Fri | Dec 3, 2021

For the Reckord:The life of Folk Singer Joyce Meeks, celebrated musically

Published:Friday | April 19, 2019 | 12:15 AMMichael Reckord -
St Hilda's Choir and Alumnae, singing at the rememberance service of former student, Joyce Meeks.
St Hilda's Choir and Alumnae, singing at the rememberance service of former student, Joyce Meeks.

There was nothing mournful about the funeral service for the late Jamaican Folk singer, Joyce Meeks. In fact, the service held last Saturday at the Temple of Light Centre For Spiritual Living, was termed a "celebration of life".

It was predominantly music, and the spoken word was totally joyful. The service began with musical tributes by The Jamaican Folk Singers, which Meeks joined early in its 50 plus year old history, when it was led by founder Olive Lewin. The group performed four mainly up-beat songs; Slave Lament, John Saw the Glory, Gran Time and Oil in My Lamp. Later, in a more sombre vein, they sang: She’s Gone to Paradise, Yu Going to Wipe Your Weepin’ Eyes, Don’t Weep After Me and Some Day (I’ll Go Where Jesus Is). The singing was accompanied by piano, drums and tambourines.

Two tribute songs also came from the St Hilda’s School Choir and Alumnae; Peter Tosh’s Jah is My Keeper, and the school hymn, O God Creator.

The poem - Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, which was read by Meeks’ grandchildren Seya and Anya Lewis-Meeks, capped the official entertainment for the morning.

However, the main speakers were also in an uplifting mood. In delivering the remembrance, Meeks’ nephew, Professor Brian Meeks, spoke of “the remarkable, effervescent story of the joyful life of Joyce Meeks,” who had an inborn sense of right and wrong, and constantly searched for equality. The death of her parents early in her life, taught her that it was imperative to enjoy time with her family and friends.

She attended St Hilda’s High School in Brown’s Town, St Ann, where there was a culture of independence, uprightness, loyalty to those who deserved it, and feistiness. Professor Meeks said those qualities were already “fermenting in young Joyce,” but were enhanced by life at St Hilda’s.

After high school, she went to work with John Crooks, a car business associated with the Lascelles companies. There she worked her entire adult life, becoming one of the first persons in the island to operate a computer - at that time the size of a small room.

What is your purpose?

Meeks was still with the Jamaican Folk Singers when it came under the leadership of Christine MacDonald-Nevers, and she stayed with the group until near the end of her life. She was also passionate about other groups she joined: the Scottish Dancers; the Georgian Society, which regularly toured the island to look at old buildings; and the Anglican Church, specifically the Diocesan choir of which she was a member.

She always had time for family and friends, Prof Meeks said, and was a woman of “love, laughter and kindness,” and also a woman of faith who “daily and hourly, lived that faith.” She never married, and her family gained immeasurably from this, Professor Meeks said.

Paster of the church, Reverend John Scott, had as the theme of his sermon, the question, “What is Your Purpose in Life?” He said that each person is given a divine mission - to know and love the presence of God in fellow human beings. “Think today as we celebrate Joyce Meeks, what is your purpose, what did you come here to accomplish, and are you giving it your all?” He said that each person has gifts to share with the world, and in the case of the Folk Singers and Joyce Meeks, it was their musical ability.

He said that Joyce Meeks had an attitude of kindness, mercy, forgiveness, humility and self-respect, which were the “Be-attitudes,” and the “attitudes of being” that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount.

Those attitudes, he said, Meeks has taken with her on the next step of her onward journey. It was Jesus, he said, who taught that death is not a final experience, that life continues after we have put off the earthly garment of our bodies.

The Jamaican Folk Singers closed the service with the popular Evenin’ Time.