Jamaica Gleaner / This year’s Easter concert by the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) was delayed “by carnival activities,” the chairman, John Waite, told me. “We didn’t want to have to compete with the road marches.”
And so it was that the audience at the Alhambra Inn got a late musical taste of Easter Sunday. But there were no complaints. The concert was delightful.
Produced by Christine McDonald-Nevers under the theme ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’, it featured both the JMTC choir and the Jamaican Folk Singers. Fortuitously, McDonald-Nevers is a member of the former and the director of the latter.
A third musically heavyweight group, the Jamaica Military Band, was represented on the show in the person of Albert Shaun Hird, acting director of music for the Jamaica Defence Force. He was the flautist among the instrumentalists accompanying the singers. The others were pianist Ann Trouth, guitarist Robert Lawson, and drummer Henry Anglin.
Perhaps because Hird, at 48, is approaching middle age, even as I was congratulating him on his beautiful flute-playing, he started to express his concern at the absence of young people in the audience. Except for one girl, he noted, it seemed to consist entirely of middle-aged and senior folk.
“Cultural music needs support,” he said. “The society must put more effort into promoting it. It’s especially lacking in schools.” He pointed out that he was doing his part in said promotion, being a frequent performer with the Jamaican Folk Singers, the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica, and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica.
If, even as we spoke at the Alhambra Inn on Sunday evening, he had been instead at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Performing Arts, Mona, he might not have been so concerned. On stage there was a very youthful Classical and Jazz Ensemble (CAGE), comprising mostly university students, playing music that Hird would have called “cultural”. On the previous day, when I attended their concert, the audience was full of equally young people, students themselves, and friends.
But would that audience have enjoyed the programme that McDonald-Nevers put together for the JMTC? After all, classical and jazz music are not the same as religious music, which is what was served to the Alhambra audience.
Ironically, there is no better person to answer that question than McDonald-Nevers herself. She was, and perhaps still is, a member of the University Singers, a group with many connections to the CAGE.
She filled the JMTC concert to overflowing with songs – about 30, if we include a medley, Crown Him , by D.T. Clydesdale. Alternating, and beginning with the JMTC choir, the two choirs offered musical packages of several songs, with the JMTC singing mainly orthodox religious works and the Jamaican Folk Singers providing folk songs and spirituals. Both choirs joined to close the concert with Noel Dexter’s popular O Praise Ye the Lord .
Dr Lucette Cargill, chair of the JMTC concert series, ended the evening with a vote of thanks and an invitation to the audience to return to the venue for the last two concerts in the series, on May 6 and June 3, respectively.