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YOA Orchestra produces classical music excellence

Published:Monday | July 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer

The YOA Orchestra of the Americas has officially ruptured the fissure that existed for classical music in the Jamaican landscape, thanks to an overwhelmingly magnificent performance, enhanced by several reggae classics, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre last Saturday night.

Led by renowned Mexican conductor, Carlos Miguel Prieto, The Gleaner-sponsored affair delivered orchestral presentation at its best, featuring a rich blend of idolised selections from accomplished composers Georges Bizet, Giulio Caccini, Gilbert and Sullivan, Pyotr Llyich Tchaikovsky, Ludwig van Beethoven and Jamaica's own Peter Ashbourne.

Prieto's expert guidance of the orchestra produced a near-perfect delivery during every selection, with sudden tempo changes in the musical flow, creating simultaneous feelings of calmness and excitement throughout the audience.

breath of fresh air

Whereas selections from Carmen, including Aragonaise, Habanera and Les Toreadors, were perhaps, by far, the most familiar to concert goers, all were completely enjoyable and provided a welcomed breath of fresh air in a musical landscape, often dominated by lewd and uninspiring lyrics.

In fact, with audience members ranging from old to the very young, Saturday night's show served as a strong indication that Jamaica has indeed rounded the corner in acceptance of classical music.

And what would an orchestral performance in Jamaica be without a Jamaican performer? Soloist Ana Strachan masterly answered that question with soprano renditions of Ave Maria and Poor Wand'ring One.


Branded as "a voice destined to resound in great halls and cathedrals". Strachan showed great technique in her delivery, her voice carrying a range of emotions which further authenticated the lyrics. In true Jamaican fashion, Strachan's performance resulted in loud cheers from the audience, briefly transforming the traditionally hushed orchestra audience into wild party-goers, with some even giving her a standing ovation.

Canadian violinist Yolanda Bruno, who performed a complete set, created a magical atmosphere with her recital of Allegro Moderato, Canzonetta: Andante and Finale: Allegro Vivacissimo; with her face carrying the intensity of the passages throughout her set.

But the best was still yet to come. Officially ending with Peter Ashbourne's Pass Di Ball, Prieto showed he has a humorous side by trying, without success, to introduce the selection in true Jamaican dialect. In the end, he had to call on Digicel's Joy Clarke to do the correct pronunciation.

And unbeknownst to the audience, the orchestra had a special surprise in store: a 20-minute encore, filled with Bob Marley classics such as No Woman Nuh Cry, Don't Worry and Who Shot the Sheriff, performed with several of the orchestra players donning Rastafarian wigs and hats.

Of course, at this point, there was no holding back the audience, who responded with clapping and loud cheers. The excitement was further heightened by a team of local dancers, who added superb rhythm to the tunes.

The perfect evening ended on a high, with several of the players going offstage to join in the dance party that was happening at the front of the stage. The members also brandished their varying country flags, of which there were at least four in Jamaican colours.

Caribbean Producers Limited, Rainforest Seafoods, Digicel, Supreme Ventures, Jamaica National and Island Outpost, were some of the event's other sponsors.