Wednesday, 12 March 2014

FIVE QUESTIONS: Composer and conductor Dr. Andrew Marshall on making musical magic

BEING INSTRUMENTAL: "Classical music is again approaching the forefront in Jamaica."

The premiere of Dr. Andrew Marshall's Nyabinghi Symphony, a bombastic work full of bass, pomp and grandeur, was unquestionably the chief highlight of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica's 2014 Spring Concert Series, "Musical Delights," which rocked Mona's University Chapel on the weekend, making a powerful case for the eternal appeal of instruments and vocals in pitch-perfect harmony. 

Dr. Marshall (an extremely tall and stern-looking fellow), a shrewd champion of innovative musicianship, is the Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Northern Caribbean University (NCU), who's also worked with Sir Patrick Allen (he produced an anthem for the GG's 2009 inauguration) and has collaborated with several notable musicians from around the world. And he's only 32. 

TALLAWAH: Classical music in Jamaica: fading or finding new life? 
Marshall: I think the appreciation level in Jamaica could be greater than it is now, but I think the mission of the Philharmonic Orchestra, and their staging this concert series here at the University Chapel, is spearheading a movement that was already in place. And the large audience here on the weekend is showing that classical music is again taking or approaching the forefront. So I think it's improving, and it's definitely better than before. 

What did you make of the reception to the debut of your Nyabinghi Symphony tonight? The encore requests were quite deafening. 
The response was a positive one, meaning that it seemed to resonate well with the audience. From what I heard, I thought they enjoyed it. But as a general rule I try not to think about how people will react, as I primarily want to focus on making sure all of the performers and the vocalists are on point. 

Who were the composers who influenced you growing up? 
I particularly appreciate the work of Dvořák and Tchaikovsky. Both were nationalists composers, meaning that they sought to embody elements in their music that celebrate nationhood, which is always a good thing. 

At your age, is it hard juggling your responsibilities at NCU with your personal efforts as a composer? 
I try to get as much writing done, in addition to the work I do at the university. If I'm asked to compose something, I know I have a deadline to work with, so I try to make time, carve time, within my schedule. 

What's next? 
At present I work with with the NCU choirs chiefly, so I have some choral arrangements and cantatas that I'm now working on. And if I'm approached by the Philharmonic to work on another piece I'd be grateful for the opportunity.

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