HE IS ALIVE: The acclaimed Mona-based choir were in sizzling form this past Sunday.
Dazzling solo performances and powerful choral anthems constituted the brightest points at Sunday's fulfilling This Joyful Eastertide at the UWI Mona Chapel. For the past five years, the University Singers have set aside Easter Sunday for this musical celebration, alternately lively and meditative, to not only thrill their devoted patrons but to also highlight the true meaning and essence of the holy season. Yet this year the choir opted to shake up the traditional formula, injecting into the mix Theodore Dubois' compelling sacred cantata The Seven Last Words of Christ to kick off the proceedings. Herewith, the concert's five most thrilling moments:
The Agony and the Ecstasy
Under the direction of the consummately brilliant Franklin Halliburton, the Singers (led by marvelous solo work by Danielle Nelson, soprano; Roy Thompson, tenor; and O'Neil Jones as baritone) exquisitely captured the anguish and transcendent yearning Dubois so succintly and lucidly conveyed with the composition. Equal parts prayerful and soul-stirringly menacing, the cantata's strains quite easily recall aspects of Handel's master opus The Messiah — not in scope, mind you, but certainly in tone and texture. In other words, it's a Biblical tragedy (almost Shakespearean in its lyricism) set to an unshakeable score.
Easy like Sunday morning
A hush fell over the church when Marcelle Thomas sang "He That Dwelleth in the Secret Place of the Most High," wrapping her creamy contralto around each plaintive note and melody to produce a rendition so simplistically beautiful and poised we could have listened to it all evening.
Well Tuned Instrument
Few contemporary Jamaican sopranos possess the sheer magnetism and deeply passionate delivery of Althea McKenzie, who elicited resounding applause for her radiantly expressive take on Burleigh's "My Soul's Been Anchored." Here's a songbird who lends fresh meaning to "make a joyful noise."
Little Miss Sunshine
Don't let her teeny stature fool you; Alecia Forbes packs incredible heft (vocally and otherwise) in that diminutive frame, as evidenced by her roof-raising rendition of "This Little Light of Mine" at the Rex Nettleford tribute concert in February and her poignant performance of the standard spiritual "You Can Tell The World" on Sunday.
Strike up the orchestra!
Given the show's sturdy opening, a show-stopping finale was well anticipated, and we were far from disappointed thanks to the majesty and goosebump-inducing flourish of Beethoven's "Hallelujah Chorus," full of pomp and lush harmonies perfect for the mountaintop.