Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Delightful music from Brown and Brandenburg

Published:Thursday | November 6, 2014 | 11:00 AM
Curtis Watson (left), directs the Brandenburg Singers.
Moods of Kathy Brown. Photos by Michael Reckord
Kathy Brown takes time to talk with the audience
Brown
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Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer

Delightful music was the element common to the two weekend concerts under review. Otherwise, the offerings could hardly have been more dissimilar.

Kathy Brown and Friends (KBF) played mainly jazzy pieces last Friday at the Bank of Jamaica's regular end-of-the-month lunchtime entertainment. A short vocal segment in the hour-long show featured singer Althea Hewitt.

The Brandenburg Singers' concert at the Temple of Light Centre for Spiritual Living, Fairway Avenue, was, in the main, about classical music and all the 16 items presented were sung. Three of them were of the type traditionally called negro spirituals, but which, perhaps because the word negro is now apparently forbidden in the American media, are now usually referred to as 'spirituals.'

Still, different though the music was, the audiences for both concerts were pleased with the presentations and showed it with frequent applause. In fact, The Brandenburg Singers, and conductor Dr Curtis Watson, got a standing ovation at the end of their show.

KBF comprises a mere four musicians (not including guest performer Hewitt): Brown on keyboard, Desi Jones on trap set, Sherwayne Thompson on bass and Chris Parkes (borrowed from Nomadz) on congas. They started off strong, with Bob Marley's affirmative action tune, Stand Up For Your Rights, and got even stronger, with Brown's own composition - "version 20," she joked - Latin Groove. The fast-paced piece features an extended, frenetic segment by Jones, whose hands, drum sticks and head were in a whirl.

Those two up-tempo pieces just had to be, and were, followed by a calmer tune. Brown chose Take It Easy, a composition with a tango feel to it.

Then it was back to the quick pace, Brown apparently favours, with what she called "a wild, crazy tune," Hannibal's Return, about the return of a dog with that name after it got lost in a storm. A happy tune, with its river of high notes on the keyboard sounding like running water, it got very strong applause.

The band next performed an unusual jazzy version of Amazing Grace, with bouncy music in the middle and slower, solemn playing at the end. It, too, went down well with the audience. Hewitt took the spotlight for the next three items, the songs Rapture of Love, Besa Me Mucho and Lioness on the Rise. Clearly chosen to show Hewitt's range, the songs also showed that she has a melodious voice and sings with much feeling. However, she needs to work on her diction; her sung words, unlike her speech, were slurred. The well known Jamaican folk song, Sly Mongoose, in an arrangement full of improvisation that Brown called "mixed up," was yet another crowd favourite in KBF's well-received show.

The Brandenburg Singers

For the centerpiece of the Brandenburg Singers' concert, Watson chose the very popular Coronation Mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It came at the end of the first half of the show, after the audience had been sitting for some time. Because the Mass was going to be long (it turned out to be nearly 25 minutes), and because she knew, she explained, that many in the audience were suffering from the cramping after effects of chik-V, the witty and informative compere, Sandra Cooper, asked patrons to stand and stretch for a minute.

Most did and apparently enjoyed the break. All clearly enjoyed the Mass which followed, so much so that they applauded where they should not have - in between the several sections, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. Happily, the applause did not seem to throw off either the conductor or the performers.

Preceding the Mass were five songs, two by the full choir - which showed throughout the night that they were in excellent voice - and three by soloists. With rich, well modulated voices, the Singers rendered the Hallelujah Chorus from Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives.

And showing they were as good alone as with the group, the soloists - contralto Dawn Fuller-Philips, bass Dale Edwards and tenor Orville Manning - charmed their listeners with, respectively, Handel's He Shall Feed His Flock (from the oratorio Messiah), Frances Allitsen's The Lord is My Light and Gounod's O Divine Redeemer.

After the intermission, the well-arranged programme, with its musical variety and judiciously placed soloists and duet, began with the 23rd Psalm, The Lord is My Shepherd, sung to Schubert's slow, solemn and soulful music. That same Psalm, sung to Noel Dexter's lively music, was to close the concert. Beautiful though the Schubert is, Jamaicans probably prefer Dexter's, which has a tropical flavor.

The Schubert piece was the first in a suite of three performed by the full choir. It was followed by Ernest Gold's Academy Award-winning theme song of the same name, from the movie Exodus, and Mozart's Glorious is Thy Name.

The sole duet for the evening was, I Waited For the Lord, prettily sung by Elizabeth Terry and Rhonda Lumsden-Lue. Faith Livingstone's solo, He's Got the Whole World, showed good control of a strong voice.

Part 2 started as it ended - save for the Dexter "encore" piece which was "brawta", and so was unlisted in the programme - with a suite of three songs, the aforementioned Spirituals. They were My Lord, What a Mornin', Soon Ah Will Be Done and Ride the Chariot.