Wed | Sep 20, 2017

JMTC concert a delight

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2016 | 2:00 AMMichael Reckord
JMTC music performers (from left): John McFarlane, Livingston Burnett (piano), Cecil Cooper and Carl Bliss.
JMTC music singers John McFarlane and Carole Reid performing a duet.
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The well known saying, 'The show must go on', may well have been show business' response to Murphy's law, 'If anything can go wrong, it will.'

Despite the various unscheduled occurrences at the recent Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) concert at Alhambra Inn, the show did go on. And the audience judged it delightful, as indicated by their enthusiastic applause and cheering for many items.

One in the series of annual JMTC concerts at that venue, it was titled - To You With Love. Eight singers were engaged for the show, but unfortunately two fell ill at the last moment.

After the programme was printed, two other singers changed their minds about songs they would sing, but their substitutes went over well - one of them because of the versatility of the accompanist, Livingston Burnett.

And it was the versatility of another performer that saved the day for tenor Cecil Cooper, when the recording to which he was singing, You'll Never Walk Alone, developed glitches. Lt. Cmdr. John McFarlane, who earlier had demonstrated his talent as a singer-guitarist, slipped onto the piano stool and smoothly took over the accompaniment; Cooper didn't even have to start over. Of course, when the song ended, Cooper pulled McFarlane back onto the stage for them to take a bow together.

All this unscheduled drama added to the inherent drama of the planned programme, which included not only numerous dramatically delivered songs by six excellent singers, but readings from a book by a man who spent many decades in theatre. The author, Easton Lee, was an actor, director and playwright for many years before he became a minister of religion.

Tiffani Robinson read his poems, including one that was a plea for tolerance among Jamaicans, one about a churchgoer who wanted to hear the latest gossip, and one about a woman who, though she never once thought of leaving her husband of many decades, had thought of killing him.

Lee's stories and poems, which are largely about old time Jamaica, often have unexpected twists in their tails. So did many of the numerous jokes related by the suave emcee, Jeff Cobham. His informative commentary on the origins of the musical items added greatly to the joy of the evening.

Before the vocalists took over the stage, a group of young schoolboy instrumentalists entertained the audience with some jazzy numbers. Among them was drummer Brandon Goffe, a frequent performer at the JMTC concerts, who was to appear a couple of times later in the show as an accompanist.

In addition to Cooper and McFarlane, another regular performer in the series was Carole Reid, who doubled as the show's producer. Carl Bliss, like Reid, a National Dance Theatre Company Singer, also performed, singing two solos, If I Loved You, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The most recent addition to the group was tenor, Andre Shepherd, a young man who showed tremendous potential as an entertainer. He was a particular favourite with the females in the audience whom he serenaded with the Lionel Ritchie hit, Three Times a Lady; but he was also impressive later, singing the 1960s civil rights 'anthem,' Sam Cooke's, A Change is Gonna Come.

Actress-singer Jodi Ho Lung, not surprisingly chose to sing two songs from Broadway musicals, Someone Like You (from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and Tonight (from West Side Story). Two duets, always loved by audiences, which were sung by Reid and McFarlane, were Love Changes Everything and To Love.

McFarlane, Bliss and Cooper, united to form a trio for the Rodgers & Hammerstein show number, Some Enchanted Evening, a song which could well have described the entire function.

In the course of his jocular remarks, Cobham made the point that a musician's life is a very demanding one and defined a successful musician as 'a fellow whose girl friend has three jobs.' One can only hope that the performers, who were all undoubtedly successful, have managed to be exceptions to that 'rule.'

The next in the concert series at Alhambra Inn will be on March 6. It will be produced by Ho Lung and David Tulloch.