Monday, 16 September 2013

FEEL THE RHYTHM: Eclectic mix of folk gems mark Jamaican Folk Singers' stellar 2013 concert season

FULL CIRCLE: Play songs and ring games figured into the performance.

An eclectic potpourri of indigenous Jamaican music filled the Little Theatre in Kingston on the weekend as the Jamaican Folk Singers staged its 2013 season, a deeply satisfying programme that doubled as a tribute to the choir's departed founder and artistic director Dr. Olive Lewin.

Paula Shaw, who is fast proving her diversity as a movements specialist with a range that covers numerous areas (musical theatre among them), choreographed the pieces with her signature engaging style, resulting in a performance with a beating heart to go along with its visual flair. Franklyn "Chappy" St. Juste created the set design while Brian Heap was responsible for stage management.

Charged with spearheading the group's continued fulfilment of its mission of preserving Jamaica's folk music heritage, musical director Christine McDonald-Nevers has her work cut out for her, but given the expert balance of the show (sans the minor technical flaws) and a rhythmic assortment of folk tunes, she appears more than up to the enormous task.

The show's solid opening half was centred on work songs ("Calabash", "Bartilby" and "Checkaman"), games ("Rocky Road", "Jane & Louisa") and a courthouse dramatization featuring extended scenes of community dynamics set to evocative songs like "Mango Walk", "Rio Grande" and "Ooman Tory".

The second half, though a bit less engaging, featured stirring moments of melancholy (elegiac anthems in memory of Dr. Lewin), songs about the pleasures and pain of relationships, and a celebration motif (Kumina selections acknowledging our forefathers and their pioneering work and sacrifices.

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