Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
It was an emotional trip down memory lane at the Jamaican Folk Singers 2013 Concert Season, held at the Little Theatre, Tom Redcam Drive, St Andrew, over the weekend. From its rich repertoire spanning various themes the group (founded by the late Dr Olive Lewin) produced a programme designed to not only reflect the subject matter of their songs, but also highlight the drama of the pieces.
Additionally, the use of creative movement, colourful costumes and appropriate sets and props enhanced the songs considerably.
On Saturday, the Jamaican Folk Singers presented six acts - Work, Games, Court, Tribute, Love and Celebration. After an announced singing of the National Anthem by the ensemble, Work commenced with the song Alligator. Alas, in spite of its spectacular visual beginning with the females - baskets held above their heads and wearing aprons over coloured dresses - standing in silhouette, it did not generate the response from the audience as did the more familiar Mumma Me Wah Wuk and Calabash.
On the other hand, the creative performance and humorous ending of Checkman, performed by the male singers who were dressed in assorted coloured merino tops and black pants, elicited the strongest applause.
But it was songs such as Jane and Louisa, Tread Oh and Rocky Road, performed in the act Game that caused audience member Hyacinth Ricketts to remember recess time during her elementary school days. Perhaps the jolt in Ricketts memory was due to the participation of children in this act. Dressed for physical education sessions the children were alternately participants in and observers of songs such as In A' Out and Madda Rolan. The act ended with an audience teaser.
While playfulness was the core of Games, at the heart of the Court was humour.
Jamaican Folk Singers first-timers Mikhail Sinclair and University of the West Indies (UWI) student Shanique Edunchie both thought the show was good.
"It was definitely an eye-opener for me, being young. It was very enjoyable, more than I expected. It was very hilarious," said Edunchie. Sinclair, on his first visit to a theatre, said "I enjoyed it, especially the lines that say yuh lie, yuh lie."
He was referring to the opening song of the act, Tell A Lie. Also contributing to the memorable act was Franklyn 'Chappie' St Juste's practical set and director Brian Heap's constant changing of stage pictures.
Other songs which generated humour in the act were the cantankerous Peep in a Mi Pot and Missa Potta, the hilariously delivered Rio Grande and the culminating Cum Out a Mi Yaad, sang by an exasperated judge.
Tribute, on the other hand, was more sombre. Placed on various levels in two clusters, the Jamaican Folk Singers began with She Gaan and included Lilly of the Valley, The Lost Chord and Ride the Chariot in this section. The pre-intermision act was in homage to Lewin. Projected images of her and a restriction in the performers' movements - the women's heads wrapped in Lewin's signature style helped create a quiet mood.
The placement and the delivery of the songs, all arranged by Dr Lewin, were not lost on Educhie, who thought "The storyline was more effective. You could see that they meant it."
A brief closure of the curtains and change of costumes made way for acts of Love and Celebration. Often grouped in pairs placed in an open formation, in Love, the singers entertained with dramatic flair. They sang the story of Angelina, Lizzie Jane, Fe me Love and Eyes Don't See, among others.
A well choreographed movement by Paula Shaw reinforced the joyful ending. It was titled Celebration and, according to the programme note, the Jamaican Folk Singers continues to give thanks for blessing over their 46 years of existence. They ended with the kumina selections Kumina to Kumina and Guinea War.