IT was just a handful of people who gathered in front of the historic Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston to celebrate its 100th anniversary on Sunday afternoon.
The derelict building’s facade provided the backdrop to the proceedings.
Speaking at the event, playwright Barbara Gloudon urged “the powers that be” to reopen the Ward as she recalled some of the great moments at the theatre, both as a child and as an adult producing the National Pantomime.
The afternoon saw cultural presentations from the choirs from East Queen Street Baptist and Coke Methodist churches as well as the Salvation Army.
However, it was the performances by the students from the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts which would stir the few patrons and passers-by.
Nikita Steer’s rendition of O Holy Night was well received. She was followed by Reajhaun Baptiste on steel pan. This young Vincentian — who is studying at the school — delivered a soulful rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed then lead the band in Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and a thrilling version of The Christmas Song.
Recorder player Rosina Moder led a group which performed Clyde Hoyte’s Jamaica Noel, while the Jamaica Regiment Band, with its impressive brass section struck up more Christmas joy with their holiday medley which included We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells.
With the December sun fast setting, it was left to the Akwaba Drummer to bring the curtains down on the celebrations.
Their spirited playing would bring out the dancer in Director of Culture Sydney Bartley and emcee Fae Ellington, who danced as dusk fell on the celebrations.
The Ward Theatre, a gift to the people of Kingston and St Andrew from the then custos Colonel Charles James Ward, was once the seat of cultural presentations in the Corporate Area.
It has been lying idle for the past 10 years. The Ward Theatre Foundation has been trying to keep the theatre open through a number of fund-raising efforts. However, the foundation has fallen woefully short of the US$6 million required for the ‘Grand Old Lady of North Parade’ to reopen her doors.