There was loud applause and cheers as the Immaculate Conception High School Symphony Orchestra (ICHS SO) concluded the first of its two concerts at Jamaica College last Sunday. The audience loved the show, and comment on it The Sunday Reader was in the superlative:
“It couldn’t have been better.” The problem was that it came from Steven Woodham.
Admittedly, his musical expertise would have been second to none in the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium, the venue for the concert, and in other circumstances he would have been the quintessential adviser. But then he was the coach and conductor of the orchestra and probably biased.
However, his subsequent observations were instructive. “They (the Immaculate Girls) are wonderful students, very talented. We Jamaicans need to have higher expectations of ourselves. We do it with our athletes. Why not in every other area of our lives as well?”
Similar sentiments were shared by Althea Byll-Cataria, chair of the concert’s organizers’ fundraising committee, the ICHS class of ’72. Referring to the teamwork that went into organizing the concert, she said, “By working together, we can make a deep impression on the world. We want that (development) for Jamaica and in this room I have a glimpse of Jamaica’s future. It’s brilliant.”
Her remarks were preceded by videotaped remarks by the concert’s patron, Professor Shirley Thompson, a world-renowned London-based musician of Jamaican descent. She had observed and even assisted in rehearsals of the ICH SO when she recently visited Jamaica.
After the Chairman’s remarks, the Immaculate Chamber Ensemble took the stage to kick off the musical part of the evening. The ensemble, which was quite large and filled the stage, performed five plays, two of which were written locally.
The first Jamaican item was that of Dr. Mikhail Johnson misery for string orchestraa solemn composition full of dramatic sounds, based on a Latin prayer that begins, “May the Lord have mercy on you.” In contrast, the mood of the second, Paulette Bellamy’s arrangement Daylight on the Solas market — a combination of two traditional mento pieces, Solas Market and Day-O – was light and bouncy.
From Allison Wallace, who was a bubbly MC all night, we got the treat of the original Solas Market was replaced by the present Coronation Market in downtown Kingston. Wallace is an Instructor at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and Director of the ICHS Glee Club.
The earlier compositions are by Brendan McBrien Three outdoor sketchesa work in three atmospheric movements; work song, Dusk, and people and machines. Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Elephant for double bass and strings featured Hailey Cunningham as the double bass soloist, while the third composition was Bach’s Concerto for two violins and orchestraShe saw Woodham and Samantha Stines on the violins.
Judging by the volume of audience reaction to the Bach concerto and later in the second half, Beethoven’s Allegro con brio movement became even more popular Symphony No. 5 in C minorthese two classical compositions were the highlights of the concert.
Which probably doesn’t surprise anyone. You don’t get better music than Bach and Beethoven if their works are played well. And the orchestra played very well overall.
Woodham deftly grouped the final four compositions of the concert under the heading ‘Nature’ and the orchestra treated the audience to music that evoked different moods. The names suggest: drought for strings (Alison Harbottle), soundscape (an ICHS SO improvisation), In the gentle rain (Robert W. Smith) and Wildwood Overture (Aaron David Miller). Soundscape was particularly captivating as the performers used their instruments and bodies to make music.
from dr Christine Hammond Gabbadon, secretary of the event’s planning committee, who delivered the acceptance speech, we learned the concert would be streamed. This brought an excellent show to another audience somewhere in the world.
A lot of energy went into the game and the members of ICHS SO must have been exhausted after the 1pm-3:15pm show.