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Delightful Chorale Concert at Coke Methodist

Published:Wednesday | October 19, 2016 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord
The Methodist Chorale concert choir in performance at Coke Methodist, recently.
The Methodist Chorale concert choir in colourful costumes.

The audience at the Methodist Chorale's 50th anniversary concert at Coke Memorial Methodist Church, East Parade, recently, thoroughly enjoyed the event.

That was clear from their applause, and few would have been more delighted than the founder-conductor, Eric Bailey.

He started the group in 1966 as the Corporate Area Methodist Youth Choir. In those early years, it comprised young singers from numerous churches, who, from the late 1950s, had been meeting to lead worship at the annual Young People's Demonstration during the Methodist Church's annual synod.

The choir's feeder churches included the Coke, Lyndhurst Road, Arnold Road, Vineyard Town, Greenwich Town, Elleston Road and Wesley Methodist churches. A few of the singers came from Anglican churches and helped to form one of the leading choirs in the island. Some of the original choristers are still with the chorale.

"Nearly every Sunday, we went out to sing somewhere in Jamaica," Bailey told The Gleaner. In fact, the chorale has not only journeyed around the island but to the Bahamas, the USA, Panama, Belize, the Cayman Islands and Curacao.

And the current conductor, Peter Brown, said that plans are being discussed to take the show, intact, to churches in the rural areas... certainly Manchester and St Ann, next year. Meanwhile, over the Christmas period, groups from the chorale plan to sing in other churches and in nursing homes. Those audiences are in for a treat.

Conducted by Brown, the full choir of about 30 sopranos, altos, tenors and bases started the concert with a set of six pieces, including well-known hymns like Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, O For a Closer Walk With God and A Mighty Fortress is Our God. They gave way to a power-filled solo by tenor Orville Manning singing To Give Command from Joshua.

Audley Davidson took over the conducting for the first half's final three pieces by Mendelssohn (He Watching Over Israel and I Waited for the Lord), Brahms (How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings Fair) and Beethoven (Hallelujah! from his oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives.)

Robert N. Williams accompanied the singers with great sensitivity for that first half, which was filled with quite formal music. For most of the second half, however, the choristers, dressed in more colourful garb than earlier, swayed, bounced and clapped along with conductor Paul Thorbourne as they delivered up-tempo spirituals, gospel and folk songs.

Perhaps it was because their voices had warmed up or because the strong male voices took the lead in most of the songs, but the group sounded even better in the second half than they did in the first. A spirited revival medley, which included One Bright Morning and A Come Wi Dis a Come, ended the concert.

The emcee for the evening was Rev. Bosworth Mullings, Superintendent of the Coke Circuit, who, before formally introducing the chorale, told the story of the "accidental" founding of the Methodist Missions in the West Indies.

In 1786, he said, the ship in which Dr Thomas Coke was being carried to Halifax, Nova Scotia, encountered stormy weather and, blown off course, ended up in Antigua. Coke started the Missions there.

Kingston's Coke church, a designated national monument, was built 175 years ago on a site occupied by the Methodists since 1790.