Songs of healing, candlelight service to honour COVID-19 fallen soldiers
National Chorale to perform at St Theresa’s
Songs that speak to healing, the resilience of the human spirit, and the Christian belief of life after death will echo throughout the St Theresa Roman Catholic Church in Vineyard Town on Wednesday, August 4, at a thanksgiving and candlelight ceremony to honour fallen soldiers of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Musical director of the National Chorale of Jamaica (NCOJ), Winston Ewart, is now in production mode for the service, which will have an in-person as well as a virtual format on Zoom and various social media platforms.
“We are in this pandemic, and people are dying all around us, but relatives and friends did not get an opportunity to give their loved ones a final farewell. We thought about the need for compassion and to bring some sort of healing, and we hope to do that through this service of songs and the symbolic lighting of the candles from custodes representing all 14 parishes in Jamaica,” Ewart shared.
Among the dignitaries who will be in attendance at the service, which starts at 4 p.m., will be Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, who will lead the candle-lighting ceremony; Dr Howard K. A. Gregory, Archbishop of the West Indies; Reverend Kenneth Richards, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kingston’ and officiating priest, Father Walter Dorsey. The service will unfold under the theme ‘Celebrating the Resilience and Unity of the Human Spirit’.
CHOICE OF VENUE
Ewart noted that the choice of St Theresa’s as the venue for the function was deliberate. “We, as a chorale, do perform there on occasion, but what makes it so special is that they recently installed a baptismal pool. The pool is symbolic of the start of life, and at the service, it will be surrounded by the candles. Each custode will walk up to the pool, light their candles and then walk down to where there will be a big map of Jamaica and place the candle on the parish he or she is representing. This will be a very solemn and unhurried portion of the service. Additionally, those on Zoom will be able to light their candles, and they will be a part of the spotlight,” he said.
The musical director is pleased with the progress of the rehearsals and the selections of songs, which includes the Negro spiritual, I Stood on the River Jordan, arranged by Moses Hogan, an American composer who died at an early age (not of COVID). “Some people were asking, ‘Why not do the Hallelujah Chorus?’ And while I must admit that the Hallelujah Chorus is nice, we are black people – or people of colour as the Americans would say – and Negro spirituals are part of our heritage. On the plantations, the slaves were not allowed to talk to each other, but they would sing. During the candle-lighting ceremony, we will be humming the song, and towards the end, the words will burst forth,” Ewart said dramatically.
Also on the programme is a masterpiece by John Rutter, which the students of Central Branch, Excelsior, and Jessie Ripoll Primary Schools will join with the chorale in singing. “We want to hear children sounding like children to join us in singing What Sweeter Music and Look at the World, which looks at the beauty of creation and the bountiful harvest,” the director said.
Other musical selections include Walter B. Gilbert’s Pleasant Are Thy Courts Above, featuring Christine MacDonald, leader of the Jamaican Folk Singers.
Chairman of the NCOJ, Christopher Samuda, stated that “the magnitude of grief and devastation which the COVID-19 pandemic has created and continues to create in the lives of families is difficult to describe in words, and sometimes we feel a sense of helplessness whenever we try to express and give support in a surreal experience such as this one. This has impelled members of the NCOJ to unite as a family and to extend our own hands of love and compassion in the way we know best – in the beauty of our voices in songs of everlasting praise.”
In closing, Ewards declared, “It will be a fitting tribute to those who have gone by. We are not focusing on death. We are God’s creations, and we are people of hope.”
Sponsors of this event are The Gleaner Company Limited; the Jamaica National Group; the D & G Foundation; Cari-Med Group Limited; Dovecot Memorial Park; Archer Cummings, attorneys-at-law; the Jamaica Observer and Security Securities Limited.
Watch the virtual service and participate in the candle-lighting ceremony by logging on to YouTube Link: bit.ly/natchoraleservice . People who wish to light a candle during the service should join the Zoom Meeting through ID: 483 024 8686 and Passcode: 8686. Viewers may also log on to the Facebook pages of the National Chorale of Jamaica and the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica.