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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Freewinds" Adds a Special and For Free

I found this story on the web site of the St. Lucia Mirror:

People paused while looking over the line up of performers for the 2006 St. Lucia Jazz Festival.

Of course, there were the superstars like Al Green and Seal, with the younger ones such as Ciara and Rihanna making their mark on the music scene. Then there was one unusual act, the Freewinds Band.

There were whispers and questions. “Is that the band from the ship, The Freewinds?” many asked. Some wondered what the producers of the festival were thinking. A cruise ship band on the main stage for the Jazz Festival? Would they entertain the crowd with Karaoke-like songs and come dressed in the usual tropical getup of Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts while singing ‘Feeling hot, hot, hot’?

Instead, the band came on stage after Rihanna did her thing and instantly ended all speculation and questions about their position in the Festival. With multi platinum recording artist John Novello leading the group, the Freewinds band had the crowd moving from the start. Two female vocalists including Dominican Michele Henderson added to the great performance of the ensemble. So, no, these guys were not at all a karaoke sounding cruise ship band. Not only did the Freewinds band add something special to Saturday mainstage, but also they did it all for free. Yes, unlike other performers, the band was not paid for participating in the show.

Ludwig Alpers, the Port Captain of the Freewinds, spoke to the MIRROR earlier this week to explain why. The Freewinds, which is described as not the smallest cruise ship but the biggest yacht, has been sailing to St. Lucia since 1988. Alpers explained that the crew was committed from the beginning to not only be involved economically with St. Lucia , but to also contribute something to the community, charities and culture.

“Last year, we were here for the festival and the Chamber of Commerce took a gamble on us and allowed us to perform during Jazz on the Square. We had a great performance last year and this year the festival was part of the ship’s itinerary so we contacted the Tourist board so we could put something together for the mainstage. We really wanted to contribute to the festival,” explained Alpers.

The band performs over 200 concerts a year and invites artists from all over the world to join for months at a time. Most performances are done on board but many times the band takes part in shows in countries where the ship docks. Novello, who played on the ship during the Christmas season, headlined the band for Jazz.

“We wanted to contribute to the 15th anniversary of the St. Lucia Jazz festival and we really wanted to say thank you to the St. Lucian people. So we said let’s do it complimentary and we put a lot of time and work into it. We also brought in Michele ( Henderson ) who performs with the band about three months out of the year. We really felt honoured to be part of the festival,” said Alpers.

The band has performed in many festivals around the region but feels that St. Lucia Jazz is the best one, especially because of its longevity and diverse locations.

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