Sweetness on his fingertips

Originally published in the Trinidad Guardian for June 08, 2013
Felix Roach, pianist for the Trinidad Christian Centre, sings as he plays the church’s grand piano. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

The pianist reeks of experience. Whip thin with long, slender age-weathered fingers, he sits behind the ivory hued grand piano with the elegant comfort of a king grown comfortable with this particular throne.
But for Felix Roach, it's always been a position of responsibility, not a place for the proud.

He began playing at the age of seven, and asked how long it's been since then he demurs from offering a number with a smile.
“As long as I can remember,” he says.
The teenage Roach was smitten by a young lady his father saw only as trouble, so he sent his son off to the Berkelee College of Music, where the young musician found both a thorough schooling and his calling.

On his return though, he taught like his mother had before him and it would be four years before he was spotted by Sam Ghany for the newly opened Hilton Hotel.
Roach would take up work there for the next three decades as the Hilton's music director, performing, accompanying visiting guest musicians and commissioning big band performances from Roy Cape and Errol Ince when visiting singers needed them.

He had the first musical performance slot on TTT with Music550, and got his nickname, ‘Sugar Fingers,’from Hazel Ward.
In 2004, he was awarded the Hummingbird Gold the honour inspiring him to turn his attention to charitable works.

He works now with the Church of the Incarnation In Maloney and the choir at St Jude’s in Arima, and he particularly enjoys working with the children at those churches.
But his home base remains the Trinidad Christian Centre in Petit Valley.

The man who once entertained diners in the dark clutching drinks now performs twice weekly in a majestic hall to hundreds of the faithful, their hands raised in joy, voices led by his powerful chords.
“Wherever I'm needed, that's where I'll be,” he says, reclining happily in a chair at the Centre's vast auditorium. “It's all God's work.”

It's only recently that Felix Roach began to record his work. Ten years ago he did a recording with Sanch Electronics called Improvising the Classics.
Just over a year ago, he recorded Worship Him One, a documentation of his gospel work and now he’s working on the sequel, a still unnamed disc that he’s veering toward calling Worship Him Two.

On this album, due out in a month, he will be performing with the synthesised strings he’s been working with at the Centre.
Of this new direction, he says “Our Lord is one of thunder and lightning. I don’t want to approach these works like a dolly house.”

He pauses a moment and recalls an appreciative member of the Centre’s congregation complimenting him on the range of his playing after service.
“I have 88 keys,” he told her, “and I don’t want any of them to get jealous.”
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