Sing it loud: Sit Off Bermuda

  • Body of work: Bones members, from left, Andrew Chamberlain, keyboards; Leroy Richardson, bass guitar; Graham Pewter, drums; David Skinner, guitar; and the late Neil Burnie, saxophone

    Body of work: Bones members, from left, Andrew Chamberlain, keyboards; Leroy Richardson, bass guitar; Graham Pewter, drums; David Skinner, guitar; and the late Neil Burnie, saxophone

Over the three-day Easter weekend, there were 18,083 checkpoint stops and 32 people were arrested for breaching curfew or for non-essential movement.

As the Government works to rid the island of Covid-19, it is obvious that not everybody is listening to the order to stay at home.

With time on his hands, David Skinner decided to try and help get the message across in the best way he knew how.

Sit Off Bermuda, the song he produced with the band Bones, is on SoundCloud and also making the rounds on Facebook.

“I really hope by publicising this more people get the message,” said Mr Skinner, a retired accountant who fell in love with the guitar in his early teens. “That's the hope. It's not 'cuz I'm looking for any glory in writing a song.

“I kind of got inspired to come up with some words that would hopefully reinforce the key messages — about people staying at home, keeping their social distance, using proper hygiene — and I wanted to do something in a way that would inject a little humour into it without being silly. It really came from that.”

He wrote Sit Off, his first song, in a day and shared it with Bones. Other members in the blues band, which included the late veterinarian Neil Burnie when it formed about a decade ago, are Leroy Richardson, Andrew Chamberlain and Graham Pewter.

“We kind of adapted it and rearranged it a bit and then recorded it,” said Mr Skinner.

“All four of the remaining guys were involved in one way or another, although it came down to primarily Andrew and me putting the song together.

“Since we couldn't all get together — even the three of us resident in Bermuda — it was a real live social-distancing application!”

Even if listeners do not get the message from the title of the song, its mantra gives it away: sit off.

“We wanted something clear, something that people would relate to in Bermuda and so we came up with 'sit off',” said Mr Skinner, who does not know anyone who has had Covid-19.

“Bermudians recognise that term. It just means stay away from the fray, relax, get out of the mainstream; sit off and do your own thing. And that theme keeps coming through: “Sit off, stay at home, there's nowhere you need to roam.”

He started playing at 13 with dreams of becoming “the fifth Beatle”.

His parents “made the mistake” of buying him a bass guitar instead of a six-string guitar and signed him up for formal lessons with Norman Astwood. He was just a really sweet guy and he started teaching me scales, which I wasn't terribly interested in at the age of 13, having the vision of being a rock star and all,” Mr Skinner laughed.

Once he “got a proper guitar” he began moving forward with lots of practice and help from musician friends.

“I hit a brick wall around the age of 18 and then I went back to Norman Astwood. By that time I was ready to absorb what he wanted to teach me. He just opened up so many doors for me. He was a brilliant teacher and guitar player and just a real gentleman. So that's where I got most of my guitar instruction from.”

Help also came from Sister Joseph Anthony at his old school Mount St Agnes.

“She made a deal with me. I couldn't pay her for theory lessons but she would teach me on two conditions: one, I would sit the Royal Schools of Music exams; two, I would teach two of the students who were there — and I did. Those students were Spencer Critchley and Terrence Elliot.”

The combined classes led to him playing with “a bunch of bands back in the day”, when there was plenty of work for local musicians.

“I was working six nights a week in hotels and clubs and so I took three years off before I finally decided, well it's time to get back to university and finish my degree,” Mr Skinner said.

His playing took a back seat once he became a chartered accountant but he has been able to devote more time to it since retiring six years ago.

“I always kept the guitar on the side and was playing in bands all that time. I just didn't have as much time to devote to it as I would have liked,” he said.

Stuck at home because of Covid-19, he is doing some virtual teaching and practising but is hoping Bones will get back on stage in the not-too-distant future.

“We haven't performed in the last year or so primarily because of our schedules but we did get together recently for another charitable thing for Project 100.

“Graham, Leroy and I, along with Ronnie Lopes, did a session for Valentine's party for all their clients. That was the first time we played in about a year and we thought: 'Oh we need to get back and start doing this again.'”

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Published Apr 15, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 15, 2020 at 7:48 am)

Sing it loud: Sit Off Bermuda

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