Teenage

Noel Dexter remembered as giant

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior writer
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 19, 2019

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Renowned musical arranger, composer and choirmaster Noel Dexter is being remembered as a gentle giant whose legacy will be the impact of his work on thousands of Jamaicans.

The octogenarian, who had been ailing for some time, passed away yesterday morning at 8:30.

Dexter is best known for his arrangement of Psalm 150 – O Praise Ye The Lord as well as penning the local Christmas favourite Sing De Chorus.

For many Dexter was synonymous with the University Singers, one of Jamaica's premiere choral groups, for which her served as musical director and conductor for nearly 50 years until his retirement in 2012.

Current conductor of the University Singers Franklin Halliburton described Dexter's passing as a huge blow.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer yesterday, Halliburton said, while he was aware of the state of Dexter's health, nothing could prepare him for his passing.

“I am really at a loss for words. I knew and understood that he was ailing and he was also at that age, but I was not prepared for this. Noel Dexter was my greatest musical mentor who shared with me and taught me so many things... he was truly a giant.”

Halliburton recalled the that he had known the name Noel Dexter since his early years, as it appeared in the school hymnal which was a mandatory text on the book list in those days. Dexter had edited the publication.

“I first saw him at JCDC [Jamaica Cultural Development Commission], music festival. He came down to Montego Bay as an adjudicator. He stepped into the room without any airs; humble, but everyone revered him. We all knew that he was a perfectionist, stickler for details and demanded nothing but excellence.”

Halliburton would come in close contact with Dexter when he moved to the Corporate Area to attend The University of the West Indies, Mona.

His voice teacher in Montego Bay insisted that he seek out Dexter while on campus.

“She sent me to find him. I made the arrangements but was so nervous, not knowing what to say or do around Noel Dexter. But just the way he welcomed me he made me feel so relaxed and at ease and from then began a journey of knowledge and inspiration,” said Halliburton.

Asked about Dexter's legacy Halliburton sumed it up as being twofold: The many he taught and his love for the music of Jamaica.

“It comes down to the people whose lives he has touched through music. He has inspired so many from all walks of life and was always encouraging you to do more, excel and find your own voice. His greatest respect was reserved for our own Jamaican music. When you auditioned for him you could sing every aria and play every concerto, but his eyes would light up when you did Jamaican music, especially folk material. He described it as the sound of our souls and encouraged us to write our own music. In years to come the standard of choral music in Jamaica will be judged against his contribution.”

Challenged to name a Dexter favourite, Halliburton conceded it was the Psalm 150 arrangement.

“I just always get a lift out of this piece. It is such a magnificent praise song that reaches in and touches your soul.”

Dexter is survived by his daughter Carole Ann. His wife, soprano Beverly Dexter predeceased him in 2011.


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