Dominica’s Sixth Form Sisserou Singers Celebrate 20 Years of Sensational Sounds!*

The Sixth Form Sisserou Singers always put on a highly anticipated annual concert, which is staged in Roseau and Portsmouth. Photo courtesy of DAME.

The Sixth Form Sisserou Singers always put on a highly anticipated annual concert, which is staged in Roseau and Portsmouth. Photo courtesy of DAME.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of attending a performance of Dominica’s Sixth Form Sisserou Singers (SFSS), then  you’d better be sure to go to the next one if you  live here!  And if you happen to be visiting the Nature Island when they are having a concert, do put that guaranteed-to-be-wonderful evening on your list of things to do!

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to hear this melodious group of young choristers many times.  They are a constant delight.  And I am not the only one to say that.  Their consistently sold-out concerts confirm the positive results of their collective dedication, polished renditions and capacity for entertainment.  Thanks to the inspired guidance of their director, renowned musician and retired cultural officer Pearle Christian, they have maintained high standards and have really ‘raised the bar’ for choral music in Dominica.

In 2014, the SFSS celebrated 20 years as a choir in Dominica.  Here is a little glimpse into the group’s history and a few insights that Ms. Christian has happily shared:

Pearle Christian, Director of the Sixth Form Sisserou Singers (SFSS) has repeatedly said that “anything worth doing is doing well,” which is also  the choir`s official motto. Over 20 years, numerous young people have had the honour and pleasure of singing under Ms. Christian’s ‘baton’. As well, hundreds of loyal fans and eager concert-goers have received tremendous pleasure from the group’s annual musical endeavors. The enduring popularity of the SFSS is a testament to its well-earned reputation for excellence!

It all started when Pearle conducted a choral workshop for a few senior students at the Convent High School in 1993. The participants were determined to continue once they were in their sixth form. Pearle worked with their serious interest and the first 22 choristers enthusiastically performed at the (now-named) Dominica State College’s graduation ceremony in 1994.

After that first success, Pearle’s vision of the SFSS evolved so that the weekly rehearsals and special performances were only part of her ‘hidden agenda’. Her dream of enhancing character development, along with musical skills was subtly realized when the group organized an executive body and created objectives. This initiative enabled the singers to apply some of their other abilities, build confidence and take on external leadership roles.

'Aunty Pearle' directs in the shadows while the singers have the spotlight under her direction.

‘Aunty Pearle’ directs in the shadows while the singers have the spotlight.

Colourful costumes and beautiful vocal sounds are appealing to the eye and ear.

Colourful costumes and beautiful vocal sounds are appealing to the eye and ear.

The choristers have always enjoyed performing a diverse and varied repertoire of musical styles, including classical genres, Negro Spirituals, gospel, and jazz, among others. They also offer a medley of Caribbean folk songs with scripted narrations at their annual concerts.

It's real teamwork that results in great entertainment. The choir choreographs their very popular Caribbean folk song medleys.

It’s real teamwork that results in great entertainment. The choir choreographs their very popular Caribbean folk song medleys.

Every member is given an opportunity to recite one of the verses, thereby proactively contributing to the show`s success.

The SFSS sometime perform in less formal venues.  ON this occasion they were performing at a casual outdoor concert at Springfield, in the mountains of Dominica!

The SFSS sometimes perform in less formal venues. On this occasion, they were part of a casual outdoor concert at Springfield, in the mountains of Dominica!

SFSS Director Pearle Christian (2nd from right) describes the journey of the choir over the past 20 years at the Nature Island Literary Festival in August 2014.

SFSS Director Pearle Christian (2nd from right) described the journey of the choir over the past 20 years at the Nature Island Literary Festival in August 2014.

Although many choristers have come and gone over 20 years, “Aunty Pearle,” as she is affectionately known derives great pleasure from following their career paths and life events. Admittedly, she has devoted phenomenal amounts of time and energy into enhancing the talents of these fortunate young people. But she insists that if she had to live her life over, she would not hesitate to ‘pick up the baton’ again for the sheer joy of directing the Sixth Form Sisserou Singers.

*This article first appeared in the Dominica Association of Music Educators (DAME) November 2014 Newsletter.  Content for the piece was submitted by Ms. Christian and then edited by Gwendominica.  It appears here with the kind permission of DAME.

