Sir Willard White for NCOJ golden jubilee concert
World-renowned bass-baritone Sir Willard White has been confirmed as one of the special guest performers at The University of the West Indies Mona Chapel in St Andrew on August 21 as the National Chorale of Jamaica (NCOJ) continues to mark its milestone 50th anniversary.
White, who is Jamaican, will be accompanied by his wife, soprano Lady Sylvia Kevorkian-White. The performance starts at 6 p.m. and is under the patronage of Sir Kenneth Hall, governor general of Jamaica and Lady Hall.
Musical director-conductor Winston Ewart said the achievement of the NCOJ’s 50 years “reflected the dedication of the founding group, convened on the encouragement of the late Geoffrey Fairweather and his then-wife Jean, to the very highest standards of excellence”.
“This sterling occasion will be made even more special by the reunion of some of the very fine voices that have performed with the chorale over the years. It will be a special treat for the audience.”
Born in humble circumstances, White trained at the Jamaica School of Music before moving to New York. In May of 1971, he made his debut as the runaway slave Jim in Hall Overton’s opera Huckleberry Finn. He next appeared in the New York City Opera production of La Boheme (1974).
His English debut came in 1976 with the English National Opera as Seneca in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazi di Poppea, having also starred alongside Leona Mitchell that year in the first truly complete recording of Porgy and Bess. He has since graced the world’s major opera houses and music festivals. White’s voice was featured in the Oscar-winning biopic Amadeus in 2019.
Mezzo-soprano Sylvia Kevorkian entered the National Conservatoire Superieur de Paris and there began to excel as a vocal performer. She has been featured as a performer in the Valkyrie by Wagner, Parisian Life by Offenbach and many other noted classical works.
The couple’s repertoire will include Schubert’s Der Wanderer; Mozart’s Madamina; excerpts from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; Puccini’s Vissi d’Arte, and Vissi d’Amore, among others.
The 50th anniversary observances will also include other performances of major works and an exhibition to showcase the group’s journey from 1972 until the present.
While patrons are enjoying an exquisite evening of music, they will be contributing to the preservation of classical and choral music and assisting the NCOJ in renewing scholarships to gifted music students.
The NCOJ is hosting the concert in association with the Jamaica National Group.