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History lesson from Folk Singers

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The 51-year-old Jamaican Folk Singers continues to live up to its mission — sharing aspects of Jamaican folk music culture with succeeding generations - through the staging of its annual concert season and other public performances.

For the past few seasons the Folk Singers have taken this literally and have introduced children in their performance, teaching them the traditional songs and dances as part of the act. This year was no different.

The concerts, staged under the theme 'Vintage Folk' at the Little Theatre in St Andrew, were divided into five movements. Musical director Christene MacDonald Nevers and her team skilfully wove a string of classic folk songs together to tell a story based on Come Mek We Dance and Sing, Gossip, Market, strengthening communities and concert time. And it was in strengthening communities that the mantra of passing down these musical traditions was best displayed.

A cadre of seven youngsters joined the cast during this fourth movement and shared in the musical offering as they at times literally sat at the feet of long-standing member Marilyn Brice-MacDonald as they performed known pieces including Colon Man, Bank To Bank 1,2,3,4 and In and Out the Window. On the last two the young performers were included in the action of this popular song and ring game adding greatly to the performance quality of the piece. True to form the children did not disappoint and created some memorable moments from the performance.

The opening movement definitely set the stage with pieces including Rocky Road, Jane and Louisa, Banyan Tree and Solja Man delighting the audience. The vocal talents of the singers was accentuated by some great work on flute by Albert Shaun Hird, adding that element traditionally done on the fife. the other musicians accompanied on drums and guitar.

Stories of the man-woman dynamic, love and gossip dominated the second movement. Yuh Tell a Lie, Woman a Heavy load, Fanny, 500 Feet a Board and Nobody's Business were among the selections that were used to convey the themes in this segment to great effect. The addition of drama and choreography just added to the choreography.

For movement three the Jamaican Folk Singers went to the market, traditionally a prime spot for the sharing of our cultural heritage. Here the favourites, Mango Time Morning Train, Sweetie Come Brush Me, Mumma Neva Tell Me Fi Go, and Mango Walk were presented. A noteworthy moment from this suite was Linstead Market. With Brice-MacDonald on lead, they stayed true to the piece with the slow tempo of this lament. Here performing a capella, the four-part harmony of the ensemble could clearly be heard and appreciated.

The performance closed on a high with an uptempo medley which included Hill and Gully Ride, Christmas a Come and Run, Come Quick.