Sun | Feb 23, 2020

Players' stories, awards make musicals' agenda

Published:Saturday | June 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord/Gleaner Writer
The Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT) Singers gather for the final song of their recent concert at the Alhambra Inn,Tucker Avenue, St. Andrew.
Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT) member Gabrielle Clarke singing 'The Greatest Love of All' earlier in June at the Alhambra Inn, Tucker Avenue.
The National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica's (NYOJ) horn section playing at the YMCA, Hope Road, St. Andrew, earlier this month.
The JMTC's Marion John (left) hands over a cheque for $100,000 to Claudia Woon-Chin (centre), registrar of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, along with Kodi-Anne Brown, at the Alhambra Inn, Tucker Avenue, St. Andrew, recently.

Occasionally, the peri-pheral matters - the AOB (any other business) items on the agenda - turn out to be more important than the major ones. Arguably, that's what happened with two musical concerts in Kingston on June 3. The National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica's (NYOJ) show at the YMCA on Hope Road was followed within half an hour by the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company's (JMTC) at Alhambra Inn, Tucker Avenue.

The fair-to-middling music by the nine-year-old NYOJ was overshadowed by the background information given about the musicians, while the really good music by the JMTC's singers - members of its affiliate, the Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT) - was overshadowed by some special presentations during the intermission.

Four groups from the NYOJ, whose members' ages range from about seven to 24 years old, played in the 45-minute concert. Numbering about 150, they were the Junior String Orchestra (with Darren Young conducting), the St Jago Brass Ensemble (conducted by Royston Clarke), the Symphonic Band (also conducted by Clarke) and the Senior Orchestra (conducted by Paul Johnson). Each group was better than the one before. The audience was so pleased by the closing Senior Orchestra, which played Venezuela, Cheap Thrills and Pirates of the Caribbean, that they demanded an encore. The orchestra obliged with a reprise of Pirates.

The NYOJ's executive director Karen Prentice, told the audience that the directors keep track of the social and musical development of the orchestra's 400 students. They come from 40 schools and are tutored in eight centres, the newest located in Port Antonio, Portland. Others are in Spanish Town, St Catherine, and Kingston and St Andrew.

Another NYOJ member, Kahul Rose, said that children and young people who join the orchestra - many of them at-risk youngsters - reported reductions in feelings of anger and hostility and concomitant increases in feelings of social responsibility, as well as having healthier relationships.


Tales and cheques


Twelve JJT singers and two accompanists (pianists Joseph Brown and Jodi Johnson) provided music for the JMTC's concert, Tale as Old as Time: The Springtime of Youth. All the singers have months of stage experience, having appeared in JJT annual musicals at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI, Mona, and all the songs were from musicals.

Four songs came from the 2018 musical Beauty and the Beast. They were If I Can't Love Her (sung by Romario Ricketts), Home (sung by Terri-Lee Taylor), Something There (sung by the cast) and the theme song, Beauty and the Beast (sung by Kodi-Anne Brown). Considering their experience, it's not surprising that all the singers delivered themselves well. Experience plus natural talent equals excellence.

The big news items of the evening, though, were the JMTC chairman's announcement of Brown as the JMTC Junior Member of the Year and the handing over of large cheques by the JMTC to two institutions. The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts got $100,000 for a scholarship for a School of Drama student. It was the fourth annual award from the JMTC's Doug and Christina Bennett Scholarship Fund.

And the Child Protection and Family Services Agency received over $1 million to go towards the rebuilding of the Walker's Place of Safety on Lyndhurst Crescent. It was destroyed by fire not long after members of the JJT had visited the home to give a Christmas treat to the wards.