Joslynne Carr-Sealey remembered as ‘a very kind woman’

by Ron Fanfair
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Though busy with judging duties during Trinidad & Tobago’s (T & T) Carnival season, Joslynne Carr-Sealey found time to be a gracious host to her visiting Canadian friends.
She entertained at her home and took them to the various competitions, including the early J’Ouvert Bomb show on Carnival Monday morning at Victoria Square in Port-of-Spain.
Retired librarian and raconteur Rita Cox was a beneficiary of Carr-Sealey’s generosity.
“Joslynne would pick us up at five in the morning when we were all still not fully awake,” she recalled. “When we got to the Square, she had coffee and sandwiches prepared for us. While she did her judging, she made sure we were comfortable and fed as we enjoyed the show.”
The musical legend, who adjudicated the National Calypso Monarch and the Steelband Panorama competitions, succumbed to a heart attack in Trinidad on July 14 at age 88.
A regular visitor to Toronto over the years, she also judged the Toronto Caribbean Carnival Pan Alive steelpan competition and conducted workshops for pannists and arrangers.
“She was a very kind woman who loved the arts which she was very knowledgeable about,” said Cox.
Carr-Sealey’s father, Andrew Carr, and T & T’s first Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams, were founding members of the People’s National Movement (PNM) party.
After coming out on top in T & T music festival’s first operatic category in 1968, she boldly asked Dr. Williams, who presented the award, for an appointment to see him at his office. The third of four siblings was seeking a government scholarship for at least a year to study music abroad.
“I got cold feet and didn’t go to the appointment,” but his secretary called to remind me about it,” Carr-Sealey said in an interview in 2017.
Williams referred her to the Ministry of Education that, after two years, said they were unable to grant the scholarship. Furious after learning what had transpired, he took the matter to Parliament and she was awarded a five-year government scholarship in 1970.
Carr-Sealey chose to attend McGill University in Montreal to study music where she made the Dean’s List and graduated with distinction.
In the late 1950s, Carr-Sealey spent six years in Vancouver with her then husband, Frank Sealy, who played a major role in promoting soccer and cricket at the University of British Columbia (UBC) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1964 and was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
She returned to T & T in 1961 with their then six-month-old daughter, Alicia Sealey, who is a publicist in Toronto.
“On Andrew Carr’s gravestone are the words, ‘He served his Fellow Man’,” Alicia Sealey said. “My mom will be remembered the same way because she was very selfless. She had many talents and never hesitated to share what she knew.”
Very active in the arts in T & T, Carr-Sealey taught music at Bishop Anstey High School, toured with Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra – they launched the same year she was born in 1935 – that performed at the Commonwealth Arts Festival in England and judged the Prime Minister’s Best Village competition.
She was also a principal singer with the Trinidad Opera Company and a vocal coach.
From her parents, Carr-Sealey inherited the love for music.
Her mother, Lucille Carr, was a classical music lover and her dad was a folklorist who often brought home well-known drummers and Beryl McBurnie who took Caribbean dance to the world stage.
After Carr-Sealey’s father passed away in 1976 at age 74, the T & T National Archives delivered 11 boxes of his papers to the family home.
Amazed at the extensive body of work the Fulbright Scholar compiled without neglecting his wife and children, she captured his life in a book, ‘He Served his Fellow Man: The Life & Work of Andrew Thomas Carr’, that was launched in Toronto in 2011.
Eight years ago, she launched a CD of her operatic vocal work, ‘Joslynne Sealey: Famous Arias’, which is a collaboration with the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra.
Toronto-based percussionist and bandleader Anthony Pierre said the compilation, which includes her live performances at the 1981 CARIFESTA event in Barbados where she was a member of the only Caribbean operatic team to perform at the Caribbean Festival of Arts, is ‘a nice slice of history from one of T & T’s cultural icons’.
“So often we fail to document the unique work of our artistes, especially where it involves the steelpan,” said the Kalabash Jazz Sextet bandleader. “Luckily, some lovely moments in the country’s cultural history are captured with this CD, giving wings on a soaring voice.”
The recipient of the Hummingbird Gold Medal for Culture and the Norma Callender Award for Women in Pan, Carr-Sealey also authored ‘Family Connections’ that is a history of her family.
She was laid to rest on July 24.

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