MUJF/Austria unite to celebrate Jamaican composer Samuel Felsted
Concert at Kingston Parish Church March 29
The historic Kingston Parish Church, located in the heart of Jamaica’s downtown commercial district, will on Tuesday, March 29 host a concert to celebrate Jamaica’s first documented composer, Samuel Felsted, who died 220 years ago.
A collaboration between Jamaica and Austria, the concert is being held under the patronage of Austrian Ambassador Sylvia Meier-Kajbic and is the initiative of Austrian-born Rosina Christina Moder, executive director of Music Unites Jamaica Foundation (MUJF).
Moder, who has been performing and teaching in Jamaica since 1985, said the opportunity to stage such a concert came at a time when Jamaica celebrates its 60th year of Independence and at the same time 60 years of diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Austria.
Samuel Felsted is known in music circles to have written the very first oratorio in the entire Western Hemisphere. It is titled Jonah. What is even more fascinating about this event is that Austria’s prominent organist, Franz Zebinger, has recorded for the first time ever, Samuel Felsted’s complete set of Six Voluntarys for Organ or Harpsichord, which will be launched on YouTube for worldwide viewing just before the evening concert titled Abendmusiken at Church Mariahilf in Graz, Austria.
It was the intention of MUJF to invite Zebinger to perform in Jamaica at the Kingston Parish Church, the origin of Felsted’s composition while he served as organist from 1783, up until his passing on March 29, 1802, but due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, that plan had to be shelved. However, during this time, Zebinger recorded the six organ pieces on the baroque organ at the Marienkirche in Gleisdorf, a town in the Austrian Province of Styria.
The free public concert at the Kingston Parish Church starts at 1 p.m. Jamaica time. The event will be live streamed from the concert Abendmusiken, which is taking place simultaneously at the Church Mariahilf in Graz, Austria. For all who are not able to attend this lunch-hour concert, it will be broadcast locally by PBCJ and worldwide streamed at a date to be announced.
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the National Chorale of Jamaica will perform the Final Chorus from the oratorio Jonah, the Jamaican Hallelujah, composed by Samuel Felsted, featuring soprano Christine McDonald and tenor John McFarlane, accompanied by the organist of the Kingston Parish Church, Dwight McBean. The concert will also feature Jamaica’s accomplished musician/composer Peter Ashbourne’s new composition Jamaica Fair, being performed by the intriguing voice of boy soprano, Oscar Kremer.
Ashbourne’s composition for String Quartet, Jamaica Folk, and his recorder compositions Elena and her Variations and Crystal Spring will be a highlight of the presentation at the church in Austria, alongside four of Felsted’s Organ Voluntarys.
Moder will return to her homeland to be a part of the performance which also will feature KorneliaPilz, one of her former star recorder students, and two young Jamaican musicians, bass player Alvis Reid and pianist Luke Dixon, both of whom now reside in Austria.
For over a decade MUJF has pursued groundbreaking research on the life and works of Jamaican composers, which was made possible by a grant from the Jamaica National Foundation. One of the milestone goals of the Foundation’s executive director was to make the two preserved works by Felsted – Jonah and the Six Voluntarys for Organ or Harpsichord – available for purchase. Argentinian-German Professor Manfredo Zimmermann has recently published these on www.musicornaments.com.