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Jamaica Youth Chorale Makes Black History Month Memories

Jamaica Youth Chorale Makes Black History Month Memories

Posted by Shanelle Weir on February 27, 2014

Members of the Jamaica Youth Chorale (JYC) blessed and entertained an impressive turnout on Sunday with passionate and powerful songs that spanned the traditional to the modern and used Negro spirituals and genres like reggae.

In a concert entitled 'Ancestors Voices, Lift Every Voice for Freedom', and fittingly held at the historic University Chapel, on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, the songs reflected the organisers' Black History Month message.

The programme began with the singing of Jamaica's National Anthem, led by a small group from the Chorale and founding member and principal director Gregg Simms.

Moses Hogan's powerful opening; Lift Every Voice for Freedom followed the anthem. The selection was a combination of two speeches, one from Nelson Mandela, and the other from Marcus Garvey.

On the heels of this great start, the chorale continued their musical message with some stirring Negro spiritual and what Simms classified as Jamaican spiritual songs.

With each song, from the up-tempo Roll Jordan Roll, the melancholic Steal Away to the contemplative Nyahbinghi Mediation, the young Jamaican vocalists had the audience on a spiritual roller coaster.

The emotions were intensified when dancer Sydney Walcott of The Company Dance Theatre joined the vocalists in Hall Johnson's I've Been Buked, and Howard Roberts' Wade in the Water.

But it was Kathy Brown's arrangements of I Had a Vision and Ise Oluwa that produced the strongest vocal response from the audience.

Soloists Adaiah Rhooms and Sherona Forrester, respectively, gave stunning performances. Simms' arrangements, Man From Galilee and Wrong Train were, however, the most entertaining.


The creative staging of both selections also helped to bring out the humour in the presentations. The fine programme ended with A Jamaican Story (An Excerpt). This celebratory piece was a medley of Jamaican patriotic songs, combined with others such as Now That We Found Love and Wonderful World, Beautiful People. The piece saw singers, dressed in black, green and gold, moving to Ricardo McKenzie's choreography.

Ancestors Voices, Lift Every Voice for Freedom was the fifth annual concert by the Jamaica Youth Chorale, and according to Simms, was born out of an idea of his and a group of friends who are into chorale music.

The group had met during a Black History Month, thus the concert was held in February. The members of the chorale are drawn from a pool of talented singers from around Jamaica, and comprises of both secondary and tertiary students.

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