My latest sentimental tsunami
Touched by an overwhelming response
I am constrained to refer to the absolutely overwhelming response to my feature last week headlined A Sentimental Tsunami. It all stemmed from my granddaughter celebrating her 36th birthday and my wondering where all the years had gone upon realisation she was born on the very day I was making the first of my two highly publicised, but unsuccessful bids for election to the House of Assembly.
A related part of that feature was reference to the soul-stirring singing by my late wife Ismay of some of the great classics of old, especially The Lost Chord composed by Arthur Sullivan in the late 1800s.
One caller said the feature made her emotional. Another admitted she cried. A certain doctor in a message left in my phone voice mail revealed that as a budding young singer she had attempted to render The Lost Chord as a solo. But she gave up the effort after once hearing Ismays rendition.
On Sunday, moments after arriving at the big festival at the Bermuda Institute, I was intercepted by a lady I knew by sight only. She told how she was one of those who had told Ismay she wanted her to sing at her funeral. She revised that plan after Ismays sudden death in August 2005 and inserted the name of the Hon. Nelson Bascome, MP. But he also passed suddenly, on business in the United States.
That good lady chuckled in agreement when I told her to focus now on living rather than dying.
In any case, the foregoing are only some of the reactions that caused me this week to relate to my latest sentimental tsunami. This time it alludes to the three mentioned in the adjoining column broadcasters David Lopes, Elmore Warren and Gina Spence along with Gita Blakeney. I would not dare call them Lost Chords, as they are such vibrant personalities, very much to the fore.
We said a big Amen to the many accolades pouring in last week to David Lopes, marking his 50 years as host of ZBMs Radio Morning Show. The salutations also triggered sorts of Lost Chords to flood my memory bank not only about the farmer David, but about his fellow ZBM icon of Portuguese descent, the Silver Fox Everest DaCosta. And ultimately Court Street entrepreneur Elmore Warren.
It is nearly a decade since when Elmore launched Bermudas newest cable TV Channel Fresh TV and at the same time dedicated VISION HOUSE, the channels fabulous Court Street studios.
The date was May 28, 2003 when I reported, in the now defunct Mid-Ocean News, how I congratulated Elmore, telling him how thrilling it was to be at the start of something so engrossing, dynamic and full of potential as Fresh Creations Ltd., the company of which Warren was president and executive producer.
His response was: We intend to be all that is implicit in our name, fresh, creative, community minded, and every inch of VISON HOUSE will be utilised in that effort, he added.
VISON House is a three-storied building with distinctive balconies and windows that provide panoramic views of the city. It was the former New York Hotel, built in the early 20th century by the Robinson Family, who owned most of that block in Court Street.
I reported telling Elmore how hard it was to believe that it was 40 years since I had been intimately involved with the launch of Capital Broadcasting Companys ZFB AM and FM Radio and Channel 8. That enterprise, by Montague Sheppard, revolutionised broadcasting in Bermuda.
Up to that point no black Bermudians, and only three or four white Bermudians, were engaged as on-air or even behind the scenes personalities. And as for those of Portuguese descent it was a complete No No! Broadcasting was the monopoly of the Front Street oligarch who had created ZBM and who strenuously believed only expatriate Canadians and Britons possessed the necessary skills.
As incomprehensible as it may seem now, that was the stark reality. And I say my AMENs louder to the likes of David Lopes and Silver Fox Everest DaCosta for their infectious spirits and incomparable talents in proving the oligarch of old how dead wrong they were. And I must include in that trailblazing bunch ZBM early morning Gospel Man Kelly Zuill, who in a few weeks will be chalking up his half-century as a broadcaster. He got his start at ZFB!
THE GINAS AND GITAS
Two other personalities caught up in my sentimental tsunami were Gina Spence and Gita Blakeney. It all began, when I wrote about receiving a special delivery invitation from Gina to join her for dinner celebrating what then was her 40th birthday.
We (this writer) instinctively knew we were in for a delightful evening at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. But were totally unprepared for the five-hour extravaganza that literally blew us out of BUEI.
The evening could hardly have been any different considering that Gina had three (yes three, not one) MCs. They were Kevil The Captain Burgess, Wendell The Village Mouth Dill and Ms Brendell Hall, each a show in themselves. And in the wings waiting for things to get warmed up were Wendell Shine Hayward, soon-to-be married Gita Blakeney, dancer Debbie Kay Martin and Kion Simmons who in his blooming career was dubbed as The Black Pavarotti and The Godfather.
My report continued: Personally we had always regarded Gina, with her captivating smile and unflappable style as one of the most refreshing television personalities in the country. We really did not have to know much about her to love her, as her work spoke volumes. We knew that she was (then) producer of road shows that had some sort of pied-piper effect on young people And some of those very performers showed their appreciation to Gina at the celebration in song, dance and dialogue for having touched their lives.
But the real highlight of the celebration was a documentary titled Ginas Journey. There was hardly a dry eye in BUEI when former broadcaster Evelyn James Barnett narrated how Christ entered Ginas life, derailing her from a fast-track course that might have led her to drugs and St Brendans Psychiatric Hospital (now called MAWI).
Gina, who received several standing ovations during the evening, had no qualms about her lifes story be told like it was. Because it underscored the depth and breadth of her conversion. She declared she has been born again. And her motto is The Lord is my Light and My Salvation.
The foregoing is what I wrote then. Nowadays Gina Spence hosts the four-hour ZBM Radio Talk Show during the four-hour slot between David Lopes signing off and when Everest DaCosta comes on with his great afternoon Talk Show.
GITAS FABULOUS WEDDING
Less than a month after featuring Gina, Gita did get married. Here are excerpts from my Mid-Ocean coverage of that fabulous event:
Entertainer Gita Maria Blakeney, Bermuda Queen of Rhythm and Blues, Jazz and Reggae was at her majestic best when she exchanged vows at Devonshire Parish Church with the man she called her prince charming, building contractor Gary Dominic Saltus.
Gita herself was a picture of exquisite charm in her gown of organza and silk chiffon with a single strap over-the-shoulder bodice trimmed in rhinestones. She wore Sworski crystal earrings, matching her rather untraditional bouquet. Quite fittingly, her headpiece was a flaring crown of tulle trimmed with rhinestones, matching the dress.
The dress was a creation of well-known Bermudian designer Dwayne Paynter, designed in a collaborate effort with Gita herself. She told the 300-odd guest during the reception at Southampton Princess Hotel that she had always pictured in her mind the gown she would wear if and when she got married.
She had nine attendants, including her sister Gina Smith as matron of honour. The groom was attended by best man Glen Doars.
Officiating at the church was parish rector Canon James Francis. Entertainer Gene Steede rendered two moving solos; members of the Menhuen Foundation provided the musical accompaniment for the procession and recession of the wedding party.
The crowning moment at the reception at Fairmont was Gitas impromptu serenading of her husband. Her rendition of The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face brought tears to his eyes, and to many of the guests.
Aside from her onstage performances in nightclubs in Bermuda and abroad, Gita doubles during the day as the director of community events and public relations for the Council Partners. She is also on the Board of the ADHT, the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Foundation. The groom is owner of Platinum Construction.
The couple left immediately after the reception for London, England to embark on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise.
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