Jamaica's finest sing for mothers - Quality, variety at Swallowfield Chapel
He was not exaggerating about Ana Strachan, guitarist Seretse Small, tenor Rory Baugh, and instrumental group Touch of Elegance. Poet Joan Andrea Hutchinson, though primarily compere of the show, did double duty as a performer. In addition to reciting the work of other persons - Kahlil Gibran, for one - she also delivered a few of her own pieces about mothers and love.
All these performers have been onstage for a decade or more, but the island's most talented younger performers might well include cellist Kadeem Leslie and The National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ), who were also on the show.
Following Roper's welcome, Strachan, wearing a stunning gold, floor-length gown, joined The AISK Glee Club (a group of teenagers and children) to sing Let's Talk About Love. It was a most suitable opening number.
The backing band for Strachan was an expanded Touch of Elegance. Joining the core duo of Paulette Bellamy and Jon Williams were Fitzroy Bennett, Paul Madden and Jeremy Ashbourne. Strachan, Bennett and Ashbourne are all music teachers at the JTS.
Strachan generally delights audiences with her strong, controlled, colour-filled voice. On Sunday, she had opportunity to show she could sing in a wide variety of styles.
Her first two songs were operatic - Vilja from Franz Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow, and Elle a fui, la tourterlle from Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman. Later, she sang spirituals - Give Me Jesus, On Ma Journey Now and Ain't That Good News.
Later still, in a well-received duet with Baugh, Strachan sang a medley of Maria and Tonight from the Leonard Bernstein Broadway musical West Side Story. Then, to show she needed no help with musicals, she sang a couple by herself -Will Someone Ever Look at Me That Way (from Michel Legrand's Yentl) and Not While I'm Around (from Stephen Sondheim's melodrama Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street).
Even later, Strachan sang a folk medley with the same joyful professionalism she showed earlier. Included were Dis Long Time Gal, Fi Mi Love Have Lion Heart, Manuel Road, and Mango Walk. There were the revival songs No Dark Ina Zion, I'm Going Home on de Mornin' Train and Ring Out Mount Zion Bells, among others.
The other performers also pleased the audience. Leslie's playing of Bellamy's arrangement of Suite and Tender (a clever combination of Bach, Darby, Presley and Stafford) and Chris Rice's Go Light Your World was full of feeling.
Small's first two classically flavoured numbers, Francisco Tarrega's Lagrima and 'Manuel Ponce's Preludio, were poignant. Later, Small had his audience singing along as he alternately drummed on the body of his guitar and plucked its strings in a glorious, creative rendition of Marcia Griffiths' Stepping Out of Babylon. There was enthusiastic cheering as he ended.
The printed programme indicated that the NYOJ was to offer two numbers. Guided by conductor Darren Young, they first played the bouncy Palladio (Karl Jenkins), then the dance-inducing folk tune Coconut Woman (both arranged by Bellamy).
Why they stayed onstage during Strachan's folk and revival medleys was perhaps not immediately clear. However, the audience soon realised that they would be part of what Hutchinson called a "brawta". That turned out to be Strachan and the AISK Glee Club happily singing Unconditional Love.
Apart from introducing the various items, Hutchinson jovially presided over a singing competition among seven of eight members of the audience for a LIME cell phone and the drawing of the gate prize, a weekend stay for two at a Sandals hotel. Member of Parliament Olivia 'Babsy' Grange assisted with the latter. Both giveaways evoked lots of laughter in the audience.
Roper said that the money raised from the concert will go towards assisting children with special needs.