'Classics' lives up to billing

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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The breadth and depth of the talent pool that exists in Jamaican, as it relates to the performing arts, is more than meets the eye.

For the past 14 years, the Kingston chapter of Soroptimist International has staged Classics in June, a concert featuring local performers who do not factor on the popular music scene, but their talent is no less potent and definitely worth commendation. This year's staging held at The Church of the Ascension in Mona, St Andrew, on Sunday, again featured some strong performances in the realm of classical music, which satisfied the small but appreciative audience. The musical offering ranged from voice to instrument and everything in between.

Loraine Barnaby, a member of the planning committee, acknowledged that the crowd “could have been better”, but said the performances were “excellent”.

“All our performers gave of their best. The feedback from long-time patrons was that this event was one of the best they've come to,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

The musicians were dominant on Sunday afternoon, with pianist Stephen Shaw-Naar carrying the lion's share of the workload, accompanying almost every performer who took to the stage. The first musician to share the spotlight with Shaw-Naar was violinist Gabriel Walters, whose renditions included the beautiful, controlled Chaconne in G Minor by Vitali; the Dance e spagnole, with his distinctive Spanish flavour and flair, which was perfectly juxtaposed to the serene Meditation by Jules Massenet. Walters has grown as an artiste and his work with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas has indeed paid off.

Dr Althea Neblett is surely becoming a staple of the local classical music circuit. The Barbados-born musician again gave a delightful performance on oboe as she shared two movements from Poulenc's Sonata for oboe and piano as well as three movements from the Sonatina for Oboe and p iano by Alan Richardson — allegro moderato, lento and molto vivace.

The selections by the musicians moved closer home as Dr David Aarons thrilled the audience with his instrument of choice, the steel pan. Aarons truly showcased the versatility of pan, which has it origins in the Caribbean isle of Trinidad & Tobago, when he performed the allegro from Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor as well as the Waltz for Steel Pan and Piano composed by Atiba Williams.

The popular Pavane, Opus 50 by Gabriel Fauré was given a soft and tender treatment by event organiser Laurice Barnaby on flute accompanied by the talented Shawn Richards on acoustic guitar. If Richards' talent was ever in doubt, that was quickly erased when he performed solo. His finger work on Campanas de Alba by Eduardo Sainz de la Maza was nothing short of splendid. He was able to create the audio illusion of two guitars being played. The haunting strains of Preludio de Adios was no less stirring from Richards.

The voices were not being left out from mezzo Dawn Fuller Phillips, soprano Rosette Salazar, the talented tenor Santorini degli Archangeli. The latter not only showcased his voice, but also his composition skills as he performed his own The Dark Voyage. Following the presentation of this moving piece, an audience member could not resist showing her approval with an outburst, “beautiful!”. Salazar's voice was suited for the two show tunes and the Negro Spiritual Ride on King Jesus, which she selected.

The Soroptimist Club must be commended for its decision over the years to use a classical concert as one of its major fund-raisers. Classics in June provides not only funds to support the work of this service club, but also offers an opportunity for classical singers and musicians to share their talent.

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