Last update: 09-Dec-2013 1:43 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Unleashing the sound of steel on China
The National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) leaves on Wednesday for appearances at the Ninth China International Folk Art Festival that begins on September 14 in Yichang, Hubei Province, China.
Over 300 artistes representing 13 countries are expected to attend this year’s festival, with the theme: Developing Folk Arts, Promoting Friendship And Peace.
The 21-member NSSO, led by music director/conductor Jessel Murray, is scheduled to appear at the festival’s opening ceremony, as well as other programmes during the seven days of the event.
“The visit is an official one facilitated by the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism under a government-to-government cultural exchange programme between T&T and China,” said Murray, speaking at the Orchestra’s home base on Henry Street, Port-of-Spain.
“During our time in China, the orchestra will spend 13 days performing, as we will be visiting Beijing for four days after the Folk Art Festival ends.”
The NSSO was formed in late 2007 under the auspices of the then Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, and comprises 33 of the country’s finest steelpan players who were auditioned and selected for both the high quality of their technical skills and music reading abilities.
The NSSO made its debut performances in 2008 at Queen’s Hall, Naparima Bowl and the Vanguard Hotel, Tobago.
Other notable concert performances have followed including: The Genesis in Steel concerts as part of the NAPA Fest series in 2010; nationally televised concerts at Daaga Auditorium, UWI; and at Phase II, Skiffle Bunch and Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestras’ pan theatres.
Other local performance credits include the Fifth Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) at the Hyatt Regency (2009), the opening of the Hyatt Regency in 2008, and the opening ceremonies of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in 2009, among others.
International appearances have included a marquee performance at Carifesta X in Guyana in 2008 where the Orchestra received a prolonged standing ovation for its concert which included a wide-ranging repertoire.
The Guyana Chronicle, in a report, stated: “The orchestra made full use of its penchant for moving from muted passages to thundering big moments, very effectively indeed.”
In 2010, the NSSO journeyed to Costa Rica to perform as part of the Credomatic XX International Music Festival, where it presented four concerts.
A fifth concert was staged at the Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in San José on the occasion of the Independence celebrations of both countries.
It recently appeared at Carifesta 2013 in Suriname.
Jessel Murray, the holder of degrees in Conducting and Music Education from Temple University, has conducted choruses and orchestras, regionally and internationally.
He is a lecturer in Choral and Vocal Music at the DCFA and head of the Music Unit, UWI, where among other duties he directs the UWI Arts Chorale and co-directs the award-winning UWI SSTeel—both of which toured Massachusetts in 2008, and subsequently completed a triumphant tour of New York.
He has been the conductor of six musicals for the Town of Amherst (Mass.) including: The Wizard of Oz (2004); Cinderella (2005); and Oliver! (2006).
Additional local productions include Man Better Man (2002) and I Am Risen (2006). Murray also conducts the National Sinfonia Orchestra.
The NSSO is scheduled to return home on September 27.
About the China International Folk Art Festival
The festival, held every three years, is a large cultural program that is approved by the State Council and hosted by the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles (CFLAC). Established in July 1949, CFLAC is a non-governmental organisation composed of nationwide associations of writers and artists, federations of literary and art circles in the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government and those in state-level industrial sectors. It carries out extensive external exchanges and actively encourages and organizes its group members to do so. Each year, it receives hundreds of foreign writers’ and artists’ delegations.
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