Festivals Commission boss clears the air on Junior Calypso controversy

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By Makeida Antonio

The top official at the National Festivals Commission has provided widely sought answers as to why Hope “Empress” Serrant was not crowned the winner of the 2019 Junior Calypso Monarch competition.

The Chairman, Maurice Merchant, took to state media on Tuesday evening to discuss and explain what thousands of residents claim to be questionable judging during Sunday’s competition.

He stated that at no time was Empress disqualified from competing in the 13-19 category.

“Empress is an exceptional artiste and she performed well during the Junior Calypso Monarch and previous competitions that we have had. The judges saw it one way and I must dispel the notion that she was somewhat disqualified. She was never disqualified by the judges. All of the judges scored her presentation,” Merchant said.

 “There was one judge who felt that her melody and her music somewhat matched or was similar to a previous song and he scored her, but all of the other judges scored as they would normally do.”

He further outlined the break-down of Empress’s score. Despite what has unanimously been regarded as a remarkable performance, Merchant said that her score began to decline in other sections of the marking scheme.

“After analyzing all of the scores where the young lady seemed to have fallen down in her performance and presentation where rendition, diction and clarity and delivery and presentation was concerned, in lyrics and music, she scored pretty high but in that area her scores dropped a bit.”

Merchant empathized with Empress, saying he understood how much the competition meant to her, especially as 2019 was her first time competing in the calypso arena. However, he noted that the judges had a different perspective.

“She is the only one who is being negatively impacted by this decision. Yes, they’re children and she would have wanted to place and she would have had high expectations and she has a beautiful song and she would have performed exceptionally well, but it’s just one of those things where the judges would have seen things differently.”

The Festivals Commission chair gave his word that the body will continue to give support to Empress and her commendable potential as a local artiste.

“We will try our best to ensure that we preserve the exceptional talent that this young lady has; she would continue to utilize it in singing calypso. She is one of the few artistes who has variety in her repertoire. Her repertoire is very wide. She sings pop, she sings classic, she sings calypso and she is a remarkable talent.”

Merchant re-iterated that the decision by the judges was not linked to concerns that “Stand Up” was not original and has encouraged the adults in Empress’s life to continue guiding her towards excellence.

“I would just want for the adults who are publicly and privately whispering things to her, saying things openly in front of her, to try and remain positive and to encourage her to continue in this field. It is all a part of the process of learning and being involved in competition,” he said.

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