'Jazz for the Ward'
Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
IT WAS a glorious way to spend the Sunday morning, especially when the time was spent in the company of Jamaican jazz vocalist Myrna Hague, saxophonist Nicholas Laraque and their accompanist, Dr Carol Ball.
The occasion was 'Jazz for the Ward', the second in a series of concerts organised by the Ward Theatre Foundation. The meeting took place in the intimate setting of the Institute of Jamaica's lecture hall.
First, a welcome by Ruby Martin, chairman of the Ward Theatre Foundation, who thanked the sponsors, including The Gleaner, for their support. When her brief speech ended, it was time for jazz. Short and sweet, the programme ran unannounced. Hague, elegantly attired, began the flow.
She started off with the slow and easy-going Wonderful World, followed by My Funny Valentine. Then came Oscar Peterson's Misty. Punctuated by small talk such as "I will sing nice old songs" and "the space is intimate, I can see everyone's face", Hague concluded her first act with Fly Me To The Moon, one of two songs she called her "old chestnut piece".
The other old chestnut selection, Summer Time, was sang in her second of two acts. But it was Myrna's performance of Charlie Chaplin's Smile that had the audience voicing their satisfaction, to which Hague shared: "I discovered that smile is the best remedy." She then charged the organisers to do more jazz shows and take it to the park (Sir William Grant) so the people can enjoy it. The act ended with Romance, from the unfamiliar movie titled Jumbo, and saxophonist Laraque accompanied with flute.
The touch of the saxaphone
But jazz without saxophone is like a Jamaican Sunday dinner without rice and peas, and Nicholas Laraque with his saxophone provided that - the rice and peas of the concert. After playing his first selection, Someone To Watch Over Me, a member of the audience responded, "Wow!" His performance of The Way You Look Tonight resulted in another collective vocal response from the audience and Cherry Pink produced a "Yeah, man, is me that" from somewhere in the hall.
A splendid show could not conclude without an encore for the well-entertained audience, and so the three delivered an unrehearsed but beautifully performed Our Love Is Here To Stay - no doubt the writer was referring to romantic love.
But it is love shown through financial commitment that the Ward Theatre Foundation is seeking from Jamaicans, especially Corporate Jamaica. Despite the sold-out tickets for Jazz for the Ward, it is not enough to cover the cost, as the Grand Old Dame is desperately in need of financial assistance.
The soft-spoken Ruby Martin made an appeal. "We need sponsorship, as without sponsorship, we cannot make it." She explained that companies will sponsor other events, but she can assure them that their product will sell if they come back on-board. "I am appealing to all Jamaica to look to where we want our legacy to be for our children. And I want to appeal to all companies out there for support."
Nicola Crosswell-Mair, director of the Ward Theatre Foundation, explained that they are in "need of millions and millions of dollars. A lot depends on the underwriting of cost from sponsorship. We are struggling." She admits that the Government, which is also struggling, has given some money.
On the matter of parking, a concern that has been voiced many times about the Ward Theatre, Martin said all of that will be addressed when the theatre is restored. And she hopes that the theatre will be fully restored by the latest early January 2012.
The Ward Theatre will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012, and there is a plan to open and begin the celebration with a concert in January.
Donated by Colonel Charles James Ward to the city of Kingston, the Ward Theatre was established in 1912. In 2007, it was closed for renovation and because of structural damage caused from two hurricanes. The Ward Foundation plans to have four more concerts this year, with number three set for May.