Sun | Sep 23, 2018

The Jamaican Folks Singers freshens up concert with children

Published:Wednesday | September 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Members of the Jamaican Folk Singers in performance at their ‘Vintage Folk’ concert at the Little Theatre on Saturday.
Members of the Jamaican Folk Singers in performance at their 'Vintage Folk' concert at the Little Theatre on Saturday.
Members of the Jamaican Folk Singers in performance at their ‘Vintage Folk’ concert at the Little Theatre on Saturday.
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In their 51st year, the Jamaican Folk Singers are trying their hand at spreading more than good cheer via pristine harmonies and choreographed swaying.

With hopes of delivering education through entertainment, the choir group presents a thematically structured programme, as well as invite a group of young children to join this concert season's cast.

During its 'Vintage Folk' concert, held at the Little Theatre on Saturday, September 8, the Folk Singers categorised a catalogue of traditional tunes, divided into five sections that all carried their own themes.

The curtains opened, presenting the folk singers clad in their bandana dresses, skirts and shirts. This opening segment, called 'Come Mek We Dance An' Sing', was an open invitation for the audience to do just that. It included songs like Long Time Gal, Jane An' Louisa and Banyan Tree.

The second section was called 'Gossip', where the audience were treated to humour-laden songs Pretty Gal, Hebby Load, Peep In A Mi Pot and Ku Yu Mouth. Theatrics would be naught without a dash of irony, found as the second section closed with Nobody's Business (But Mi Own).

Jamaican folk music goes nowhere unless, of course, it carries you to 'Market'. The third section saw the Folk Singers brandishing baskets of callaloo, coconut and fish, and welcoming Mango Time. Necessarily included was the folk classic, Linstead Market. The tempo was slowed down and the theatre's lights dimmed for this sombre rendition. As the choir regaled tale of a bad day at the market, the singing was convincingly sad and all the soprano's prettily delicately wailing was piercingly mournful.

According to musical director Christine MacDonald Nevers, as part of their purpose is to unearth aspects of folk music culture, another purpose is to share and teach it.

Customary bandana and headwraps costuming were abandoned for a moment, as the Jamaican Folk Singers introduced a brandnew element to the fourth section of the concert under the theme 'Strengthening Communities'.

Following the intermission, the performers returned to the stage clad in their own clothes, accompanied by a group of children. The imagery was endearing, modern, and familiar.

The image was reminiscent of Louise Bennett-Coverley sitting atop a stool, surrounded by her eager, attentive young audience.

And so, the Jamaican Folk Singers carried on such a tradition, and in their concert sang arithmetic: "One and 20, two and 20, three and four and five and six, and 20 ..." - while playing a ring game with their younger counterparts.

The children sat to listen and learn history, with songs like Slave Lament and Colon Man; and Bible knowledge, with songs like Zaccheus and Likkle Samuel.

The final section of the concert found them back in their bandana dresses, skirts and shirts to close with lively renditions of Chrismus A Come and Run, Come Quick.