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Reggae goes Opera at Edna Manley today

Published:Wednesday | June 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Franklin Halliburton
Father Richard Ho Lung
Michael Sean Harris
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Music Unites Jamaica Foundation, in collaboration with the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, is presenting 'Reggae goes Opera - A Reasoning with Music', today at 6 p.m.

The event, set for the Edna Manley College's Vera Moody Concert Hall, will feature Jamaican composers who have written and/or produced music in the innovative fusion of reggae and opera, or written a genuine opera.

In researching facts for the upcoming presentation, organisers found that three Jamaican composers had finished composing an opera in Jamaica this year:

Franklin Halliburton, conductor of the University Singers, wrote 1865, a short opera based on the Morant Bay Rebellion, which was premiered on May 25 at the opening night of the University Singers' 2012 Concert Season.

Franklin and the University Singers will demonstrate a short excerpt. Andrew Marshall, founder of the Jamaican Choral Scholars Workshop, composed Hardtalk, which will have its premiere on June 10 at the Institute of Jamaica Lecture Theatre. He will also be giving inside information on his composition, musically enhanced by the workshop participants.

2009 reggae opera

Father Ho Lung previously wrote a Jam Reggae Opera back in 2009, and his musical director Wynton Williams will speak about this production with a musical sample sung by vocalist Symone Thomas.

Last, but not least, a work long in the making will be presented to the public at this event, the reggae opera Mikey, which will be premiered on October 10 2012, at the Philip Sherlock Centre with performances through to October 21. There will be no performances on October 8 and 16.

Michael Sean Harris, the tenor designated to sing the lead role, will perform one of the signature tunes from Mikey. The director-designate, Brian Heap, will also make a presentation on opera and its relevance to Jamaica in 2012.

The amazing thing is that each composer wrote these phenomenal works without knowing of each others' intentions. This demonstrates another turning point in the Jamaican music history and practice. It was long in coming, but what is internationally known as classical or art music, is becoming a vibrant practice with very Jamaican features. In other words, the common belief that classical music is only an imported art form has no more value, and the content of teaching music will have to be amended.