TWO of Jamaica's premier choral groups, The University Singers and the Jamaica Youth Chorale are joining forces for a performance to raise funds to improve the facilities at the chapel at The University of the West Indies, Mona.
The event, dubbed Let There Be Music, will be held on Sunday, October 9, at the University Chapel starting at 5:00 pm. The performance, it is hoped, will help raise awareness of the state of the chapel and see the start of fund-raising to repair the organ and provide general infrastructure support.
The idea to stage this concert was the brainchild of founder and musical director of the Jamaica Youth Chorale, Gregory Simms. He said following a recent performance at the University Chapel he could not help but notice how the facilities inside the historic, cut-stone building were in need of maintenance. So, he made the call to his 'compatriot' at the University Singers, Franklin Halliburton and pitched the idea of a joint concert to the chapel's management committee.
"I noticed how stressed she looked. Walls pale and cracking; high altar distressed; piano sounding tired. That's when the idea came to me… do a fund-raiser," he related.
"The chapel is an important space for choral performance in Jamaica; [it is] one of the few venues with good natural acoustics. We don't have a concert hall in Kingston, but we have the chapel. She must survive. Like so many other venues, income was impacted by the pandemic but now is the time to get going again," Simms declared.
For Halliburton, the idea of the joint concert with the Jamaica Youth Chorale was a no-brainer.
He told the Jamaica Observer that having performed with them in the past he is well aware of their standard, plus the idea of performing to assist with refurbishing the chapel — considered by many as the performance home of the University Singers — was the proverbial icing on the cake.
"When the opportunity presented itself for us to do a joint concert I jumped at it because the two choirs are powerhouses on the choral scene in Jamaica. I just thought this would be a good offering to the public so early into the opening up of the entertainment sector. I also thought this would be a good way to announce to the public that both choirs are back in business."
Halliburton further noted that choral performances took a beating during the height of the pandemic as they were seen largely as super spreaders of the virus; thus a lot of the performances and choir concerts had to be halted. He added that even at this time the necessary precautions have to be taken in a bid to prevent any spread among choristers.
Both choir directors are promising an evening of excellent music. The Jamaica Youth Chorale will open the evening's showcase, with the University Singers closing. The choirs with them combine their talents for two pieces, including a work by renowned Jamaican composer and choral music arranger, the late Noel Dexter.
"It's going to be a unique and unforgettable experience. These are two very good choirs of high acclaim, singing together for a great cause," said Simms.
"Both groups are bringing their A-game. Based on the programme that Gregory and myself have sat together and fashioned, persons are in for a treat. From start to finish it will be a programme of showstoppers," Halliburton promised.