The University of Love through Music: The Royal Barbados Police Band and the Barbados Association of Palliative Care


I first heard our brilliant Police Band as a child at the Hastings Rocks, but it was while on holiday from medical school at UWI in Jamaica in 1964 that I attended their concert at the Ursuline Hall. This was a kind of dress rehearsal for their hugely successful performance at the Edinburgh Festival. I was literally and metaphorically blown away by their magnificent music, but I was appalled that there were not more than 50 people in the audience.

A few days later they played to thousands at Edinburgh Castle, with rave reviews.

Saturday night’s performance at the Prince Cave Auditorium, in aid of the Barbados Association of Palliative Care, brought back inspiring memories, earned rapturous applause and a standing ovation from an appreciative audience, and reinforces my view that they are the best of the best of Barbados!

The Royal Barbados Police Band was founded in 1889. It began with 19 serving policemen under a Captain Willock of an English regiment on
the island. In 1914 Sergeant Major Emmanuel Bennernagel of the British Guiana Militia Band was appointed bandmaster and served until 1946. He was a man with an ebullient personality and music to match and he instituted the Band Cadet System. He was succeeded in 1946 by the popular Captain Raison, who served for 15 years. Prince Cave was the first Director of Music to rise through the ranks from his teenage recruitment as a cadet. Other outstanding Directors have been Dr. Christopher Atherley and Senior Superintendent Keith Ellis.

The current Acting Director is Senior Superintendent Andrew Lynch, while the Acting Deputy Director is Senior Superintendent Dexter Norville. The band today is made up of 47 officers, men and women, and it continues to tour extensively, visiting the United Kingdom, the Virgin Islands, Suriname, St. Kitts, Grenada, Canada and Germany.

Sunday night’s concert was truly a delight. The first sign that it would be a memorable occasion was when conductor Dexter Norville sprang to the podium, turned to the audience and invited everyone to “Please join in singing the anthem”; he indulged my most fervent mission to have us all singing our anthem instead of standing silent like dummies. And it was an unforgettable, ecstatic minute or two of heavenly, patriotic music.

He moved swiftly into the first item, the main theme from the movie Exodus. As lively as this was, it was followed by the high point of the evening – the Overture “Morning, Noon and Night” by Franz Von Suppe. Dexter is a magnificent conductor, and with every fibre of his being on fire with the music, he draws you into it – you were almost drawn out of your seat to join in the galloping tempo as it reached its climax. He and the band received a spontaneous standing ovation – praise so rarely given by our conservative Barbadian audiences.

This splendid opening was followed by guest artist from Canada, Irene Feher, a well-known mezzo-soprano, singing movingly “Tonight” from West Side Story, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music. We were then treated to the first piano concerto played by the band for some years – Grieg’s Piano Concerto Opus 16, 3rd Movement in A minor, with Frank Fernandes at the piano.

This is one of the most popular of all piano concertos, composed by Grieg in 1898, at the age of 24, but undergoing many revisions almost up until his death. With the dramatic style of the conductor and the dramatic style of the pianist (introduced by Dexter as “the maestro”), this difficult but rich piece was a real tour de force.

The rest of the programme included the popular pianist Ryan Boyce, Zonel Forde – a lady with a most powerful voice, Wayne Crichlow, and what could have been called a light-hearted open mike night with our Canadian guests.

My first point in writing this is to contrast this wonderful, inspiring experience of magnificent music with so much that passes for music on our airwaves and elsewhere, the chief feature of which is that it is often damaging our hearing. I hope that the new regime at CBC-TV will give us the pleasure of the Royal Barbados Police Band concerts as often as possible, and bring the best of Barbadian music to the whole population.

My second purpose is to highlight the valuable work of The Barbados Association of Palliative Care. The Association seeks to provide the highest quality of care to those who have been diagnosed as being in the terminal phases of illness. The care is holistic and includes and supports the primary patient, their family and loved ones. Those who would like to join and support The Association should contact the president, Deiann Sobers, at 234 9196 or 418 6915, or email

Barbados Advocate

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Phone: (246) 467-2000
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