Trinidad Express Dec 28
Kelwyn Hutcheon Photo: STEVE McPHIE
An ageless crooner
By DAVID BREWSTER
Kelwyn Hutcheon, the sweet ageless crooner, was the star of the
evening at the recent Carols By Candlelight Show on the President's
You should have seen the youths rushing up to him for
autographs. And you should have seen his "Pepsodent smile", as he
used cuatro maestro Robert Munro's back for support to sign dozens
of them. The response to his lyrics was so heartening that it was
clear the man has started to win the hearts of a new generation.
Hutcheon got a similar response at the Ansa McAL show where he
performed with Scrunter's group Sabor, another clear
indication that there is still hope out there, and today's new
breed still appreciates beautiful music from a beautiful singer.
Think of an ole time Trini Christmas and you think of Kelwyn
Hutcheon, who is as Trinidadian as crab and callaloo and the
steelpan. It's no exaggeration to say his voice has been linked
here with the festive season, similar to that of Frank Sinatra and
Bing Crosby. And now in 2001, to the surprise of even Hutcheon
himself, his signature Christmas hits "Kiss me For Christmas" (Pat
Castagne) and "Oh, I Wish I Was a Child Again" (Stephen Ferreira)
still continue to inject the spirit of Christmas in our souls and
remain just as refreshing as when we first heard them decades ago.
Hutcheon was born June 11, 1935 on Charles Street, Port of
Spain. He is an old boy of Tranquillity and Queen's Royal College.
At 11 he had his own radio show. It was hosted by Sam Ghany and
Hutcheon was called the "The Boy Wonder of Trinidad and Tobago". "I
am glad I was born when I was born," he said, referring of course
to the era when there was emphasis on romantic ballads, good
songs, and sparkling melodies by legendary singers.
Although he has been accused of being a Frank Sinatra student
throughout his life, the truth is that Hutcheon was a big Nat King
Cole fan up to the early 1950s. It was while courting Valme, his
wife of 43 years, that he became hooked for life on Sinatra. "I
was waiting on Valme at her stepfather's home one night and he
played a Sinatra album called Young Lovers. It was the greatest
ballad singing I ever heard...I remember saying to myself, who the
hell is that singing" he said.
Today Hutcheon insists that "Old Blue Eyes" is the greatest
singer who ever walked the earth. "It is not only Sinatra's voice,
but his interpretation, his phrasing and his personality which
make him unique," he said. The same could be said of Hutcheon, who
has endeared himself to his Trinidadian audience.
While Trinidadians detect in his style an admiration for
Sinatra, or even a Tony Bennett and Andy Williams mixture,
Hutcheon insists he has never consciously attempted to imitate the
style of any singer. Probably the highest compliment to give a
crooner is to mention his name in the same sentence with Sinatra's.
Indeed, Hutcheon's name has been uttered hundreds of times by
Trinidadians in the same breath with the late "Chairman of the
Board". Hutcheon admits that he had listened to Sinatra so many
times, that "a little piece might have slipped through. He is
dead, but his music still lives."
For Hutcheon, singing comes naturally and from the heart.
Singing for him has always been that. There are many who believe
he would have been right up there with the stars in North America
had he the backing, the exposure and the right connections. He was
so gifted and talented.
Although singing has brought him immense pleasure and
satisfaction, it has always been just a hobby for Hutcheon,
between a demanding job as an pharmaceutical executive. Now
retired from business, Trinidadians are yet to see the best of the
Those who heard his recent performance remarked not only on the
smoothness and sweetness of his voice, but his clarity and
delivery. Hutcheon modestly declared himself to be happy that it
has kept up so well.
"I think my voice is at its best ever. My breathing has
improved. I intend to do more singing now," he said. Hutcheon has
taken precautionary measures. He has kept away from the hard
stuff, preferring hot tea and honey, and the occasional Campari
His recent CD Christmas Classics has been doing well. Last week
he donated part of the proceeds of sales to Hannah Janoura of the
Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society on Sackville Street. The range
of the CD is wide, including favourites like "Christmas in T&T",
"I Wish I Was a Child Again", "I'll be Home for Christmas", "At
Christmas Your Heart Goes Home" (Everald Leon), "Kiss Me For
Christmas" and another Castagne composition, "Happy New Year".
Although his voice has been synonymous with Christmas music,
Hutcheon released a CD in 1997 which included old favourites like "The
Very Thought of You", "Mona Lisa", "Someone To Watch Over Me", "Quiet
Nights", in a duet with Tricia Kelshall, accompanied by the Felix
Hutcheon could not resist taking a swipe at the trend of disc
jockeys, certain radio stations and popular night spots who
pollute the atmosphere with ragga soca and dub. "That's not music
at all. It's an abomination...an excuse for music. You can't
understand anything you hear. It's really awful," he said. That's
telling it as it is.
Kelwyn Hutcheon has been singing in public for
nearly 50 years, once having the title "Boy Wonder of Trinidad" on a
40s Radio Trinidad programme. He knows how to deliver a tune better
than most and, in this selection of 13 popular standards,
demonstrates how with an expressive, silky croon. Produced with lush
clarity by Simeon L. Sandiford — there are extensive sleeve notes
about the recording process — and accompanied impeccably by Felix
Roach’s Jazz Ensemble, But Beautiful is, indeed, a
beautifully recorded collection of nostalgic classics: Gershwin’s
Someone To Watch Over Me — a duet with the impressive Tricia-Lee
Kelshall, once of soca band Second Imij; Gershwin’s Our Love Is
Here To Stay and My One And Only Love; Rodgers and Hart’s
My Funny Valentine; Noble’s The Very Thought of You.
And there’s a smattering of enjoyable instrumentals as well:
Autumn Leaves, with Mona Lisa and Wave given local
treatment by Anthony Rose’s pretty steelpan. A diverting assortment
of romantic songs, performed with poise, produced with polish:
perfect for candle-lit evenings and lonely hi-fi buffs alike. [MM -