If you happen to be driving your dinghy around the anchorage and hear a rock concert coming from a cruising boat then the chances are you are listening to Trudie Cardone and David Ball aboard the sloop Persephone. These two accomplished musicians are playing rock ‘n’ roll to packed houses both ashore and afloat. I caught up with them in St. Martin to find out more about their life as sailing troubadours.
Settled snugly in the immaculate saloon of their boat it was hard to picture Trudie belting out rock anthems on stage, and I found it even more remarkable when she told me she was a trained opera singer, a coloratura soprano who trod the boards for many years.
I asked Trudie if she had found it difficult to make the transition from performing in operas like Puccini’s La Bohème, in front of more than 2000 people, to singing in a raucous cruisers’ bar in the Northeast Caribbean.
After she stopped laughing she explained that a coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills, in other words, the high notes, and how, towards the end of her career, her voice began to change.
It changed even more when she met David.
“David wanted to play guitar, and we started to do rock ‘n’ roll, and I brought my voice down to a rock ‘n’ roller. It was a big change but an easy transition as I had always loved rock ‘n’ roll.”
David agreed and said the mechanics of singing were the same, however, when you are singing opera it’s more (he warbled a few high notes that made us laugh), whereas rock ‘n’ roll is much more guttural, earthier, it’s more bluesy, that kind of thing.
David explained how music had brought them together and that he learned guitar after watching Trudie play.
“We were on the boat all the time together, we were sailing together but we wanted to do a hobby together, and that was our music. That’s how the whole thing started,” he said.
David creates all the duo’s backing tracks using software installed on his laptop computer.
Although they play a wide range of rock, Trudie names Linda Ronstadt among her favorite performers.
Performing under their stage name White Chocolate, the American duo has performed on many Caribbean Islands, and in Guyana, South America. And it was at a resort deep in the rain forest of Guyana that they made their first public appearance.
I asked Trudie if she ever did an opera number as part of her routine. “No,” she said, “but I may do something like that. What I’ve been doing is ‘Summertime’, and that sort of thing, a cappella, and people have been really mesmerized by it, so I may come up with a couple more.”
White Chocolate has built a following amongst cruisers who turn up at many of their venues, almost like the groupies in a fun throwback to the 1960s and ‘70s, a period from which the duo draw much of their music.
Last year, Trudie and Dave set up their equipment on the back of a trawler in Antigua and held a ‘dinghy concert’. “We were expecting 20 to 30 people,” says David. “Well, 200 people showed up.”
He added, “We played well into the night and people were dancing in their dinghies.”
As White Chocolate continues their cruise through the Caribbean, listen out for them at a bar or restaurant near you … they’ll make you want to dance.
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. Works of nonfiction include, Biscay: Our Ultimate Storm. For more information visit: garyebrown.net