Under the baton of conductor Benjamin Pope, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has delighted audiences the world over with its enchanting classical repertoire, and this week, the musical magic comes to The Rock.
The philharmonic, invited by the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ), arrive on the island tomorrow for two exclusive concert programmes at the Northern Caribbean University and the Holy Trinity Cathedral on Thursday, September 13th and Saturday, the 15th, respectively.
"Having never been (to Jamaica) before, I'm very much looking forward to visiting..." says Pope, who shares his excitement with SO via phone from the United Kingdom.
"And especially since Jamaica's brilliant performance at the recently concluded 2012 London Olympic Games... I'm hoping that RPO can be as scintillating as your athletes were," Pope laughs.
An accomplished musician, Pope lays claim to being a pianist, composer, singer, and conductor, having occupied the stand for the last 10 years.
Addressing the latter descriptor, Pope notes that the conductor manages the harmony.
"My job is to guide the orchestra's pace, timing and interpretation of the score," he outlines, noting that he intends to transfer some of his knowledge to some of the several Jamaican youth musicians who will be part of the series of workshops set to take place at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and the Immaculate Conception High School.
"The lessons that we're about to impart are going to be fascinating, I'm eager to meet these young musicians and explore their respective talents."
But those aren't the only lessons to take place, since Pope is excited at the thought of learning some reggae, which, he's positive, will happen during his interaction with Jamaican maestros Peter Ashbourne, Shirley Thompson and Steven Woodham et al.
"Since hearing about the Jamaica trip, I just can't stop singing Three Little Birds..." he laughs, "Mozart is sacred, and so is Marley."
Having travelled extensively throughout Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Americas, it's easy to assume that Pope is quite exposed when it comes to 'ear candy'. So who are this musical multitalent's latest discoveries?
"I did a new piece by Nico Muhly not long ago; he's one to watch. But I also had to work on some music by Lady GaGa, and I heard her sing a duet with Tony Bennett which I thought was great," Pope shares.
His fervour, even over the phone, is hard to miss, especially when he speaks about what inspires him.
"I get my inspiration from all around — from looking at art, architecture, nature, from talking to my wife, from talking to my children. They always have an interesting perspective on things and keep me on my toes!"
Director of the NYOJ Dr Nigel Clarke lauds the orchestra.
"We expect the visit of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to Jamaica to catalyse and rekindle a renewed interest in classical music in Jamaica, and to expose some of the world-class talent we have in this genre," Dr Clarke shares before outlining that the roles of the NYOJ include raising awareness of the arts, while promoting the benefits of challenging youth and societal problems through music education.
"Importantly in this 50th year of Independence we are keen that our youth grasp the important truth that the world is open to them, that there are no limits, that all knowledge is useful, and as Marcus Garvey said, they can 'Accomplish what they will'," he says.
The orchestra appears locally courtesy of Digicel, Supreme Ventures, NCB Capital Markets, and Visa Signature.
"Our support of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's visit represents the opportunity to demonstrate what it means to 'Put your best life forward'," says Sheree Martin, NCB General Manager — Marketing, Communications and Service Delivery.
"The RPO is recognised as one of the most celebrated classical bands in music today and we believe exposing our clients to these signature events adds great value to their world view," Martin adds.
Tahnida Nunes, Digicel sponsorship manager, concurs, outlining, too, that as a firm supporter of education and culture in Jamaica, "Digicel remains committed to the development and preservation of music and youth in our nation".
"With this partnership, Digicel is also pleased to be playing our role in exposing young aspiring musicians such as the Alpha Boys' Home and the Omega Element Band to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra who will provide them with the fundamentals of music and the dedication required to be successful in music, regardless of the genre," Nunes notes.
Dr David McBean, chairman of Supreme Ventures Foundation, also expresses his excitement at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's historic visit.
"It's an opportune time to host such an event, during Jamaica's celebration of its 50th year of Independence...we are committed to our young people's growth and development through classical music, which oftentimes helps to provide social change, especially in challenged communities."
As for the concert nights, Pope is confident that his world-class band will make beautiful melodies, and if we're lucky, perhaps Mozart will finally meet Marley!