Myrna Myrna Nothing simple about - Jazz singer’s mother joins her for encore
From her glamorous wardrobe changes, which were only surpassed by her amazing vocals and on-stage charisma, Jamaica’s First Lady of Jazz, Myrna Hague, dazzled the audience at the Courtleigh Auditorium last Saturday, leaving one patron to exclaim, “There’s hardly anything simple about Myrna.”
Myrna Hague’s level of popular recognition is of no surprise and as she hosted the ninth staging of ‘Simply Myrna’ last Saturday by her second set, the theatre ended up being a packed house.
After singing a jazzy version of Over The Rainbow from the movie, The Wizard of Oz, and also How Could I Live, which the Dennis Brown admirers in the audience would know as How Could I Leave, the star of the night turned the attention to her greatest admirer. Her mother, Evelyn Chung, a sprightly 96-year-old, was sitting in the second row, and she paid tribute to her with Burt Bacharach’s Wives And Lovers. Myrna also remembered recently deceased jazz legend Nancy Wilson by singing one of her earliest recorded tracks, Call Me.
The guest performers were equally a delight for the audience who could not resist rocking to the music. The false start for Bunny Rose, the first guest performer of the night, due to slight technical difficulties, had everyone’s stomach in knots, granted the song of choice was Michael Ball’s This is the Moment – a moment that turned into a few minutes before his voice could be heard. Rose also showed impressive skill on the piano during his rendition of the Grammy Award-winning song, Say Something by A Great Big World.
By the time Hague returned in a shimmering purple, body-hugging ensemble, a quick costume change that did not go unnoticed, the audience had warmed up for more. But Rose was not eliminated from that limelight, as she invited him to sing Shirley Bassey’s Never, Never, Never with her.
Then, accompanied by multiinstrumentalist Marjorie Whylie, the singer brought the first half of the show to a light-hearted close with their presentation of the blues ballad, Sea Lion Woman. Whylie literally stole the spotlight with every beat of the conga drum.
In a quick one-on-one with The Gleaner, Hague’s mother said, “One of my first memories of my daughter performing was this one occasion where she came off the stage and I remember saying, ‘You can’t just come stand up like that, you have to move when you perform’ – look at her now.”
She said there have been many times throughout the singer’s career that she questioned her reasons for encouraging her in the direction of a career in music but, having not missed any of her Simply Myrna live concerts and various shows over the years, she is satisfied.
“You know how first time parents did stay; ‘Mi want mi pickney fi be lawyer and doctor’, and many a time I had to say, ‘Lord, help me with this one.’ But if as a mother I did not support her, some boy would attempt to get into her mind and tell her she is nice, and I don’t know how that would have ended up,” Chung said with a chuckle.
With Hague’s taste in fashion and determined attitude, her mother knew she would steal the hearts of many. Speaking of fashion, the curtains opened for part two and out walked the What About Me jazz singer with yet another wardrobe change. If possible, she appeared even more glamorous in a flowing cape and black gown that evidently received the crowd’s approval.
After three more tunes, another set that included a song written by Burt Bacharach, 1965’s A House Is Not A Home, she welcomed her guest from London, Michael ‘Jimmy’ James, former lead singer of The Vagabonds.
James’ set of approximately 10 celebrated tracks could have easily been mistaken for a tribute to American soul musicians, having included hits from The Chi-Lites, The Temptations, Ben E. King and the Reverend Al Green, but it was not complete without a few of his records. Among the songs he performed were Bewildered and Blue, the 1968 hit Red, Red, Wine, I’ll Be Where Your Music Takes Me and Come To Me Softly.
Both James and Rose joined Hague for the encore of John Lennon’s Imagine All The People, which received a standing ovation and also got the singer’s mother moving towards the stage to demonstrate her dance moves.
With each breath that she took in between songs, Hague layered praises on her band of musicians, led by music arranger, director and drummer, Desi Jones. The only thing the singer wishes for, she shares, “is to see more young people come out,” hopefully for the 10th anniversary next year.