Tuesday, 1 December 2015

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK: Jamaican Mafia opens strongly + Composer Andrew Marshall’s Abeng + Actor Andrew Clarke’s evolving success

STRING THEORY: When Dr. Andrew Marshall (inset) debuted his Nyabinghi Symphony before a rapt audience taking in a  March 2014 recital by the Franklin Halliburton-led Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica at Mona’s University Chapel, he was still Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choirs at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU). Seasons change. These days Marshall is enjoying a change of scenery (not necessarily a change of pace) at Pennsylvania’s Pine Forge Academy, where he is resident conductor and choir director. But Marshall has by no means abandoned his local fans or his island heritage. In fact, his latest creation, Abeng, is quintessentially Jamaican. On November 21 and 22, the Steven Woodham-directed Immaculate Conception Symphony Orchestra staged a delightful Classical Harmony recital, full of fanfare and flourish, at the Courtleigh Auditorium, during which Abeng got its “world premiere performance.” According to Woodham, the rousing piece is just what the doctor ordered. No pun intended. “It is so powerful, so refreshing and layered with splendid nuances,” Woodham told TALLAWAH in a post-performance interview on the Sunday evening. “There’s an authenticity to it. It’s a serious piece, nothing trivial about it, and the audience responded accordingly. We are grateful to the composer for helping to define our culture through music.” As for the bigger picture, Woodham concurs that while there is no shortage of talented Jamaican composers, the dearth of inspiring original material exploring aspects of our culture leaves a lot to be desired. “There are a number of composers doing fine work locally,” Woodham says. “We just need to be careful with what we do with what we have.” Meanwhile, Dr. Andrew Marshall’s credits also include the Run-A-Boat Symphony, the chamber opera Hardtalk and Reggae Mass, for mixed choir and reggae band. He also serves as founder and director of the Jamaica Choral Scholar’s Festival, an annual two-week event dedicated to the study and performance of Caribbean choral music.

MAKING WAVES: Andrew Clarke is talent personified. Since his days as an undergrad at the Edna Manley College and a perennial gold medalist in the JCDC Festival of the Performing Arts, the thirtysomething Jamaican actor, singer, producer, director (and the list goes on) has proven himself a force to be reckoned with in the creative arts. His post-Edna Manley years, most of them spent in and around New York, have seen him maturing leaps and bounds as relentlessly expressive performer with something meaningful to say. For starters, we’ve all been hearing wonderful things about Braata Productions, which he started a few years ago with the help of some Caribbean friends. Mounting award-winning plays and staging concert seasons, the ensemble has done a lot to imbue their neck of the New York arts community, particularly the theatre scene, with that unmistakable island flair, equal parts folkloric and free-spirited. That’s precisely the vibe we get hearing about the Caribbean musical Flambeaux, starring Andrew and a cast of regional talents, which swept the recent Audelco Awards, honoring excellence in the dramatic arts. The show picked up awards in the ensemble categories, but Clarke was duly honoured for his performance, copping one of the coveted acting prizes. No stranger to the international scene, he is also a multiple awardee at the World Championship of the Performing Arts. As founder, it goes without saying that Mr. Clarke has big plans for Braata Productions and the committed artists who share his vision and his passion for artistic expression. Something tells us we’ll be hearing a lot from them in the years to come.

SHOW TIME: Score of moviegoers flocked to the Cross Roads-based Carib 5 Cinema on Friday night eager to catch the red-carpet premiere of the much-buzzed-about new gangster flick Jamaican Mafia. Members of the large ensemble cast rubbed shoulders with media reps and fans ahead of the screening, which begin at minutes to nine. While leading men Paul Campbell and Mykal Fax were stylish figures in clean-cut looks, D’Angel channeled her inner femme fatale in a daring black gown that oozed Bond girl sophistication, complete with a blonde wig from the Anna Wintour collection. Also spotted in the mix: several familiar faces from the dancehall fraternity, namely Tanya Stephens and Twin of Twins’ Patrick Gaynor, who both dressed for comfort. What impressed us most? The large turnout, which proved that the marketing and promotions people did their jobs – and reminded us that Jamaicans at home still enjoy seeing our stories and our local talents being showcased up on the big screen. Speaking with Smile Jamaica on Monday morning, Campbell said that that kind of massive support is exactly what they needed to secure the film’s run on the Palace Cinemas circuit, commencing next week.

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