Four musical premieres at Uncaged Melodies IV
The audience at the fourth presentation of Uncaged Melodies, the annual concert by the Classical and Jazz Ensemble (CAGE) led by University of the West Indies Music Fellow Peter Ashbourne, got a special treat. They heard the very first public performances of four of Ashbourne’s works just one component of a concert that was made particularly delightful by the variety of the items.
The three sections of the two-hour-long programme featured classical, jazz and contemporary music performed by a chamber orchestra, a wind ensemble, a string quartet, a jazz combo, and a vocal quartet.
Then there was a special guest musician Gay Magnus, director of the university’s music department who played a steel tenor pan.
Add to the above the fact that Bob Marley compositions were performed in three musical forms.
Arranged by Ashbourne, the Natural Mystic and Forever Loving Jah medley were played as a classical pieces, and Three Little Birds, a premiere work, as jazz. Additionally, the reggae icon’s Could You Be Loved was given a contemporary arrangement by musicians listed in the programme only as A. Valentine and P. Ashwell.
Unexpectedly, in a concert of this nature, visual humour was introduced during another arrangement premiere by Ashbourne, his Disney Medley, which comprises 11 songs from Disney shows. While they were being played, two CAGE members, dressed in appropriate costumes, walked across the front of the stage with placards bearing the names of the tunes and the musicals they came from. That might well have been a first in Jamaica.
One of Ashbourne’s premieres was an original composition Three Dances for Steelpan and Chamber Orchestra, which featured Magnus leading the orchestra through the work’s three movements. The first, Chrome Attic, a cheerful piece, was followed by a sombre - even melancholy - one, Chromatic Limbo. Big Chroma Top - the third movement - is again lively.
Overall, the programme’s mood was quite merry. A joy-filled jig by Gustav Holst (who was born in Kingston but lived most of his life in England) started the evening. It was followed by the first of Ashbourne’s premieres for the evening, Colon Man Variations, a bouncy set of tunes based on the well-known Jamaican folk song.
Halfway through the first half, we heard Magnus on tenor pan, and the chamber orchestra play Johannes Brahms’ popular Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G Minor. The second half ended with the equally popular Hugh Masekela jazz number Grazing in the Grass.
Formed by Ashbourne on the UWI’s Mona campus in 2013, the CAGE has about 30 musicians made up of current students and staff members and specially invited guest performers. All work for the love of music, rather than payment, and either as a full ensemble or in smaller units, they perform regularly throughout the year, usually at university or university-related events.
The show made being in the CAGE look like fun.