Traditionally, one of the signs that the Yuletide season is upon us is the number of live performances by some of the country's renowned choral groups. However, for the second-consecutive holiday period the pandemic has meant that these choirs have had to either cancel their annual performances or resort to the virtual format.
Conductor of the Kingston College Chapel Choir Audley Davidson told the Jamaica Observer that the performance has definitely been affected by the pandemic and its effects.
“Because of the absence of face-to-face school at Kingston College, we were not able to conduct our usual audition for treble voices this year. Treble voices are critical to a choir of this nature and each year new voices must be recruited. I don't think any other choir in this country has this situation in that each year the boys' voices change and therefore we must bring in new voices. So that has been our challenge and so we will not be staging the Christmas concert that our supporters have come to know and love.”
However, all is not lost. Davidson further explained that despite the lack of numbers and a strong treble section, the choir is putting together a few popular holiday favourites for a virtual performance.
“We will be drawing on recording of past Christmas concerts by the choir and combining it with some new recordings for a Christmas concert which will be aired on Boxing Day (December 26 ) on the Kingston College YouTube channel. It will be a smaller choir but with the use of footage from the past we are able to bring the presentation to our supporters this year. We eagerly await a change in the current global situation and the ability to perform for a live audience,” said Davidson.
Meanwhile, Davidson is busy at work with the St Andrew Parish Church choir and their annual carol service which will be held on December 19 starting at 5:30pm.
Another choir that has been affected by the pandemic is the Jamaica Youth Chorale. This choir of talented, young Jamaican led by Gregory Simms is for the second year resorting to a virtual format for its holiday performance.
“This year we are presenting 'Hope for Christmas: A virtual concert', which will be streamed on the Jamaica Youth Chorale's YouTube page on Sunday, December 19 starting at 6:00 pm,” Simms shared.
“It will be a feast of holiday favourites and in addition to the choir we will feature pianist Stephen Shaw Naar, Dr Kathy Brown and oboist Dr Althea Neblett,” he added
The Jamaica Youth Chorale released its latest recording, the album titled Spirit Vol 1, which is a collection of spirituals and sacred works by Jamaican composers and arrangers. at the time of the release Simms noted that the project includes Christmas favourites and is a precursor to the choir's virtual holiday special for which they were in rehearsal. According to Simms who serves as the choir's musical director, the decision to release the project at this time despite the challenges was a means of keeping the choir and its supporters in touch during what has been a difficult time.
The University Singer will also be foregoing the live performance. Their annual 'Evening With the University Singers' sponsored by the Bank of Jamaica has been a staple on the holiday calendar for decades.
Unlike last year when the choir's holiday special saw them digging deep into their archives for performances over the years, this year they have decided to freshen up things. The choir is currently in rehearsal and over the next three days will be recording their performance for broadcast on Television Jamaica on Christmas Day, December 25.