Two concerts, contrasting tones
I missed some big events in the usual Christmas flurry of classical and sacred music offerings, including two at the University Chapel, Mona, which clashed with other events I had to attend. One was by the University Singers last Wednesday and the other by the Kingston College Chapel Choir on Sunday.
However, I saw two smaller events which I thoroughly enjoyed. One was last Wednesday's concert by the Campion College Chapel Choir at Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church. The other was a piano recital by Douglasse Burrulace, assisted by a couple of young friends, at Immaculate Conception High School on November 30.
For the former, Campion's Principal Grace Baston set the concert's tone with the theme of hope and joy in her welcome speech to the lamentably small audience, which occupied only one-third of the church. Appropriately, Baston linked the theme to music, which, she said, could "reach the wider world and renew our joy."
struck by their youth
As the 22-strong choir filed into the beautiful church, I was struck by their youth. On consulting the printed programme I saw that the group comprises about an equal number of second and third formers as fifth and sixth. Augmenting the choir were a few 'old boys' from Jamaica College. I suspect they were there at the request of the Campion choir's founder and conductor, Randall Campbell, who was choirmaster at Jamaica College for many years.
The choir's first two items, Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus and Charles Parry's hymn Dear lord and Father of Mankind, indicated that the quality of their sound matched their youthful looks. Their softness and gentleness suggested tentativeness.
This was in strong contrast to the power and control exhibited by experienced professional Carole Reid (soprano), who was up next. She sang the third and fourth items, Sweet Little Jesus Boy and Cesar Frank's sublime Panis Angelicus, respectively.
In part two of the programme Reid sang Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu with the choir, which by then had warmed up nicely and was generally stronger in the second half than in the first.
The strength with which the group delivered the final item, David Willocks' O Come All Ye Faithful, showed that it need not have been overcome by the power of the organ - otherwise sensitively played by accompanist Audley Davidson - in the final hymn of the first half, Ralph Vaughn Williams' Old Hundredth Psalm Tune.
One of the best received items was Carol of the Bells, a quick paced, complex carol calling for four-part singing and precise enunciation. It got sustained applause.
In an after concert chat with me, Baston praised Campbell for the work he has been doing at Campion. This is not only with the choir, but also preparation for the popular School Challenge Quiz. Minutes later Campbell was assuring me that by next Christmas he will have grown the choir to at least 30 members and staging a major work.
The bright, sunlit room Burrulace chose for his recital was much smaller than Sts Peter and Paul church, but it was full. Burrulace, a piano teacher as well as performer, presents himself to audiences as Jamaica's answer to Liberace, the deceased, flamboyant, bejewelled American entertainer.
"This is one pianist who talks," the red suited Burrulace declared in his welcome. He introduced both his student guest performers and the major composers whose works he would be playing. Burrulace's guests were 11-year-old Gabrielle Lyn, his own student, and Aaron Lawrence, a violin student of Paulette Bellamy who recently earned a distinction in the Grade 6 music exams. Interestingly, Lawrence attends Campion College.
Burrulace's chosen composers included giants of classical music. On his list were Beethoven (a sonata), Chopin (a number of waltzes), Paderewski (a minuet), Strauss (waltzes), Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. Still, there was nothing heavy from those composers - nor from a couple of other composers whose work the pianist tackled, Scott Joplin and Bob Marley.
Burrulace chatted to the audience in between playing the well selected items on the sonorous grand piano. Some pieces quick and bright, some more meditative, but none were solemn. He accompanied Lawrence on one piece and later played a simple duet with Lyn.
Lasting a bit more than an hour, the recital ended with the poignant May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You, receiving strong applause and much verbal commendation. As Bellamy observed, "he (Burrulace) is a real entertainer."
By the way, you can still catch the repeats of the two concerts I missed. The Kingston College concert will be on again this Sunday at the choir's home base, St Augustine Chapel, North Street, starting at 4:00 p.m., and the Campion College concert will be reprised on January 4 at Christ Church, Vineyard Town.