Ernie Smith celebrates in church
The programme for last Sunday's mass at The Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Bamboo, St Ann, was for "the golden anniversary of the recording career of Glenroy 'Ernie' Smith, OD, BH (M)". And since the following day, Monday, May 1, was his birthday, there was a cake outside, which Ernie and his wife, Janet, cut and fed each other like newlyweds.
Smith told The Gleaner that he spent Monday very quietly as sedately as possible, when his telephone kept ringing, as persons called with their best wishes and offer congratulations on the celebratory mass. "I told them I was going to church before they carry me in ice cold and in a box," Smith said, laughing.
"It was just a quiet day. I spent a lot of time sleeping," he said. Birthday celebrations are not a regular part of his annual calendar so, he said, "this was a very special one".
The day before was full of activity. With the mass starting at 9 a.m., Smith did a lot of singing to tracks or music played by Chris McDonald (listed as musician along with Dr Roosevelt Crooks), pulling heavily on material from his gospel album I'll Sing for Jesus. Lead Me Oh Master, How Can I Serve Thee Lord. I'll Sing for Jesus, When Was The Last Time and All For Jesus were among the selections. He also did Where Do I Go From Here and It's No Secret.
His was not the only solo voice at the mass. Charmaine Limonius, Christopher McDonald and Karen Smith were among those who honoured Smith in song.
Smith told The Gleaner that singing the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness was especially significant as it was a song that he and his wife, Janet, drew strength from when she was going through health issues, which were finally resolved in Connecticut after doctors in Cuba said the risk was too high.
In his message, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen said: "Mr Smith has made his mark on a very wide cross section of and virtually two generations of Jamaicans." Prime Minister The Most Hon. Andrew Holness' message announced that "the Government of Jamaica had officially endorsed the upcoming Ernie Smith Gala Concert as an official Jamaica 55 celebratory event. This event will be held at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Friday, September 29."
Opposition leader Dr Peter Phillips said that through his career, Smith had "neither compromised his principles nor introduced the slightest suggestion of vulgarity on stage".
There were tributes from Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, with former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Ambassador Aloun Assamba and Arnold Bertram on the programme.