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For the Reckord | Delightful, different Christmas concerts

Jamaica Gleaner / Christmas concerts have been coming at us thick and fast since early December, and on Sunday, places of worship were the chosen venues for several. The Temple of Light Centre for Spiritual Living was one, but Campion College avoided Sunday’s rush by having its concert at Sts Peter & Paul Catholic Church last Wednesday.

Giovanni Pergolesi’s ‘Magnificat in C Major’, the concert’s centrepiece, was a clever choice by The Chapel Choir of Campion College’s founder and conductor Randall Campbell. It’s a complex, six-section work of many moods written in Latin, so it proved a challenge to the young choir, whose members come from grades seven to13. Campbell believes in musically stretching students.

The composition is only 15 minutes long, allowing Campbell to bring in guest artistes to augment the choir of about two dozen youngsters. The guests, experienced professionals who added both volume and texture, were Carl Bliss (bass), Carole Reid (soprano), and Dawn Fuller Philips (contralto).

The work brought to a close a well-delivered but, on the whole, solemn first half. After the intermission, the mood got very ‘Christmasy’ and much more accessible. The Latin names of the first half – like Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus and six titles in the Magnificat – gave way to familiar hymns and carols and songs like Once in Royal David’s City , O Holy Night , Jingle Bells , and the final item, Joy to the World .

There was applause after every item and prolonged applause at the concert’s end, so the audience enjoyed the presentation. A remount is slated for Sunday, January 7, at Christ Church, Vineyard Town.

Wisely or unwisely, the Temple of Light Centre for Spiritual Living chose to compete with at least four other concerts on Sunday. The difference in the moods of parts one and two of the Campion College concert was tiny compared to the difference in the tones of the two parts of the Temple of Light offering. Part one comprised traditional Christmas songs by the Temple Singers (members of the church), augmented by guests from the University Singers and elsewhere.

The beautifully delivered songs by the choir and soloists, were generally lively and included four composed or arranged by the Temple’s musical director, Noel Dexter. The pieces, Star From Bethlehem , Mary Did You Know , Jesus is Born and Never a Baby Like Jesus , have a special Caribbean flavor that, one could tell from the applause, particularly pleased the audience. One non-musical item which earned laughter as well as applause was a Louise Bennett story, Ananse and Sorrel , dramatically told by Dr Lilieth Nelson.

Then came the second half, featuring Harold Davis and Friends. Led by keyboardist and singer Davis, the friends were Othniel Lewis (keyboard), Michael Kennedy (bass), Desi Jones (drums) Warren Harris (saxophone) and back-up singers Thamar Williams and Sabrina Nembhard.

Davis promised “feel good music” and delivered an eclectic mix of jazz, reggae (Ken Boothe and Dennis Brown) and religious songs. There was a lot of dancing in seats and even dancing on feet by a few people.

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