Teen pianists impress at fundraising concert
After receiving high merits and distinctions in all of the graded Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) piano exams, two talented Jamaican teenage pianists are booked to fly off to the USA shortly for further studies. Sixteen-year-old Joseph Davis and 18-year-old Jared Lewis will be going to Idyllwild Arts High School in California and the University of Colorado, respectively, for the new academic year.
This was told to the audience at a July 21 concert at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, by the young men’s tutor, Roger N Williams, dean of the School of Music, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Proceeds from the concert will be used to support the teens’ education.
Calling the students “talented, technically gifted, musical and disciplined in their approach to their studies,” Williams added, “I look forward to teaching them.”
The two pianists expressed appreciation for their good fortune. Davis told me: “It’s an amazing opportunity that not many Jamaican children have, so I’m extremely thankful and blessed to be able to pursue my dream to be fully immersed in a musical space, where I can explore and nurture my ability.”
Lewis, who will be majoring in engineering at his institution, declared: “I’m very appreciative of the opportunity afforded me. There are many skills to be developed in both engineering and music at the university.”
At the concert, Davis, Lewis, Williams all entertained the audience with piano pieces on the grand piano transported to the theatre for the occasion, while Rafael Salazar, senior lecturer at the school, played his clarinet. Though advertised as An Evening of Classical Music, the programme was a mix of classical and popular music.
Williams, who also introduced the pieces, explained that traditionally, applause was not given between the various movements of multisectioned works, though, he said, nowadays, if any movement is played “exceptionally well,” audiences do tend to applaud.
As it happened, Davis’ playing of opening piece, Mozart’s Sonata in Bb major, K. 570, was quite pedestrian; nevertheless, he was applauded between the allegro, adagio and allegretto movements. Probably the audience was being encouraging, but then the applause was just as enthusiastic when, on stage later, he did a far better job with Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso, and, later still, was positively exciting with George Gershwin’s popular tunes The Man I Love and I Got Rhythm.
With the Gershwin tunes, Davis demonstrated his facility with the jazz style of playing, and we were not surprised when Williams said that the youngster would be doing both classical and jazz studies at Idyllwild Arts. We also learned that Davis is the first Jamaican to achieve a distinction in the ABRSM-ARSM Diploma exam.
Lewis, the older student and quite clearly the better pianist, was uniformly excellent with his solo items: Beethoven’s Sonata in F m ajor, Op 10 No. 2, Chopin’s Ballade in F m ajor, Op 38, and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in D minor, Op 23 No. 3. Commenting on the Chopin piece before it was played, Williams said that the coda (ending) was “the most difficult one that Chopin wrote and [he] was glad when Jared said he wanted to tackle it”.
Lewis’ playing was absolutely scintillating. The section calls for fast, intricate fingering and lots of power, and the pianist provided both. He filled the auditorium with Chopin’s beautiful sounds and ended the first half with an appropriately strong climax.
Williams and Salazar
Though the evening belonged to the two students, the ‘icing on the cake,’ as it were, was served up by the professionals Williams and Salazar. The former played a nostalgia-filled composition, Three Jamaican Dances, by the unfortunately infrequently played Jamaican composer Oswald Russell. The work is based on the popular mento songs Sammy Dead and Ruckumbine. Later, together, the two played Solo de Concours and Vals Venezolano by Andre Messager and Paquito D’Rivera, respectively.
Two delightful piano pieces for four hands closed the concert, with Davis and Lewis entertaining us by playing the upbeat Mambo and Cha Cha by British composer/pianist Christopher Norton.