Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
With 27 years under its belt, the Portmore Chorale is no stranger to the Jamaican gospel circle.
Last Sunday, the non-denominational group of gifted vocalists and its small band of musicians presented one of two concerts titled 'He's A Mighty God'.
The chosen venue was the Harbour View-based St Mark's Methodist Church, and those who came out were blessed and entertained with fine singing of familiar and unfamiliar songs of the Yuletide season.
"Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place" the group aptly sang to commence its set. The words came from the Israel Haughton-arranged Surely.
The song was followed by an opening prayer and welcome from MC Calene Clarke. Subsequently, joined by guest performers and the congregation, the chorale continued its musical ministry.
no same old, same old
"We always try to do new things. We don't like to do the same old, same old that everybody has sung and exhausted," explained the chorale's assistant director Karen Henry.
Change is sometimes not accepted the way it should, but the Portmore Chorale's need to be different has not been an issue.
"We haven't had a problem so far. In fact, almost every season someone comes up and say 'Oh my God, I love that song. I have never heard it. Where can I get a copy?' That's the kind of experience we have had," Henry told The Gleaner.
Further boosted by guest conductor, the Reverend Clinton Chisholm's philosophy, "If you are not moved by music you are dead", part one had the congregation rocking to the unfamiliar David Schmidt-arranged Christ is Returning, Joseph M. Martin's dynamically arranged Bethlehem Promise, Bethlehem Joy, Carol of Christmas Joy, arranged by David Lantz III, and another wonderful arrangement, Paean Promise from Martin.
The trend of unfamiliar songs continued in the second half of the concert to delightful effect, with a lovely rendition of Through the Night, arranged by Lee Dengler, and God is a Spirit, arranged by William S. Bennett.
During the Ian C. Brown-arranged What If God, the group, with a change of costumes and a moving rendition, advised the congregation, "We must change the way we walk; we must change the way we talk."
The familiar Frederic Handel-arranged Behold the Lamb and Hallelujah Chorus were on the programme and given classical treatment.
The enjoyable concert also saw fantastic performances from Jasmine French, who gave a strong rendition of O Holy Night, and Micahail Gordon tantalised the audience on piano, with a medley of Christmas songs.
Later, Gordon joined Norman Perrin (on organ) to the unmistakable sounds of the classic Bridge Over Troubled Water.
But it was the performance by the group called the Fabulous Four that warmed the hearts of all.
With a heartfelt interpretation of De Virgin Mary, the four - four-year-old children of four of the members of the chorale - sang their little hearts out. In so doing, the quartet won fans along the way.
The congregation was also invited to participate in the singing of the Patti Drennan-arranged The First Noel, I Heard Bells on Christmas Day and Joy to the World. This was refreshingly different.
The Portmore Chorale's second concert will be at the Hellshire United Church tomorrow evening. It is well worth attending.