Lots of music, laughter at JTS concert
Some of the island's finest singers and instrumentalists provided the music, while an ebullient Joan Andrea Hutchinson, acting as both a performer and the emcee, provided the laughter to create a delightful Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS) concert on Sunday evening.
The stage for the performers - collectively called Ana Strachan and Friends - was appropriately draped in Christmas colours, red and white, which might well have been designed to double as Valentine's Day colours, for the concert's theme was Because of Love.
Hutchinson took to the stage after an official welcome by JTS president Dr Garnett Roper, who said the concert, the third annual one featuring Strachan and her friends, was the first on the JTS Kingston campus on West Avenue, where it would probably be held in the future.
The creatively compiled repertoire - the work, according to Roper, of one of the musicians, Paulette Bellamy - comprised diverse types of music. It started off with the sublime patriotic song, I Saw My Land in the Morning (Smith/Poule), shifted to classical pieces by Mozart and others, then glided into a medley of Broadway musical items, with the first half closing with (Negro) spirituals.
That half featured Bellamy on both piano and violin and her Touch of Elegance partner, Jon Williams, on piano and keyboard as the accompanying instrumentalist, or together, playing the Broadway medley. The singers were Strachan, Lori Burnett (both sopranos) and tenor Rory Baugh.
All sang beautifully, whether together - in the opening song, for example - or individually.
Strachan's most memorable number was the amusing Glitter and Be Gay (Bernstein), in which she 'played' a jewellery-crazy woman in Paris. Burnett's Till There Was You (from The Music Man) and Baugh's My Soul's Been Anchored in de Lord, received particularly strong applause.
There were additional performers in the second half.
The instrumentalists were a bass guitar trio (doing Marley's iconic Redemption Song), a JTS ensemble comprising keyboards, drum set and bass guitar (doing Ernie Smith's bouncy I Fah Jesus), cellist Kadeem Leslie (playing Mary, Did You Know?) and the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (doing Bellamy's Coconut Woman and Marley's Jammin').
The new vocalist was Candi Isaacs, a visually impaired, strong-voiced soprano who, the audience was told, had won 30 gold and five silver awards in JCDC competitions. She sang four songs, Rose of Bethlehem, Jesu Bambino, Swing Low, and That Name Is Jesus, and also joined the other singers at the end of the concert for Oh Holy Night.
In the president's message in the printed programme, Dr Roper states that the "special addition" of Isaacs as a performer 'signals the intentional solidarity between JTS and the Combined Disabilities Association. Part proceeds of the concert will go towards the work with those who are differently-abled in Jamaica".
Between items, Hutchinson recited a few of her own insightful, amusing poems and called on members of the audience to engage in various forms of competitive fun activities onstage. This included singing, dancing and answering questions. Winners received prizes from the concert's sponsors.
No one would have disagreed with Hutchinson when she used the word 'amazing', as she often did, throughout the show. The voices, she said, were "amazing", and the production was "amazing ... and should be taken abroad to the diaspora".
And when the concert ended, more than three hours after it began, many would have nodded their heads at her enthusiastic summation: "What an amazing evening!"