Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
The sixth concert in the annual Music Through the Ages series was hosted by the Jamaica American Friendship Association (JAFA) on Sunday. Staged as usual at the University Chapel, Mona, the concert maintained the high standard set by its predecessors.
Among other things, the proceeds of the JAFA shows provide bursaries for selected students attending the University of the West Indies. A number of crowd-pleasers from past shows reappeared on Sunday - not only performers, but also the friendly, informative emcee Norma Brown-Bell.
As the printed programme did not contain biographies of the nearly 20 performers - or the main accompanists, Ann McNamee and Livingston Burnett - the quick sketches she gave of their musical lives helped the audience to relate to them more.
It was interesting, for example, to consider the progress that the teenager Jheanelle Owens, the first performer of a named piece - Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 2 - would have made after starting violin studies with Stephen Woodham at age 7. Her competent playing drew much applause.
Trio of children
The next item was by the Williams trio, who were the children, Brown-Bell told us - along with a little of their history - of popular performer-composer Jon Williams. The three (Imani - violin, Jovani - violin and Jon Kristof - guitar) played Gerardo Matos Rodriques' very dramatic La Cumparsita.
Next, accompanied on piano by his father, Jovani played Severa's more restrained Polish Dance.
Michael Sutherland, a member of the Jamaican Folk Singers, who, Brown-Bell said, had been singing for as long as he could remember, was far from folksy as he sang Handel's Leave Me Loathsome Light.
His sonorous bass voice was suitably gloomy as he rendered the pessimistic song.
Happily, Shani Duncan, a third-year medical student, raised our spirits again with her charming violin version of the lovely Carry Your Candle (Go Light Your World).
The mix of professional and amateur musicians continued as Duncan was followed by the popular Rory Baugh, whose powerful tenor never fails to delight audiences. With Burnett on piano accompanying him, Baugh expressively sang the poignant Ombra Ma Fui by Handel.
Another professional, Gay Magnus, a lecturer in percussion at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMC), brought an unusual dimension to the concert with her playing of the religious piece Lamb of God on her tenor steel pan.
Performer and teacher Carole Reid teamed with Jodi HoLung (a banker by day, said Brown-Bell) for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu.
Burnett, who accompanied their glorious soprano voices on piano, then yielded the instrument to McNamee to play for well-known tenor John McFarlane (who has been singing from he was four) as he performed O Sole Mio.
The sublime Love Changes Everything, enchantingly sung by Reid and Baugh, closed the first half of the concert on a (literally) high note. And the audience audibly agreed with Brown-Bell's comment, "What a beautiful way to end the first half."
All the performers returned after the intermission to again delight the audience, but there were also some newcomers.
The first was guitarist Shawn Richards, an EMC lecturer, who played three well-received pieces. They included two Jamaican pieces - Ring Games Medley and Dis Long Time Gal - which were particularly well liked.
The second new act was the Nexus choir conducted by founder Hugh Douse. A group with many prizes on their shelves - including gold, silver and bronze awards from the World Choir Games - they were impressive in all three items they performed, especially Peter Tosh's Jah is My Keeper.
Every one of the 13 listed items in the second half was excellently presented. They included the energy-filled Funicula Funucula, sung by a trio comprising Sutherland, McFarlane and Baugh; HoLung's singing of Popular from the musical Wicked, McFarlane's haunting delivery of The Last Farewell, and Reid's lovely rendition of Schubert's Ave Maria.
One item that stood out because it was so humorous was the HoLung-Baugh duet, The Song That Goes Like This.
The show's finale saw all the performers back on stage singing the heartfelt Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand, Make This World a Better Place If You Can.
The applause greeting the final song certainly suggested that, for a while at least, the world had become a better place.