Music Enthusiast  

As Olga Lopes, Dame Olga’s singing career started when she was in her early teens. She loved singing and often accompanied herself on the mandolin. She became well-known in Barbados from as early as in 1942 when she toured the island as a singer. In the 40s and 50s, Dame Olga was lauded as the "Vera Lynn of the Caribbean". She was best known for performing inspirational songs. If I can help somebody was a favourite and became her theme song, embodying a lifetime of humble deeds and actions that made her an outstanding personality, and her life a leading example of that beautiful and touching song.

Her involvement in entertainment however extended beyond her personal forays as she was instrumental in encouraging the youth of Barbados to showcase their creative talents and abilities.  While education was a primary focus for the children, Auntie Olga wanted  them to feel special and to highlight their talents.  This she did through the popular radio broadcasts “Children’s Party: Pageant of Youth”, a programme which  showcased the beautiful singing voices and renditions of hundreds of Barbadian school children.

This was also the forum in which the annual Christmas childrens’ parties were held to ensure that every child in need received a gift during the season.  She references in her letters, her involvement  in  organizing the “Song for Barbados” competition , the  winner of which became the theme song for an island wide effort  - 100,000 people participated -  to join hands around the entire island for Barbados’ 13th anniversary of Independence in 1979. 

Let’s join hands and show we love Barbados                                  
Let’s join hands and show how much we care
Young and old we’ll work with one another
For the freedom which we hold so dear
Let us raise our voices in thanksgiving
For the many blessings which have come our way
Let’s join hands and thank the Lord for living on this Independence Day.

Through the exposure they were given by having an opportunity to present their music on Auntie Olga’s programmes, many of the islands young entertainers of the 1970s and 80s excelled in their craft both locally and abroad.  Vic Fernandes’ a fellow Broadcaster at Rediffusion  notes “there is hardly a Barbadian entertainer of worth who did not cut their teeth in Studio 3.”[3]  This is supported by Allsopp who references the fact that some of the islands young stars would have  emerged from this programme, among them Edwin Yearwood.

Others include  Wendy Alleyne,   the Merryboys (Ivory) Sheryl Hackett, Charmaine Hyliger,  Margaret Bovell, John King, Rameses Brown, to name a few.   Auntie Olga was also instrumental in launching the career of calypsonian Red Plastic Bag  (RPB) (Stedson Wiltshire).  In 1982, access to recording studios was a real challenge.  There were few studios in those days and those that existed were costly.  Auntie Olga spotted RPB’s talent and persuaded the management of Rediffusion to record the two songs he had composed for Crop Over 1982.  This launched RPB’s career as an entertainer and today he is widely regarded as one of Barbados’ most successful calypsonians. 

It was also in Dame Olga’s studio and through the voices of her Children’s Party kids that Roland Edwards’ composition of what eventually became the Barbados National Anthem, was first heard.  With the assistance of Keith Campbell who wrote the notes “ the children sang so well that Doris Provencal suggested it be sung at the opening of the Princess Margaret Secondary School.”
When the time came for a National Anthem to be chosen, Dame Olga suggested to Edwards that he make new lyrics to go with the existing melody, with the outcome that his piece was chosen.


 

Children's Party Pageant of Youth ISCF - Queen's College
Date: 20 November 2015
Author: Olga Lopes-Seale
Publisher: Rediffusion