Jamaica hits the right notes

There’s something extraordinary about island, says Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Sunday, November 04, 2012

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JAMAICA'S reputation for extending a warm welcome to visitors has received a major endorsement from the world-famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO).

Benjamin Pope, conductor of the orchestra, showered glowing praise on Jamaica and its people in a letter to the editor of the Jamaica Observer following the RPO's tour of the island in September.

"...in all honesty, we are all in agreement that this was the most remarkable tour that any of us has undertaken," Pope wrote.

"There is something extraordinary about the warmth and generosity of spirit of the people we encountered, both in person and in the audience for our performances, and this we found so uplifting," he added.

Here is the full text of Pope's letter:

Dear Editor,

You may recall that I was the conductor of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the recent tour to Jamaica, and I am writing not only personally, but also on behalf of the musicians and staff of the RPO who visited the island in September 2012.

From the very moment of our arrival at the airport in Kingston, we realised that this was going to be no ordinary trip. I said it in the performance we gave in Kingston, and I will say it once more — in all honesty we are all in agreement that this was the most remarkable tour that any of us has undertaken.

They say that there is something about Jamaica that reaches inside and touches you: we can all now see the truth in that statement.

There is something extraordinary about the warmth and generosity of spirit of the people we encountered, both in person and in the audience for our performances, and this we found so uplifting. We were delighted to have been part of the Jamaica 50 celebrations, and I have to say that it was a strange feeling knowing that we were the first professional orchestra for many years to have given concerts!

I will certainly never forget the atmosphere in the Holy Trinity Cathedral when we played your National Anthem, and the excitement with which our performances were met by the audiences. It was also such a pleasure to work with local musicians Steven Woodham and Naomi Reitzin, and composers Peter Ashbourne and Shirley Thompson.

The most inspirational aspect of our visit, however, was to witness the astonishing and invaluable work that is being done for the children and young people of the island by the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica. The leadership and drive of Dr Nigel Clarke, and the dedication and expertise of all his team was a joy to behold.

Music does not make judgements about people based on their background, it doesn't categorise people based on their social fortune or misfortune, it doesn't care what language you speak. It does challenge you, however.

If you choose to study music, it provides a focus not only for your time and attention, but also for your intellect.

The beneficial effects of studying music on the all-round education of a child are well-documented, for not only are the learning and analytical centres of the brain exercised, but also it provides a means for self-expression that can otherwise be suppressed, and this in turn leads to further creativity. There are huge benefits in terms of co-ordination and discipline, whilst orchestras and chamber groups promote the ability to work on your own whilst being part of a larger team: this sort of skill has far-reaching implications in later life.

I cannot state strongly enough how much I encourage the business community and the wider population in Jamaica to support the work of the NYOJ. We are incredibly grateful to the sponsors, Digicel, NCB Capital Markets, and the Supreme Ventures Foundation, who made the visit of the RPO possible, and this has enabled us to form a bond between the two organisations.

I know that the musicians of the RPO who visited Jamaica are very keen to lend their support to the work of Dr Nigel Clarke and the wonderful staff and children of the NYOJ, as am I personally, and we are hopeful that you will all join us in this endeavour.

Thank you to everyone who made our trip possible, thank you for welcoming us so warmly, thank you for being such appreciative audiences, and thank you to all the children who took part in our education projects. We hope you will invite us again!

Yours sincerely,

Benjamin Pope.


Royal Philharmonic Orchestra String Tour to Jamaica, September 2012

The RPO is reported to have played its first concert in Croydon on September 15, 1946, the same year it was founded by Sir Thomas Beecham.

Over the years, the RPO has developed a reputation for scintillating performances and landed a major assignment in April 1994 when it played at the Vatican in the historic Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust.

The orchestra also had the distinction of performing the UEFA Champions League anthem, an adaptation of Handel's Zadok the Priest arranged by Tony Britten.

In May 1998, the RPO recorded a tribute album to Irish rock band U2 titled Pride: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays U2.




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