Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
Jamaica has been successful in athletics on the world stage, but in July, the Jamaica Youth Chorale plans to make its mark at the World Choir Games.
The event will take place in Cincinnati, United States, from July 4 to 14, and will bring together thousands of participants from more than 70 countries. Using a similar format to the Olympic games, Germany-based organisation INTERKULTUR created the event to unite people from all nations through singing in peaceful competition.
Jamaica's representative at this year's World Choir Games will be the Jamaica Youth Chorale JYC's, a group that was started in December 2008 as a project of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network. Although this is the choir's first time in the competition, it is not the first time the country will be participating.
According to JYC's principal director and founder, Gregory Simms, the country has a tradition of excellence at the event that has been held every two years since it began in 2000 under the name 'Choir Olympics'. In the past, representation has come from local choirs like Cari-Folk Singers, Glenmuir High School Choir and Nexus Performing Arts Company.
Competing in three categories
"Jamaica Youth Chorale has been named the Jamaican choir to the games. The JYC, a representation of Jamaica's best young vocalists and musicians, will certainly build Jamaica's reputation and performance in the games as it competes against 360 choirs from over 40 countries," said Simms, who is also the national co-ordinator for music at Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and a member of the World Choir Council.
At the championship, Simms says JYC will be competing in three categories; Mixed Youth Choir, Musica Sacra, and Folklore. For each category, the group will be doing four pieces. In addition, he said the group will be giving its audience an eclectic mix of Baroque, Classical, Jazz, Negro Spiritual and Jamaican traditional stylised music.
With 12 pieces to prepare, Simms says the group has been progressing well.
"It has been going well. There are many challenges but we work hard to overcome them. The hardest challenge was probably the most difficult in preparing for the games. That challenge was the selection of the repertoire for competition. I hope we got it right," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
"The repertoire has to be impressive with the right mix of challenge and comfort for both the singers of the chorale and an international audience of choral experts. We had to select music that the chorale could relate to and interpret honestly while showing the world the excellence that Jamaica is all about."
He continued: "We are still learning the repertoire with some songs taking even a month to learn. Regardless, in true JYC style, we make every experience a fun one as we work as a family to complete each task. The chorale also continues to build mental focus on the task ahead of us in voice, performance and choreography. We are conditioning ourselves for success. It is our intention to share the repertoire with Jamaica and the Diaspora before the games while celebrating 50 years of Jamaican Independence."
Leading up to the performance, Simms says the intention is for the group to sound and look good. In order to maximise points at the games, he said special emphasis will be placed on intonation, sound quality, interpretation, authenticity and overall impact.
While the aim is to win and maximise points, Simms says, "we believe in having fun, we believe in each other, we believe in discipline, we believe in self expression and not imitation, we commit to the message and power in music and we commit to our audience."
Funding being negotiated
Naturally, funding will be needed for the group but Simms says this is still being negotiated.
"We are still in negotiation with potential funders and in fund-raising. Anybody can e-mail us at email@example.com to find out how they can share with us in the experience. Funding for the arts is always a challenge but if there is a smart strategy, with the right approach, one can find much success," he said.
As the World Choir Games approaches, Simms says JYC has been busy rehearsing and performing. Recently, the group did a performance at the Bank of Jamaica Lunch Hour Concert. They have also done stints at many state concerts, functions and award ceremonies, notably at the recent ecumenical service commemorating 50 years of Jamaican Independence.
Nonetheless, Simms said he is anticipating JYC's performance at the World Choir Games.
"I am excited! The JYC has grown so much in three years with a unique and brilliant tone and style. The talent in the group in phenomenal and the members are gearing up and working hard for gold. We have performed locally to much acclaim and commendation," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I expect the best for Jamaica. I not only want us to win Olympic gold in sport but also in the arts."
CAPTION: Members of the Jamaica Youth Chorale sing at the National Service of Thanksgiving for Jamaica's 50th Independence Anniversary Restorative Justice Week 2012 - "One people, One Spirit, One Justice" - at Phillipo Baptist Church, 9 William Street, Spanish Town on Sunday, February 5. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer