A JA-flavoured performance

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 16, 2012    

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IT was the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) in concert, but Thursday's performance inside the main auditorium of the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville had Jamaica written all over it.

The works performed were from classical composers Mozart and Bach, but it was the inclusion of works by Jamaicans Peter Ashbourne, Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley that made the evening that much more meaningful.

Added to that were performances by Steven Woodham and Naomi Reitzin on violin.

The orchestra, on its first trip to the Caribbean, delighted from the opening note.

Mozart's Serenade No 13 for strings in G major was the perfect curtain-raiser. The popular piece introduced the smooth, full-bodied sound from which the orchestra has become known. The Allegro with its soft passages was played with the passion it deserves, while the fast-paced Rondo provided the perfect end.

The Jamaican of the concert was introduced from by the second piece Concerto for two violins in D Minor by Bach.

Jamaican virtuoso Steven Woodham and his 14-year-old protégé Naomi Reitzin took the spotlight through three movements of this classic. Both took the audience through the various moods of the piece with great skill and precision, capturing the tempo of the Vivace, the soothing Largo ma non tanto, before picking up the pace for the Allegro.

The mastery of the Hungary-trained Woodham was at its peak when he soloed on Meditation for Violin and Orchestra by Massenet.

For Reitzin, who has been playing the violin since age three, the experience of playing alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was nothing short of thrilling.

"It was so much fun. The members were so warm and giving. They made me feel so great and I really enjoyed my performance."

Woodham agreed: "It was exciting to play with a first-class orchestra. However, it is my wish that more such first-class musicians of all genres are brought in to showcase their talents here in Jamaica. We deserve to be connected to the rest of the world."

The Jamaican aspect of the performance was far from over as RPO conductor Benjamin Pope would give way to Ashbourne who brought a local flavour to the recital.

The first piece, Ring Games and Jubilee, was an excellent blend of the classics with kid s play, but it was his final piece which resonated deeply with the hundreds in attendance.

Jamaica Folk, a seamless blend of a quintent of folk tunes was a delight.

Long Time Gal, Linstead Market, Jane and Louisa, Fan Me Solja Man and Mango Walk, were given new life as they danced off the strings of the instruments.

Following the performance Ashbourne told the Jamaica Observer: "It was a really nice sound, and they only learned the pieces this afternoon. This has been a great experience."

There was more Jamaican music to come as British-born Jamaican composer and conductor Shirley Thompson took over the baton and conducted the RPO with her arrangement of Dreamland, made popular by Marcia Griffiths.

For an encore, RPO delivered a suite taken from the Marley catalogue. Three Little Birds, No Woman no Cry, I Shot the Sheriff, and the universal anthem One Love brought the house to its feet for a standing ovation.

Pope had nothing but positive comments at the end of the performance.





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