and melodically interesting. I like the oldest songs, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Old Billie."

Founder of FreeUp Productions Lindsey Ternent said the reason for Ms Helpert was chosen as the first Musician in Residence was that after working with her some time, she knew she had something to offer Bermuda. "She is a very skilled artist of many mediums with a vast amount of experience in knowing how to harness those skills in a way that is fulfilling, effective and financially beneficial," Miss Ternent said. "Above all, I knew that Leslie would be able to offer a true passion for cultural exchange within the local community."

She added: "My instincts proved to be true."

Bermuda has offered Ms Helpert both a break from her home base of Athens, Georgia and a chance to turn her artistic focus inward.

"I've had a chance, as an artist, to really get under the unturned stones of my art, heart and soul," she said. "This has been an unexpectedly very deep time for me.

"To do a 'compositional' residency, to get to explore the underpinning aspects of writing, music and learning to listen all the more by listening to the ocean.

"Really, such a big part of making music is the component of knowing how to listen; how to exercise the muscles of the act of listening. How to enjoy and deeply appreciate the experience of hearing, whether it's what you are playing on an instrument or listening to your very breath, because all of these things are enormous parts of playing."

Under the Musician in Residence programme, each year an international musician will be selected to reside in Bermuda for a period of three months. During that time, the artists should perform an introductory live performance followed by "an enrichment of community outreach events, culminating with a performance of the body of work produced by the musician during their residence, inspired by their experiences in Bermuda'', according to the FreeUp Productions website (www.freeupproductions.com).

The hope is: "To learn from, and be inspired by, a variety of skilled musicians allowing the broadening and development of aspiring local talent."

Any profits generated through the programme are donated to the affiliate charity, the Bermuda School of Music.

"I think that I've had some great 'cultural' exchanges while here," Ms Helpert said. "I am an interesting sort of musician. I'm more into where health and wellness can intersect with art and culture. I really seek out initiatives and endeavours that seem supportive of sustainable pursuit.

"I've really enjoyed connecting with The Farmers Market, for example, and learning more about things like the rehabilitation of the Cahow.

"I've had a great time deeply connecting with local artist/violinist Taylor Rankin, who, in my opinion, is a genius player. I've been able to cultivate some great relationships by teaching voice, and have really been thrilled to be in alliance with The Bermuda School of Music.

Ms Helpert believes the programme is "absolutely radical".

"This has been an enormous turning point for me," she said. "I really came here asking some big questions about art and its place in the world. The world is really changing, people are realising, are truly recognising that we need to make serious global changes and come into a place of much deeper harmony with our ecological system.

"I feel that our largest natural resource is our human creative ingenuity. Being here has helped me put more deeply into gear my personal part in this new paradigm.

"I know that the next few years globally we are going to see terrific changes and it is up to us all to find our own peace and to be as honest as we can with ourselves and with each other. I feel very much like a strategist when it comes to the arts; I'm very interested in creating positive ways that music and art can limitlessly thrive in societies!"

As a final gesture to the programme, Ms Helpert is selling a special guitar with the help of FreeUp and will donate a portion of the sale to the Musician in Residence programme.

"It is a Brazilian Rosewood Classical Guitar that was made for my grandfather in Brazil," she said. "I'm excited about this, so check it out on Emoo!"

  • Take Our Poll

    • "Confidence that Bermuda will be removed from the EU blacklist after May 17 meetings?"
    • Confident
    • 35%
    • Not confident
    • 56%
    • Indifferent
    • 9%
    • Total Votes: 3167
    • Poll Archive

    Today's Obituaries

    eMoo Posts