Sir Willard, Lady Sylvia delight at Tryall
A magnificent performance by Jamaica-born, UK-based bass-baritone Sir Willard White and his wife, Lady Sylvia, was saluted with a standing ovation last Wednesday night.
Sir Willard was the toast of the second of two charity events staged by Theresa and Andrew Roberts at their Hanover Grange home, Tryall Club, Hanover.
Performing after Fernando Santano, who has claimed one of the top ballet spots in the world, it was a charismatic, fearless and stately Sir Willard who won the hearts of an intimate group of opera lovers. They turned out on a night when all other events had to compete with watching the women's 200m and men's 100m hurdles finals at the Rio Olympics.
With Jamaica's medals pocketed, Sir Willard introduced listeners' eardrums to the maestro Schubert's Death and the Maiden, which he and Lady Sylvia sang in German. Expressing her fear of dying, Lady Sylvia, who played the maiden, was left with optimism that the transition could be quite comforting.
The couple, who wedded three years ago in Jamaica and have done five concerts at most together over a few years, had incredible chemistry. They were a winning combination, delivering to an audience that was already on a high.
The dynamic duo pulled from a powerful repertoire, selecting Fisher Girl, which was also sung in German. It was obvious that their opening was going to be strictly classical, sending a clear message they were bent on showcasing the challenges of time.
"All the philosophies in these songs are relevant to today, the same philosophies and fears of hundreds of years ago. The only thing that is different is the circumstances," explained Sir Willard in a post-concert interview with The Gleaner.
Lady Sylvia, who sings lyric soprano, paid tribute to Strauss, while they both gave respect to composers Aaron Copland and Benjamin Britten.
The audience members' appreciation was evident in their facial expressions, and no one was more emotional than Theresa Roberts. Her eyes glistened, cheeks became rosy and she remained mesmerised and in awe throughout the concert.
The businesswoman, who owns the Jamaica Patty Company in the UK, has partnered with Mystic Thai and Rosh Marketing for pre-birthday soirees leading up to the big day, September 1.
Sir Willard made her proud and, true to form, his presentation continues to resonate pleasantly in the ears and minds of those who attended. "It's almost like a happy dance," Sir Willard quipped, reminiscing on his delivery of Long Time Ago, set in a Welsh countryside, which expresses sadness, yet hope.
NEW LIFE FOR OPERA
The singers were accompanied on piano by Winston Ewart, director of the National Chorale and lecturer at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts. Ewart did a fantastic job.
It was an enchanting evening, and when Sir Willard and Lady Sylvia did Rodgers and Hammersteins' Some Enchanted Evening and Britten's Foggy Foggy Dew, opera took a new life and fresh legs. Lady Sylvia's rendition of Summertime had the house on fire. Although the song may seem simple, it requires an elegance she has mastered over the years.
Assessing his wife's performance, Sir Willard said, "I was impressed because she is not Jamaican, yet she was so confident in herself. Her ease of the high notes, clarity of tone, her all-embracing attitude to the atmosphere was like music to my eyes. There was an energy that she added to the event I could ride on, a very strong, positive energy."
For Lady Sylvia, when she watched her husband commanding the stage, she remembered exactly why she fell in love. "He was standing there like a king, which is why I fell in love with him. Wow, my gosh!" she exclaimed.