Saturday 6 June, 2020

St Lucia mourns passing of folk music pioneer Denise Joyce Auguste

The late, great Denise Joyce Auguste

The late, great Denise Joyce Auguste

Photographs Courtesy National Archives Authority of Saint Lucia

It is with great sadness that the Nation received the news of the passing of local music icon Denise Joyce Auguste. Ms Auguste’s contribution to chorale and folk music has been immeasurable and she was instrumental in the recording and preservation of indigenous music.

“Our deepest condolences go out as a nation, as we note that her voice, her music and her overall legacy live on,” said Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet. “There are very few who could say their lives were not touched by her contribution through musical education. Up until the very end, she was active in the church, a prayer warrior and active in music development. She was always willing to go the extra mile and persevered always for excellence. She will be remembered fondly and was loved by so many. She was a cherished and valued friend of the family and was always passionate about sharing her advice on how we could incorporate music into schools.

“Thankfully, we got to the opportunity to honour and recognize her over the years and in 2017 she received an O.B.E. in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. That we were able to honour her in this way is significant and as a nation, we know that Joyce Auguste is embedded forever in the rhythm and music of our country. Our prayers go out to her family and friends and all who knew and loved her. May she rest in peace.” 

Photograph Courtesy National Archives Authority of Saint Lucia

Joyce Auguste was 76 years old.  She earned her Licentiate in Musical Education in 1967 and became the first music specialist in the then Ministry of Education and Culture. In that capacity, she conducted extensive music education in the island’s schools, developed special broadcasts and organized music workshops. In the 1970s and 1980s, she led the popular folk band Hewanorra Voices which were instrumental in the resurgence of folk music.  Ms Auguste has written extensively about music and had several compilations including the well known Saint Lucia Songs – A Collection of Contemporary and Folk Songs (1984) and Oral and Folk Traditions of Saint Lucia (1986).

Ms Auguste’s talents went way beyond singing and she was also well known for her sporting prowess in the Netball arena. In 1969 she received the award for Sports Woman of the Year and represented Saint Lucia regionally and internationally in the sporting discipline. In April 2000 she was named in an OAS list of Outstanding Women of the Twentieth Century and was inducted into the Hall of Fame for both Sports and Music.

In between music and sports, Joyce Auguste also served as a Justice of the Peace and Coordinator of various national activities including the School Rally for the historic visit of South African President Nelson Mandela and the Cultural Programme during the Papal Visit to Saint Lucia in 1986.  In 1978 she received the singular honour of having her photograph on the ten cent stamp of Saint Lucia. She is noted as the Pioneer of the Festival of Carols and in 1988 became a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  In 2017, she was awarded Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.).

Denise Joyce Auguste’s achievements will continue to inspire many in sports and music throughout Saint Lucia.

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