Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
For two consecutive years, singer Myrna Hague has presented an all-star musical cast and top-notch production in a concert series titled 'Simply Myrna'. Next March the shows will be on again in Mandeville and Kingston, but Hague's vocal skills and engaging personality are now accessible outside of the physical concert setting.
At the recent launch of the 2013 'Simply Myrna' series, held at the Four Seasons Hotel, New Kingston, The Best of Simply Myrna Concerts Live was also launched. The 12 tracks are taken from the past two seasons and there are plans to also present live material from the shows next March.
Len Crooks, who is responsible for getting the recordings done by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) and the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) to the finished product stage, roots the CD in the concerts' impact. He said the decision was taken "when we saw the turnout and we heard it (the recordings) and I wanted her to do something to have out on the market".
Among the songs on The Best of Simply Myrna Concerts Live are I'm Coming Home, Chouconne, The Music Plays, Whatever Lola Wants, Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes (led by Dean Fraser) and Send in the Clowns. Bob Andy's Honey, which appears on the CD, is also given studio treatment in a separate release. Crooks said "hearing her from the live CD, she did such a good job on Honey, we decided we wanted the song to get radio play. We asked Bob for his permission, we got it and it was all arranged by Ralph Holding Jr."
While the live recordings from JIS and PBCJ were already edited, putting together the CD had its own challenges. It was done at Fab Five Band's Stage facility, Crooks saying "we sat down with the engineer for quite a while … . We had to bring up the bass and guitar, clean up voices and so on". The CDs were pressed in Toronto, where Crooks has done lots of music work.
"I think it is different and I don't hear anything like it," Crooks said of the CD, "she talks in it and it is like she is in the show. I chose a mixture of songs - ballads, old standards, jazz standards."
First live cd
Hague told The Gleaner that it is her first live CD. As the decision to put out a live recording had not been taken before the concerts, Hague said no special effort had been taken to ensure that the performances were suitable for release. "What is there is how I am," Hague said.
A couple preferred songs were left out as "you can't put everything. That is why it is called 'The Best of Simply Myrna'". Among those which did not make it this time around is If I Ruled the World.
And although there are plans to release material from the 2013 Simply Myrna series, Hague said she will not be treating the concerts like a live recording. "My priority is the show. My audience is always my priority. I will pick songs that make for a good show. When that is done we will take the best songs we agree on. I am not recording a live album, I am doing a show," Hague said.
"Performing is my joy. My audience is my joy."
Asking the musicians to be at their very best is not a requirement, as Hague pointed out "the musicians I am with are people who want to do their very best all the time. That is how Marjorie, Desi, Rupert Bent and all the others perform".
Hague said she is happy with The Best of Simply Myrna Concerts Live. "I am a chance taker. I am at a stage in my career where I can take chances. I am jumping in feet first and just want to enjoy my career right now - enjoy my audiences, enjoy the music, enjoy my career," she said.