Tuesday, 24 June 2014

FRIENDS AND FAMILY: A top-notch cast of performers come together in support of the Ward Theatre

FINELY TUNED: The Ashbourne-Moder clan provided classical strains at the concert.

"My mother requested that I perform this song, and I can't refuse," said Joel Ashbourne, good-humoredly introducing his original piano piece "Kiting" on Sunday at the Ward Theatre Project, a cultural awareness and performance-based bash that saw the doors of the famed cultural landmark being reopened for the first time in almost a decade to draw attention to the fact that the creative space still matters deeply to the Jamaican arts community. 

The very musical Ashbourne-Moder gang were just one of the many acts on a bill that featured the enormous talents of artists from dance, dub poetry, live music and theatre. And, for the most part, it was a hugely enjoyable family affair. 

Instrumentalists Rosina Moder and Peter Ashbourne, joined by their sons Joel and Jeremy, breezed through renditions of Handel's "Minuet from Water Music" and the delicate Moder solo "Fi Mi Love Have Lionheart". Cat Coore, on a rare break from playing on tour with Third World, delivered magical takes (via cello) on "Forever Young," "Redemption Song" and "Jamaica Land of Beauty," while a fresh-from-Venezuela Randy McLaren reminded us of his knack for powerful word-sound-power recitals with pieces dripping with grit and soul. 

Graceful actress Jean Small, flying solo as she does best, excelled with a poignant performance piece highlighting the dynamics of modern relationships. Fabian Thomas connected with a spoken-word set focussing on everything from the balancing act of life to Usain Bolt's 2008 Beijing triumph. The Street Meets Studio dance collective, meanwhile, struck a chord with an engrossing, fleet-footed exploration of relationships with marked emphasis on time and space. 

And to top it all off, electrifying sets came from the youthful Alpha Boys orchestra and the ubiquitous brothers of NoMaddz, who continue to expand their global reach, pulling on their rousing mix of theatricality and musicality. And speaking of global reach, the concert got a welcome appearance by Luis Felipe Bellorin, the legendary Venezuelan lyricist and musician who gave an irresistible suite of Caribbean music, with his wife occasionally pitching in as interpreter as he sought to address the audience. In spite of their visitor status, I guess they count as family too. 

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