Thu | Jul 18, 2019

Band music calms cops

Published:Sunday | June 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Band entertaining the audience at a civic ceremony to mark National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante's 127th birthday, held at his birthplace in Blenheim, Hanover, in 2011.

Celebrations are currently in order for the 60-year milestone of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Band. The year was 1958, in the month of May, when the JCF had its inaugural performance at Fort Charles in Port Royal, Kingston. That same year, Jamaica and 10 other Caribbean countries formed the short-lived Federation of the West Indies. Then Commissioner of Police Reginald Michelin saw the need for a constabulary force band. It was a significant period for forming groups aimed at unifying Caribbean people.

The JCF Band is known to have had some of the finest directors, including Senior Superintendents George Moodie and Cecil Warren, throughout its existence.

Now under the baton of Deputy Superintendent Winston Woolcock, the band has continued to carry out its mandate.

"Our job is solely to provide music, although we are called on to carry out other tasks. The band definitely has an impact on the officers' attitudes to have a calmer approach when dealing with the public, although we are not necessarily involved in regular operations," said Woolcock.

The band rehearses religiously every day for at least eight hours at its headquarters in Kingston Gardens.

"The JCF band definitely keeps us together; teaching members of the force to work as a team," alto saxophone player Serena Simms told The Sunday Gleaner.

Officer Simms started out as a vocalist with the band while a civilian, but upon graduation from the Jamaica Police Academy, she had already made up her mind to be a JCF band member. Everything she knows about the saxophone has come through training with the band and the mentorship of saxophonist Constable Anthony Foster.

"Music being in my blood, the JCF band was the right fit. It allows me to be more disciplined. You can't just get up and say you are doing music; it takes a certain amount of dedication and initiative to learn," said Simms.

The Jamaica Fire Bridge and Correctional Services also have bands.

All the bands perform reggae, gospel, calypso, and on a smaller scale, dancehall, using woodwind, brass and percussion instruments, although electronic instruments are sometimes incorporated. Band members, especially in the military, should also be capable of playing the National Anthem of Jamaica, as well as those of other countries.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Albert Hird, director of music, said: "The military band plays for visiting monarchies for example kings, queens and presidents or government officials at Kings House."

Originally, in war, the sound of wind and percussion instruments played a two-fold role of communication and a psychological weapon. Music was used to give signals, advising soldiers in step when to start and stop marching.

Events hosted by churches, funeral homes, hotels and other private entities locally and internationally provide a stage for the members to develop a wider understanding of the role of music and needs for the art form.