Gifts and music given by Renaissance String Quartet
Group thrills at Beyond Boundaries at UWI Chapel
Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms proved less popular than Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Ashbourne and Daniel Hass at a concert in the University Chapel, Mona, last Thursday evening. Music by the two groups of composers was presented in the different halves of the concert by a New York City ensemble, Renaissance String Quartet.
The members are violinists Randall Goosby and Jeremiah Blacklow; violist Jameel Martin; and cellist Daniel Hass. Though all look about the same age as 26-year-old Goosby, all are graduates of NYC’s Juilliard School of Music and have considerable experience playing at national and international shows.
The audience’s response to the classical compositions in the first half was certainly favourable, and it showed that the pieces were being enjoyed, so, the Jamaica Red Cross and Immaculate Conception High School (ICHS), sponsors of the event, might have already begun congratulating themselves on a successful project. But the audience’s enthusiastic applause at the end of the show would’ve made them ecstatic.
Of course, a European audience without the natural love of the Jamaican works might have reacted differently to the compositions. In Part 1, they were: Mozart – Quartet No 14 in G major, K. 387 (three movements); Beethoven – Quartet Opus 59, No 1 in F Major (the Allegro), and Quartet Opus 18 No 1 in F Major (the Adagio); Brahms – Quartet No 2 in A Minor (the 4th movement), Finale Allegro non assi.
One member of the quartet called those selections “the more serious, heavier” fare as opposed to the “lighter” pieces which came after the intermission.
Among those listed in the printed programme were Ashbourne’s medley initially written when he was 14 for a Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competition and later reworked. The traditional folk songs referenced are the popular Dis Long Time Gal Mi Neva See Yu, My Love Would You ‘low me to Pick a Rose? and Mango Walk. The applause and cheers that the piece received was the most sustained up to that point. In fact, it might have been the most sustained for the entire evening, but if it were it did not beat the other tunes by much.
Hass, a prolific composer and songwriter, used his arranging skills on Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross and Marley’s Satisfy My Soul. The former was given a poignant interpretation, with lots of long, wailing notes. With the latter, Hass went for a percussive feel, even though, he said, the quartet had no drums. The body of the cello was used as a substitute – quite satisfactorily.
Hass’ own work, Quartet No. 1, Love and Levity (two movements), is an avant-garde work referencing the sounds and moods of New York. Naturally, it is full of variety, with loud, dramatic passages and soft, soothing ones. The audience loved it and they rose to give the quartet a standing ovation as the items listed in the programme were completed.
But there was brawta, an unlisted, gentle, melodious composition by African-American composer Florence Rice. We heard the amazing story that the score was found, along with others, in Rice’s house after she died and demolition was about to begin.
Part of the proceeds from the concert are due to go to helping the Red Cross, now celebrating 75 years in Jamaica, in its many activities in its 13 branches across the island. Also to be helped is the ICHS Orchestra, which had already benefitted from a day-long workshop by the quartet, as well as from gifts of violin strings, a bow and a cello case.