Peter strikes gold

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

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Musician/arranger Peter Ashbourne and Poet Laureate (2014 to 2017) Professor Mervyn Morris lead the list of recipients for the Musgrave Medals, awarded by the Institute of Jamaica. Both will receive the gold medal.

Dub poet Jean “Binta” Breeze and Kingston College Chapel Choir will be awarded the silver medal, while author Roland Watson-Grant and Professor Oswald Harding are among the bronze medallists.

The Musgrave Medal, named after Governor Sir Anthony Musgrave, was first awarded in 1897 and is the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The award recognises excellence in the areas of literature, science and art. Medals will be presented next Wednesday, October 10, at Institute of Jamaica's Lecture Hall in downtown Kingston.

Other awardees are Dr Basil Burke (gold), Dr Henry Lowe (silver), and Dr Leo Douglas (bronze) who will be recognised for their contribution to science. The Musgrave Medal Youth Award will be presented to Arthur Williams, Jr for his work in innovation and entrepreneurship.

For Ashbourne, this award represents recognition of his life's work in music, both as a performer and as an educator. He is humbled by the gesture from the Institute of Jamaica.

“Just looking at the company I am in ... this is humbling. I am usually grumpy about these things, but I graciously accept. With the stuff that I do, it easily gets overlooked and so many Jamaicans like myself get ignored everyday. Just the fact that somebody sees it fit to recognise me at this time gives me hope. I am actually flattered,” Ashbourne told the Jamaica Observer.

He began performing at age nine and over the years his prowess on piano and violin has become renowned. Ashbourne, who has worked with respected companies like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, noted that due to being “blessed” with talent, training and experience, he is comfortable working in jazz, classical and pop.

On Sunday Ashbourne completed another season as musical director of the televised talent show Digicel Rising Stars. He is a staple on the series, having been part of the production team since its inception 15 years ago.

“I tell people it's a 13-week soap opera... never boring. I have found it to be a useful window into popular music and culture that absolutely fascinates me. I hope someday I can write a paper on this experience,” he said. “One, this shows is how much the culture is deteriorating; this is evident in how much remedial work is needed just because there is so much these contestants, who are raw amateurs don't know.”

This deterioration concerns Ashbourne who cites general societal decay as the root cause.

“I wish we had a more sensitive, educated listening audience... a more discerning ear. Far too often things go to the least common denominator. My generation talks a lot about dancehall not being music, and aside from age talking, what we don't realise is that what we are hearing is the society. These kids are singing about what their experience is. Improve society and the music will improve,” said Ashbourne.


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