Written by: Anthony Morgan
The English Gothic-style Washington National Cathedral is among several historic venues in the United States (US) that will be filled with the incomparable sounds of the Jamaica Youth Chorale (JYC) this week.
The highly talented and internationally acclaimed group is in the US on its Redemption Songs tour, which showcases the choral repertoire of Jamaican and African American composers to commemorate and celebrate Black History & Reggae Month in February.
The choir is making its first stop at the in Washington DC-based Cathedral today (Feb. 2), with a free 30-minute concert just after noon.
Funding partners and other invited guests of the group were treated to snippets of the repertoire at a pre-tour recital in the Ballroom of King’s House on Sunday (Jan. 29) afternoon.
Founder and Musical Director of the JYC, Greg Simms, in his opening remarks thanked the partners in attendance for their support, which made the trip possible.
He noted that the group spent a lot of time fine-tuning its preparations to ensure that the members can effectively represent the country, even amid the winter temperatures.
“We would have used these past few weeks since our Christmas Joy production to really get the repetitions (rep) together and we are excited to go and present these top-class compositions from our Jamaican (composers), as well as put our own unique interpretations on those arrangements done by our African American counterparts,” he said.
The pre-tour recital, which got underway at 4:00 pm, was just under an hour long and included Noel Dexter’s ‘Bright Soul’, ‘Suppose We Doh Meet’ arranged by C.S. Walters, and Greg Simms’ spin on the popular folk tune, ‘Evening Time’.
Notable Jamaican composer, Dr. Kathy Brown, was also in the mix with her arrangements of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ and ‘Wonderful Jamaica’.
The choir’s versatility was evident from the show opener, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ a composition by African American Roland Carter, and flowing into Stacey V. Gibbs’ serene arrangement of the popular hymn ‘Shall We Gather at the River’.
Mr. Simms said the group wants to use the experience to exchange and network with other choirs, composers and creative professionals as well as engage with the Jamaican Diaspora.
As such, while in Washington DC, the group will also interact in a cultural exchange activity with students at the internationally-renowned Duke Ellington School of the Arts, as well as make a stop at the National Museum of African and American History and Culture.
Additionally, they will give a free concert at the historic Church of the Epiphany.
From Washington DC, the group will travel to Virginia on February 4 for a performance inside the historic Shiloh Baptist Church under the patronage of former US Ambassador to Jamaica, Ambassador Pamela E. Bridgewater.
Before returning to Jamaica, the group will also journey to New York for a full concert at the St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church on February 5.
The Redemption Songs Tour concludes the JYC’s winter concert season, which started in December 2022 with the return of Christmas Joy inside the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
Funding for JYC’s winter season has come from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund’s Entertainment Industry Support Initiative (CEISI) 2022.
CHASE’s Public Relations and Administrative Manager, Hilary Coulton, who was among the invited guests at the King’s House recital, commended the group on the execution of the programme and offered the agency’s blessing for the US tour.
“Good luck on your trip,” she said, while urging the members to make adequate preparations for the cold weather.
The VM Group, another funding partner, was also represented at the pre-tour recital by Chief of Staff, Natasha Reid; Assistant Vice President for Group Corporate Affairs and Communications, Clover Moore; and Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for VM Property Services, Allison Morgan.