Jamaica Gleaner / Musical youth were up front and centre in two temporally overlapping concerts on Sunday. The National Youth Orchestra’s (NYOJ) Musical Enlightenment at St Joseph’s Teachers’ College was scheduled for 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) event Priez ina di Krismos was slated for a 5 p.m. start.

As I crossed Tom Redcam Drive after the former to get to the second concert, I thought those among the very promising NYOJ members who want to pursue a musical career should have no trouble matriculating to the EMCVPA’s School of Music, after the five or six years of excellent training available to them. The quality of music showed the group’s strong potential.

The NYOJ and the School of Music are linked in a more complex way. Several School of Music lecturers teach at and help run the NYOJ and there are musicians, young and older, who currently play with both institutions. Larenzo Henningham, a tuba player, told me he joined the NYOJ in 2012 at Kingston College; and Darren Young, a lecturer at the School of Music, conducted the NYOJ Senior Orchestra on Sunday.

Young also arranged three of the 10 items in the NYOJ concert, Mary Had a Baby , Jolly Old St Nicholas and She Rock the Baby to Sleep . Those were some of the lighter items, and led by an NYOJ vocalist, the audience joined in. But there were weightier pieces, too, like Handel’s Joy to the World , Joseph Bologne’s Symphony No. 11 , and the theme from Serge Prokofiev’s “symphonic fairy tale for children” Peter and the Wolf , the composer’s most frequently-performed work.

As was evident from their applause and cheers, the large NYOJ concert audience was impressed. They also applauded when NYOJ chairman, Dr Nigel Clarke, spoke of the group’s activities and objectives.

The administrators believe in the power of music to instil positive values in Jamaican youth, he said, and the orchestra – which has performed for visiting heads of Government and royalty, among others – represents something unique. Since the NYOJ began in 2009, its 200-plus members have come from some 50 schools across the island, he explained. A non-profit, non-government organisation, the NYOJ has a mission to develop youth orchestras in Jamaica, using classical music as a tool to inspire, empower and enhance the lives of at-risk youth.

 

Faculty and students  

The standard of the music in the EMCVPA concert was higher than the NYOJ’s, for Priez ina di Krismos (the proper/academic spelling) featured faculty musicians from the School of Music, as well as music students. It was also more varied, comprising music items and art-specific pieces by students from the Schools of Drama and Dance and readings (in Jamaican Patois) from the Bible.

There was variety in the different schools’ contributions. The drama school’s ‘Krismus Put Aaf’ was a comic skit based on a misunderstanding of the phrase “sell aaf”, as one character thinks the phrase means Christmas had been put off by the authorities. For their second item, the students sang a hilarious Jamaican version of the popular The 12 Days of Christmas .

Most of the variety came from the School of Music, which offered aurally delightful items by five groups. Most had a Christmas theme, but there were also non-seasonal pieces like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (by the Percussion Ensemble), David Foster’s Winter Games (by the Steel Pan Ensemble) a tune from Home Alone (by the Concert Band) and Hallelujah from Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration ( by the EMCVPA Choir).

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