Nat’l Chorale honours trio
Recipients of the National Chorale of Jamaica’s Medal of Excellence: (from left) founding member Vivian Crawford, international opera singer Dawn Marie James, and accomplished musician Marjorie May Bayley at the awards ceremony held at King’s House in St Andrew on Sunday. (Photos: Naphtali Junior)

AS part of the growing appreciation for classical music in the island, the National Chorale of Jamaica honoured three major contributors at the Medal of Excellence Awards ceremony on Sunday at King’s House in St Andrew.

“Apart from their significant contribution to the Jamaican cultural landscape and the musical landscape, we honour people of repute in our field of music. They have served selflessly, and they have served enormously, and have constructed and built the chorale over the years. We honour those who are not only connoisseurs of music, but persons who have excelled, and of course, have excellence as their hallmark. And therefore, it is very important that we honour persons while they’re alive so that they, in turn, can understand the value that they have contributed to music, the cultural investment treasury of Jamaica, and this is what we find very important,” Christopher Samuda, chairman of the National Chorale of Jamaica, told the Jamaica Observer.

The evening’s awardees were Marjorie May Bayley (accomplished musician), Dawn Marie James (Jamaican international opera singer), and Vivian Crawford (distinguished public servant and founding member of the National Chorale of Jamaica).

The chorale is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and usually hosts the award ceremony every five years. However, Samuda added that the group isn’t opposed to breaking tradition where they see it fit.

“Certainly, if there is a person deserving honouree, we will break that period and honour that person. Because we feel once you make a significant contribution, we must not await years—but we must honour those who immediately make a contribution. So we may very well depart from the five years once there is, of course, reason to do so,” the chairman said, noting that this year’s recipients were chosen by the board from a series of nominees.

The National Chorale of Jamaica was founded in 1972 to promote, maintain, and conduct a chorale group to perform chorale music at the highest level of excellence and to bridge the gap in musical presentations in Jamaica. Through programmes which include the widest variety of music, the chorale has found a place in the musical literature of the country over the years.

Meanwhile, awardee Dawn Marie James, who is now based in Atlanta, Georgia, and teaches at the Agnes Scott College said the honour came as a complete surprise.

“I’m very humbled, I tell you the truth. I’m not one who is into prizes or awards, or stuff like that. I just do my best, and have a good time doing it,” she told the Observer on Sunday.

James said classical music always appealed to her, so venturing into the field came naturally.

“I was in the Glee Club in high school [Immaculate Conception High School] and, oh yeah, classical music was always my thing,” she added.

Marjorie May Bayley said she, too, was surprised by the award.

“I’m deeply honoured and it’s a surprise…a big surprise. I didn’t expect anything like this, no sah. I didn’t expect a thing. It became natural to do so much in music [in] churches and schools…the opportunities were so wide and absolutely wonderful,” she said.

Vivian Crawford, on the other hand, wore his medal proudly, stating that it is a representation of the musical prowess in Jamaica.

“I am receiving this honour on behalf of our country, in promoting the tangible and intangible heritage of Jamaica. Professor Gordon Shirley said, just last year, we have to tell our stories and I would say we are not telling our story enough, so I really commend the print media for helping us to tell our stories,” he said.

Crawford provided the response of behalf the the recipients at the ceremony. There were performances by Dawn Marie James as well as the chorale.

Jamaican international opera singer Dawn Marie James singing The Telephone by Gian-Carlo Menotti.
Christopher Samuda
The National Chorale of Jamaica in concert.
From left: Soprano Dawn Marie James shares lens time with former beauty queen and national chorale singer Joan McDonald and Earl Jarrett, CEO of The Jamaica National Group.
Kediesha Perry

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