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Vincent’s lifetime passion for opera and classical music inspired him to set up the Black British Classical Foundation (BBCF).
The BBCF aims to promote and support black talent on the operatic and classical stage across the UK and throughout the Commonwealth.
“Very West Indian”
“Often people think that I’m terribly English, but once they get to know me, they’ll find that I’m very West Indian. That’s how I feel about myself,” Vincent told Caribbean Intelligence©.
However, he also acknowledges that in St Kitts in the 1950s, British cultural and social influences in the Caribbean influenced his early upbringing.
“Although I’m very West Indian, some people think that being West Indian means that you don’t have anything about you in the Caribbean that makes you feel English.
“In a way, I think my upbringing was pretty English, although it happened in the Caribbean.”
Vincent’s love for opera and classical music began not long after he settled with his family in Birmingham.
It has continued to grow throughout his life.
His number one favourite performer is the African-American singer, Leontyne Price, whom he describes as “the diva amongst divas”.
His favourite composer is Giacomo Puccini.
Vincent has fond memories of his early passion for music as a boy growing up in Birmingham.
“I discovered a love of opera and classical music from a very early age. I think I was about 11 when my father bought me my first record, which was the Nutcracker Suite.”
“We went to a fantastic school in Birmingham where, in the morning, as you walked into assembly, there was a composer of the week.
“The headmaster would talk about a piece of music by a particular composer. It was wonderful to start the day with some really good music.”
This appreciation of music, influenced by Vincent’s father and school days in Birmingham, was also shared by his two brothers and three sisters in Vincent’s Kittitian household.
“My younger brother Collin, who is a rugby coach for English rugby union team Harlequins, is a real opera buff. Being a rugby coach is his job but, on the side, opera is his big thing”.
Vincent says that his brother’s musical tastes are wide-ranging, including jazz and classical music while his three sisters go to the opera and the ballet a lot.
Lack of opportunities
“If you look around the orchestras and opera houses, there isn’t any diversity within these organisations, both backstage and front of stage.
“They will take on a black person as a lead, but to get to that position where you’re a principal artiste, you need to get the experience.
“That is where our organisation and Pegasus, an opera company who specialise in productions where the majority of their casts are people of colour, come in to give people opportunities, exposure and experience.”
Voice of Black Opera
Asian heritage from across the Commonwealth and was set up by Vincent.
“Elizabeth Llewellyn is very still during her performances, but her voice does the work of moving you. She is currently in rehearsals to play the jilted girl [Micaëla] in Carmen.
“It’s the perfect role for her and I’m sure she’ll bring the house down!