Glorifying Guyana: Independence programme celebrated nationhood and identity

Barbara Reynolds

O Beautiful Guyana                                      

O beautiful Guyana

O my lovely native land

More dear to me than all the world

Thy sea-washed, sun-kissed strand

Or down upon the borders

Looking down upon the deep

The great Atlantic

Blown into a fury or asleep

At morn, at noon or better

In the crimson sunset’s glow

I love thee, Oh I love thee.

 

                                Walter McA Lawrence

                My Guyana El Dorado

‘My Guyana, Eldorado

Best of all the world to me

In my heart where’er I wander

Memory enshrineth thee;

All my hopes and aspirations,

All my longings only tie

Everlasting bonds around us

As the fleeting years roll by

.My Guyana, time’s unfolding

More and more thy destiny,

To redeem in lasting splendour

All the years had lost to thee;

And the dawning of thy glory

O’er the long, long night is cast

O arise triumphant, glorious

,From the ashes of the past.

O arise, triumphant, glorious,

From the ashes of the past.’

                                Walter McA Lawrence

These two songs were performed as part of a programme titled ‘Celebration of Poetry, Songs and Stories of Guyana’ on May 22 at the Umana Yana. The production of musical and dramatic items was directed by Barbara Reynolds as a birthday gift to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to mark the anniversary of independence. It was the second annual show presented to the public for that purpose, having had its inauguration at the same time in 2017. 

The songs very distinctly set the tone of the main theme of the programme, which was designed to celebrate the nation. Dr Reynolds, who is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, deliberately shaped the production in that way to conjure up a sense of nationhood and identity. With the assistance of Eze Crandon and Hubert Meusa, the performance ran uninterrupted in sequence without announcements to give a continuous dramatic flow of items that in some way reflected the country, its culture and voices. It was based on folk songs, other folk performances, poems old, familiar and new, and a few stories, but mainly carried by the chorus of very well-known, national songs that rang the dominant resounding note of patriotism.

“O Beautiful Guyana” and “My Guyana El Dorado” were two of those songs. Actually, they are poems which were set to music long after they were published. They belong to the important volume of work written between 1920 and 1942 by one of the foundation Guyanese poets Walter McArthur Lawrence (1896 – 1942).  A J Seymour, in his piece, “The Poetry of Walter McA Lawrence” in Kyk-Over-Al Volume 6, 1946 did comment on what he saw as the musical quality in the verses, suggesting that the poet had intention that the poems should be put to music.  ….