** Updates on the SFSS can be found on their Face Book page by clicking here.

Dominica’s Music Missions International: A Dream Come True on Waitukubuli*

Luther 'jams' with a young Dominican music friend in his wife Ruth's  kitchen in Dominica!

Luther ‘jams’ with a young Dominican music friend in his wife Ruth’s kitchen in Dominica!

When Canadian expatriate Luther Kosowan was a little boy, he became fascinated by an article in National Geographic about an unfamiliar far-away land called Waitukubuli. About 55 years later, his daughter and friends vividly described a recent trip to a wonderful Caribbean island of lush green mountains, sparkling rivers and plentiful palm trees. It was called Dominica. Then in 2006, Luther and his wife Ruth journeyed to this beautiful tropical paradise to see it for themselves.

During that first visit, they immediately fell in love with the country`s natural beauty and friendly people. Upon their return to Canada, they immediately organized and planned for an overseas move to Dominica. However, they experienced an unforeseen delay when Luther was diagnosed with cancer. But the couple`s determination and vision of their new life sustained them. After Luther`s surgery and radiation therapy were completed, they finally arrived in Dominica around Christmas 2007. The couple was thrilled with Luther`s miraculous recovery. They were further delighted when told that the intriguing country called Waitukubuli was in fact, Dominica, their adopted home!

Right away, the Kosowans connected to their new community and greatly appreciated the love of music that prevails on Dominica. They enthusiastically created a non-profit organization called Music Missions International (M.M.I.) so that students and their teachers at participating schools around the island could have access to various types of musical instruments and learn how to play them.

Mr. Alexander, Instructor at St. John's Academy in Portsmouth Dominica receives repaired instruments for the students from M. Kosowan.

Mr. Alexander, Instructor at St. John’s Academy in Portsmouth Dominica receives repaired instruments for the students from Mr. Kosowan.

This incredible dream is being realized with assistance from some dedicated volunteers and generous sponsors. Along with Luther and Ruth Kosowan, fellow western Canadians Mike and Sharleen Townsend and Don Lowry help with this invaluable project in many ways. The Townsends not only initiated making contacts to obtain the musical instruments, but have also come to Dominica for six weeks in each of the past six years to train the teachers and students. As well, Luther and Ruth regularly acquire additional instruments and humanitarian supplies during their annual trips to Canada.

Luther repairing instruments before they are sent out to the schools.

Luther repairing instruments before they are sent out to the schools.

To date, schools in Dominica have received over 600 musical instruments and accessories as a result of this collaborative effort.

Instruments being moved from the Kosowans home en route to the Dominica State College

Instruments being moved from the Kosowans home en route to the Dominica State College

In addition, Mr. Egbert Charles of E.H. Charles & Co. Ltd. in Roseau has kindly provided materials so that Luther and Mike could build 60 music stands. They

Mike and Luther made 60 music stands for students in schools that are participating in the MMI program.

Mike and Luther made 60 music stands for students in schools that are participating in the MMI program.

have now been distributed to all schools involved in the M.M.I. program. Mr. Charles continues to assist M.M.I. by sponsoring materials for an Instrument Repair Technology course to be held at the Dominica State College where Luther will be the instructor. As a result, all instruments will be maintained in good working condition.

For Luther and Ruth, their dream of giving back to Dominica has certainly come true. In 2012, 102 students from around the Nature Island performed in a band concert. Then, the very next year, 200 students from 16 school bands `raised the roof` at the Arawak House of Culture in Roseau. You can read about that memorable event here.

Luther loves to 'jam' as well as fix instruments.  He has made many friends in Dominica who share his passion for music.

Luther loves to ‘jam’ as well as fix instruments. He has made many friends in Dominica who share his passion for music.

As Music Missions International continues to thrive, the Kosowans thank God for their fulfilling lives on Waitukubuli!

*Waitukubuli  (pronounced Why-too-KOO-BOO-lee)is the indigenous Kalinago word for Dominica.  It means “tall is her body.”

**This article first appeared in the Dominica Association of Music Educators (DAME) November 2014 Newsletter.  Information provided by Mrs. Ruth Kosowan was subsequently edited by Gwendominica for the original submission, which is republished here ( with slight variations) with the kind permission of DAME. Photos provided courtesy of Ruth Kosowan, with thanks.