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Monty Alexander will be 'Home for Christmas'

Published:Sunday | November 13, 2016 | 11:34 PM
Monty Alexander
(From left) Sir Hilary Beckles, Marjorie Whylie, Myrna Hague and Hon. P.J. Patterson at the launch.
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After 10 years away from Jamaica, Monty Alexander, along with the Harlem Kingston Express, will be giving a benefit concert titled Home for Christmas on December 11.

Organised by the University of the West Indies (UWI), the concert is in support of the UWI Global Giving Programme, launched on Emancipation Day, August 1, 2016, with the tag line ‘Educate, Emancipate, Donate’.

This, and more, was revealed at a brief media launch of the concert, held recently at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel’s Talk of the Town. Along with vignettes of Alexander’s performances, the short programme saw remarks from the vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles and The Most Hon P.J. Patterson.

Patterson, who is the patron of the programme, began his remarks in part with: “When one uses the hallmark of excellence, I think Monty Alexander is certainly at the top. His style, his appearance, his personality, his talent, all combined to make him a giant in his field.”

He further shared how he had been able to arrange for the Jamaican musician to give the concert.

“I have been trying to get Monty, ever since I left the office of Jamaica House, to come home and give us a little sample of his music. A few weeks ago, I got the hint that he has the urge (to come to Jamaica) and that he was coming home for Christmas. I thought this was too good an opportunity to miss. And as I was asked to be patron of the Global Giving Programme, I thought this was a win-win situation; Monty coming home Christmas time, what better way to open the Christmas season than by hearing one who has performed so many Christmas songs.”

He continued: “We have a chance to enjoy the finest music on stage and at the same time contributing to a most worthy cause. Those of us who have benefited from UWI should give back as much as we can so that as many people as possible can enjoy quality education, specialised in their chosen field. Help us to develop that human character for what is now generally accepted as the imperative to growth and prosperity.”

And the former manager of the Skatalites band, who has all Monty Alexander’s album (some were given to him personally by Monty), also presented a picture of his musical career – Alexander played Christmas carols by the age of four. His musical career spans over 50 years. He worked with people like Clement ‘Sir Coxon’ Dodd at Studio One, Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole, and Quincy Jones.

PLAYING WITH THE GREATS

Monty Alexander has played calypso music and ska with people like Don Drummond.

“He likes to play with Jamaican musicians because he gets a beat and rhythm that he can’t get from his American counterparts.”

Vice-Chancellor Beckles, who also addressed the audience, conceptualised the UWI Global Giving Programme, a strategy to place alumni giving on a scientific and tenable basis. Overall, five per cent of the UWI budget comes through alumni contributions; he is hoping to increase that to 10 per cent. The Global Giving Programme is to say to graduates, your university is in need.

“It is no easy task to manage a firstclass university. We are short on finance, but not short on intellect and not short on commitment,” he said.

THE INSPIRATION

Beckles, who also enjoys Monty Alexander’s music, told The Gleaner that his inspiration for the programme came from listening to a call-in programme while driving through the streets of Kingston.

“A lady called in about her children who are very bright and hard working and they wanted to go to UWI but did not have the financial resources,” he recalled. She told the moderator that they had done well in their CXC exams, but she could not afford a bank loan.

“Then she went on to say, ‘How can you emancipate yourself from mental slavery if you don’t have education?’ And I connected those two concepts: a disenfranchised family and bright and energetic young people without financial resources,” he said.

Patterson’s commitment comes from his experience as a student. “I went into the University College of the West Indies as a Jamaican and I came out as a Caribbean person.”

That is the experience that he wants for students who will benefit from the programme. The emcee was Marcia Erskine.

 

– Marcia Rowe