Tribute by St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, On the Occasion of the Memorial Service for Mr. Kenrick Georges, Who wrote the music and lyrics for Oh Land of Beauty! St. George’s Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, New York Friday, September 27th, 2019
Good Evening Church, I have come on behalf of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to give our respects and pay tribute to the family, friends and well-wishers who now mourn the loss of The Maestro Mr. Kenrick Georges. I offer condolences to his dear wife Bernice and his beloved children, who are joined and supported in their grief by the whole St. Kitts and Nevis community at home and abroad.
With me are the Honourable Ian Patches Liburd, our Minister of Public Infrastructure and the Honourable Vincent Byron, Attorney-General, both of whom I am advised are contemporaries and lovers of music as was Kenrick Georges. I want also to recognize Her Excellency Ambassador Thelma PhillipBrowne who represents the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis to the Government of the United States from our office in DC, and His Excellency Ambassador Sam Condor who represents us at the United Nations here in New York.
The tremendous outpouring of love and respect that flooded the airwaves and social media in the wake of Kenrick Georges’ passing and the attendance at today’s memorial service are a testament to both his stature and his impact not only on the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens, but also on his global fan base who have appraised the moving and melodic National Anthem he wrote and composed as one of the best the world has ever known.
I am advised that from very early in Kenrick Georges’ life, people appreciated his immense innate talent that was nurtured on the strength of will – as seen through his determination – and love – as manifested through the strong influence of his mother.
It was clear from his outstanding musical achievements amassed at a young age that he was an extraordinary talent. Indeed, those who knew him would recall that he remembered having a gift for music since he was a very young boy. He was in essence a consummate entertainer and musician from a very young age.
Kenrick Georges identified his mother as the main person who contributed to his success. His mother Esmie gave birth to him on May 1st, 1955, and he was named after his father Kenrick. Kenrick and Esmie Georges brought up their gifted son in humble but loving circumstances on John Street in New Town, where he would later attend the New Town Junior School and then go on to secondary school.
In an interview with Cherryl Ward of ZIZ, Kenrick Georges said that from the time he knew himself he was exposed to music mostly through his mother, who he said had a very beautiful voice that kept the house calm in “turbulent times.” He said his dear mother would play melodies for him on his toy piano from the time he was around three years old.
The Story Behind the National Anthem
Kenrick Georges was 27 years old when a portrait he had painted of Premier Dr. the Hon. Kennedy Simmonds and displayed it way back in February 1983. That month, a notice requesting submissions for a National Anthem from Nationals at home and abroad appeared in The Democrat Newspaper. The submission deadline was March 31st, 1983 at 4:00pm.
Georges told the story to Cherryl Ward of the process leading up to his submission. It was 2 o’clock in the morning on the very last day of the competition that he decided to compose something, he said – and by 6:00am on March 31st, 1983 he was done. Sometime after 7:00am, he took the composition to a piano teacher named Mrs. Gumbs who lived in Greenlands and asked her to please play it for him. She played the music and made a recording on a cassette tape, and he submitted it that same day.
Three months later on Friday, June 3rd, Miss Pamela Wall, Chairperson of the National Anthem Sub-Committee announced the winning entry in the Independence National Anthem Competition.
Out of 45 entries – 9 from Nevis and 36 from St. Kitts – the entry submitted by Kenrick Georges was chosen as the National Anthem of our soon-to-be Independent Nation. The National Anthem Sub-Committee felt that the Anthem it had chosen would “stand the test of time.” Thirty-six years thereafter, we certainly can agree with the Sub-committee that this Anthem has not only withstood the test of time, but will endure for all of time. Along with Miss Wall – the Chairperson – the Sub-Committee’s membership comprised Mr. Stanley Amory, Miss Lorna Edwards and Mrs. Lilith Kelsick.
During our very first Independence celebrations, Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Kennedy Simmonds presented Kenrick Georges with an award for his contribution as author and composer of our new National Anthem.
Speaking 25 years later in an interview, he said writing the National Anthem was the high point in his whole musical career. He said the lyrics remained as potent to him as they were back in 1983 when he authored them. The idea behind the lyrics, he said, was to call for us to see the country “for the best of what it was and maintain that as we go along.” The overall concept was ‘let’s keep St. Kitts and Nevis as it is with respect to the best of what we have between us,’ he said.
On a personal note, Kenrick Georges said that writing the National Anthem had imbued him with a sense of responsibility and obligation to represent the best of St. Kitts and Nevis and what it means to be a citizen. “It actually is a daily reminder that I do not have the privilege to do just what I feel anytime and anyhow…I cannot, after making such an accomplishment, bring any disgrace on my country,” he said. These are meaningful words to reflect on as we pay our respects to the author and composer of our National Anthem.
May we also remember, like Kenrick Georges did, that we are duty bound to live up to the ideals and standards set out in our great National Anthem. May his soul rest in eternal peace, and may his family and loved ones find comfort, strength and pride, knowing that he contributed immeasurably to his country and always strived to put country above self.
May God bless his soul and may God forever bless St. Kitts and Nevis
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