Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
The Cari-Folk Singers opened its 2012 concert season with a classy show at The Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Avenue, on Friday night. It's a pity that only two more shows were scheduled - one on Saturday and the other on Sunday.
Titled All Tings Jamaican, the show deserves to be seen by many more people than could be accommodated in one weekend. Certainly, Friday's audience loved the performances as frequent applause, continual laughter, and dancing in seats indicated.
There are four sections to the concert. Small Days presents visual and aural snapshots of 'ole time' school days. Checkerman to Ducta takes us on a journey through the decades of life on and around a banana plantation, in a small community, to the train station and on to a bus as crammed as the proverbial sardine can.
Festival consists of eight popular Festival Song competition winners. Mento, as its name suggests, is a mento song segment, and Revival takes us to a Revival meeting, complete with Revival table, colourful apparel, and soulful singing.
The harbinger of the delights that were to come was the front-of-curtain rendition of the national anthem by about 10 of the group.
They were dressed as schoolchildren, an intrinsically amusing spectacle, of course, considering that the Cari-Folk Singers as a group has been around for 39 years, though some members are clearly under 40.
However, the anthem was delivered with not only the requisite reverence, but also with poignant vocal beauty, and it was apparent from that initial item that professionals were responsible for the show. A perusal of the programme confirmed the impression.
Musical direction was by a quartet of well-known musicians: Asley 'Grub' Cooper, Godfrey Taylor, Angela Elliott, and Vela Lawrence. The artistic director was Carol Miller, who also doubled as co-choreographer, along with Patsy Ricketts. Karen Bellamy was responsible for the many beautifully designed, multi-coloured costumes.
Transported to schoolyard
With the opening of the curtain, the audience is transported to a schoolyard filled with 20-odd uniformed 'children' and two stern-faced, straight-backed teachers. Poems by Claude McKay and Louise Bennett are recited and songs, including Ball Gone Roun, Nanny Nanny, and Ole Mass Charlie, are sung in the yard.
Other songs take us into the classroom - songs like Recitation, Teacha Like de Gal, and Tingalingaling. Then it's back outside for Punchinella and Manuel Road.
Throughout the show, the directors follow the well-known communication axiom "show and tell," and always the singing, which tells us what is going on, is accompanied by dancing and movement. The intricate floor patterns and the great number of movements - walking, skipping, running, swirling, swaying; in pairs, in small groups and large ones, and on varying levels and sections of the stage - provide continuous visual interest.
Also providing aural delight throughout is the fine music of the band - Jermaine Gordon, Raynor Lazarus, Phillip Cross, and Stanislaus Logan.
Playing their guitars, drums, and keyboard, they both accompany the singers, and, on occasion, provide instrumental interludes while the singers change costumes. The playing is as good as the singing.
With 14 songs, the Checkerman to Ducta segment is the longest. It begins with a plaintive Day O, as the banana cutters express their longing for home. During the segment, the mood shifts from solemn (with songs like Liza) to bouncy (with Buggy Bruk) to humorous (with Blinkin Bus).
Optimism and patriotism are expressed throughout the entire Festival section with songs like Donald Wright's Born Jamaican, Ernie Smith's Play di Music, Grub Cooper's Give Thanks and Praises, and Winston Wallace's Land of My Birth.
Man-woman relationships of varying kinds are portrayed in the Mento section, and there was much laughter during songs like Aizuzuwah (featuring a fickle girlfriend), Don't Fence Her In, Lignum Vitae and Healin in di Balmyard.
There is powerful spirituality in the Revival segment, but the Jamaican penchant for finding the humorous in serious situations prevents sentimentality, and sincerity is mixed with laughter as the nine songs of the meeting are sung. They include I am Under de Rock, I Must Have the Saviour With Me, and I Know a God.
Last month, the Cari-Folk Singers performed for the Jamaican/Caribbean community in Edmonton, Alberta, as part of Canada's Jamaica 50 celebrations. There are tens of thousands of Jamaicans in other parts of North America and the United Kingdom who would appreciate the memories of old-time Jamaica that the show evokes.
It would be wonderful if some promoters could arrange the productions. All Tings Jamaican deserves to be exported for a tour.