Soft lights, bouquets of flowers and a dazzling black and gold themed décor transformed the Jamaica Pegasus ballroom into an operatic theatre last Sunday (July 20) when the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund (CHASE) hosted ‘A Classical Evening With CHASE’. The concert is held each year for special guests of the organization, to witness and enjoy the performances of some of its scholarship awardees and beneficiaries, under the Fund’s Arts and Culture Portfolio.
Although it might be true that Reggae is synonymous with Jamaica, in his welcome and opening remarks, Dr. Carlton Davies, Chairman of the CHASE Fund pointed out that there was no denying that Classical Music also has its roots on the island. He mentioned names such as European born Samuel Felsted and other Jamaicans such as Curtis and Pauline Watson and Sir Willard White, whom he lauded as notable classical musicians who have made their mark both locally and internationally.
To underscore his point, renowned Classical Jamaican artiste Dawn Marie Virtue, the star of the evening, delivered an outstanding set with her perfectly pitched tone as she dramatized the nuances of romantic relationships, myths and other stories characteristic of the opera.
Among the pieces she sang were: ‘Vergeblisches Standchen’ by composer Johannes Brahms’; Franz Schubert’s ‘Sligkeit’ and Carlos Guastavino’s ‘Larosay el sauce’. She elicited peals of laughter from the audience when she sang in English ‘The Telephone’ from the opera of the same name, relating the story of a man who made several attempts to propose to his girlfriend, who was constantly on the telephone. His last attempt was successful by calling her from a telephone booth where the two join in a romantic duet on the phone line as she consents.
Also well received were popular classics such as Ken Berg’s arrangement of ‘Motherless Child’; and ‘Ain’t that Good News’, a Uzee Brown arrangement. Responding to applauds for an encore, Virtue obliged by performing the Peter Ashbourne arranged ‘Liza’; and ‘May the Good Lord Bless You’, arranged by Lisa Narcisse, a former teacher of Immaculate Conception High School.
Dawn Marie was accompanied by Winston A. G. Ewart, conductor for the National Chorale of Jamaica.
Also performing were the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica who delighted the audience with a Suite of Canadian Folk Songs entitled ‘Down the Monkey Line’ ; ‘The Girl I left in Kapusing’ and ‘On Remi Lake’. The Suite of Canadian Folk songs was composed by Marlene Blackman who also conducted the Orchestra.
Principal soprano for the Nexus Performing Arts Company of Jamaica, Danielle Watson who is currently a first year vocal music performance major at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, proved that she had the makings of an operatic star as she delivered ‘Ocessate di piagarme’ by Alessandro Scarlatti and Clara Edwards’ ‘Into the Night’.
Shawn Richards, Classical Guitarist and past student of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts performed Roland Dyens’ ‘ Valse en Skai’ and his own arrangement of Barbara Ferland’s ‘Evening Time’.
A performance by music educator Nomali Lumnsden followed with a splendid delivery of the Negro Spiritual ‘Honour Honour’ and Henry Purcell’s ‘Music for Awhile.’
Many who knew her from her teen years, was more than surprised to see how young violinist Nadje′ Leslie was blossoming into a confident artiste as she continues to pursue studies for her Bachelor of Music degree at the Hunter College in New York City. Nadje′ performed John Halvorsen’s ‘Passacaglia’ (on a theme by Handel), and ‘Piece En Forme De Habanera’ by Maurice Ravel accompanied by Micha Holness on Cello and Zoe Brown on Flute.
The CHASE Fund has been supporting music education as part of its mandate under its Arts and Culture portfolio. In addition to building and equipping music rooms in schools across the island, the Fund offers scholarships to individuals and groups to further their studies in the various areas of the classical genre.
To date the CHASE Fund has disbursed some $1.7 billion in support of Arts and Culture, including music education in schools programmes and scholarships in the performing and visual arts.