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NCU choir shines in the US

Published: Sunday | December 21, 2008

Northern Caribbean University Concert Choir.

Kimberley Whyte, Contributor

The rich talent resource of the Seventh-day Adventist-owned and operated Northern Caribbean University (NCU) was on display on the weekend of Friday, December 12, to Saturday, December 13. For the first time in its 36-year history, the institution's annual Feast of Lights concert was taken beyond the shores of Jamaica to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the United States.

The event, which was a collaborative effort between NCU's College of Arts and General Studies, Columbia Union College (CUC), another Seventh-day Adventist-owned tertiary institution, and the New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church, was organised by NCU's South Florida Alumni Chapter, spearheaded by alumna, Dr Claudette Giscombe. The NCU Concert Choir, NCU Steel Orchestra, the New England Youth Ensemble and concert pianist, Brynne Reece, were the performers featured during the weekend. A special art exhibition was also a part of the activities.

Worship service

The weekend of activities commenced on Friday evening with a worship service at the Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist Church in Miami. Fittingly, the NCU Concert Choir, led by director Andrew Marshall, delivered an exhilarating performance of We Worship You, featuring soloist, soprano Samara Marshall. The New England Youth Ensemble, conducted by the renowned Dr Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, presented Pastoral Symphony from the Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach as its inaugural performance of the weekend. Dr Weymouth Spence, president of Columbia Union College and alumnus of NCU, was the keynote speaker for the evening. In his presentation titled, 'Tell Your Story', Dr Spence inspired the congregants to share their experiences and, in so doing, touch the lives of others.

Sabbath worship was hosted by the New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church in Fort Lauderdale and once again featured performances from the NCU Concert Choir and the ensemble. The sermon of the day was delivered by Dr Beverly Cameron, vice-president, academic administration at NCU. 'If Christ Had Not Come' was the topic which the eloquent speaker elaborated. Dr Cameron used the Bible text, St John 15:22, to guide her presentation, reminding attendees of the importance of Christ's coming to Earth. She outlined what life would be like if Christ had not come: "We would have had a God without honour, a revelation without a climax, a prophecy without fulfilment, man would be without a saviour, and the world without a song."

Supported by alumni

All the events were supported by a large number of NCU alumni and friends from all over the world, and the culminating event was no different. Alumni and supporters of NCU arrived in droves at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday evening for the much-anticipated Feast of Lights concert. Held under the theme, 'Sharing the Gift of the Arts to Celebrate Excellence', the evening truly displayed Christian education at its best.

The exquisite affair commenced with an art exhibition which was officially opened by Barrington A. Russel Sr, mayor, Lauderdale Lakes. The exhibition featured pieces by NCU students and faculty as well as renowned Jamaican artist, Peter Marshall of True Vine Art, Florida. The paintings displayed included 'Moonlight Sonata' by Gerald Wray, coordinator of NCU Visual Art Department; 'Beauty in the Dark' by NCU faculty member, Patricia Haakmat and 'The Voyage of Man' by student Sebastion Elliot. Patrons were given details of the ideas behind each artwork and were later allowed to purchase pieces.

The concert began with a parade of flags and was officially opened by Ambassador Anthony Johnson. In his remarks, Mr Johnson said, "Music is a discipline, a study which leads you to a productive and organised way of thinking." He referred to music as "the highest expression of a people's culture", pointing out that this was one of the most recognised features of Jamaicans. Also present at the event was Sheryl Wynter, a representative of the Consul-General of Jamaica, Sandra A. Grant-Griffiths.

Performed national anthems

The NCU Concert Choir and the New England Youth Ensemble performed the national anthems of the United States of America and Jamaica. This was followed by special greetings from Dr Beverly Cameron and Dr Marilyn Anderson, dean, College of Arts and General Studies, NCU.

The musical feast featured the NCU Concert Choir and the New England Youth Ensemble conducted by Andrew Marshall. Performances included Exorior, Rejoice Greatly, Aria No. 18 from G.F. Handel's Messiah with soprano soloist, Petal Richards, and O Come, O Come Immanuel.

Part II of the programme included a performance by the New England Youth Ensemble, conducted by Dr Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse. Preceding the performance, Dr Weymouth Spence, president of CUC, the institution at which the ensemble has been based for the past 15 years, introduced the well-travelled group. The first piece performed, Concerto for two violins in d minor, 1st Movement by J.S. Bach, featured two young violinists, Chitra Banarjec and Elizabeth Shin. Notably, these young musicians are tutored by NCU music professor, Dr Lisa Darby-Walker. Other pieces performed by the ensemble included Piano Sonata - Opus 57, Appasionata, 3rd Movement by Beethoven performed by pianist, Brynne Reece and E Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, 1st Movement with Violinist, Kerop Berberian, all of which were well appreciated by the audience. Much to the delight of audience members, the NCU Steel Orchestra rounded off Part II with its renditions of Sabre Dance and Carol of the Bells.

Six individuals were honoured during Part III of the evening's programme. Mrs Zenobia Davis, former Chair of the NCU Music Department and founder of the Feast of Lights concert at the university, and Dr Marilyn Anderson received the Distinguished Service Award for Service and Leadership in Music, while Mr Gerald Wray received the award for service in Visual Art. Dr Olive Lewin and Peter Marshall received the Jamaican Distinguished Service Award and a posthumous tribute was given to NCU alumnus, Stennett H. Brooks.

Stirring performances

The Concert Choir then gave stirring performances of Prayer of Thanksgiving and Champions of Gold, two pieces written and arranged by Andrew Marshall, to pay tribute to Jamaica's recent successes at the Beijing Olympics. As the event came to a close, a special announcement was made by NCU alumni, Dr Sylvan Lashley, who also served as president of the institution, and Mr Jerome Higgins. They announced the establishment of the Zenobia Davis Scholarship Fund, which will initially serve students of music, but will expand to other areas in the future. The first recipient of the scholarship is Mikhail Johnson, a member of the NCU Concert Choir.

The traditional spiritual song, Ride on King Jesus, featuring soloist, tenor Terrence McLaughlin, preceded a memorable performance of the Hallelujah chorus by the choir, the ensemble and concert choir alumni. With lit candle in hand and the melodious tune of the carol, Sing Noel on its lips, the choir captivated the audience, as they joined voices with the sounds of the instruments to end the historic event on an impressive note.


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