Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Beethoven 5th the centrepiece of POJ season

Published:Wednesday | May 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Franklin Halliburton conducting the orchestra.

There was a nerve-tingling sense of anticipation in the audience, as conductor Franklin E. Halliburton raised his baton for the start of the centrepiece composition of the POJ season.

Conducting and playing Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 is never an easy task. It is one of the world's best-loved classical works, and no audience will forgive a poor presentation it is a complex piece of many and varied moods, one that is physically and emotionally taxing on performer and listener.

But the POJ faced an additional challenge they had been told, and many in the audience at Swallowfield Chapel knew, that no orchestra had played a major symphony in its entirety in Jamaica for decades.

A poor showing was not an option. It would have suggested a lack of grit and talent in a country that believes it has both in abundance with good reason. Tiny Jamaica is generally acknowledged as a cultural heavyweight, and Kingston has been a UNESCO-designated 'City of Music' since 2015.

Halliburton told The Gleaner that when he initially spoke about his decision to tackle the Beethoven symphony, there were "many naysayers". Not surprisingly, however, he forged ahead. After all, he's a man who is both a full-time attorney at law and a full-time musician, conductor of both the University Singers and the POJ, a performer (singer, pianist) himself, and who wrote the libretto and music of 1865, Jamaica's first full-length opera.

Happily, the POJ's performance of the sublimely beautiful symphony was an undoubted success, well played from its famous opening of four dramatic chords, three quick notes followed by a longer one signifying, it is said, fate knocking at the door, to its final crescendo. Many in the audience gave a standing ovation.

And, still sweating at the intermission following his and the orchestra's energetic performance, Halliburton told this reporter, "I'm proud of them."

- MR