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Bp Marionettes score with a Christmas Jubilee
Even though it has been producing Christmas concerts for decades, the BP Marionettes Chorale always manages to come up with new ways of presenting the seasonal music fare without compromising its traditional value.
The opening of its 2013 production, A Christmas Jubilee, at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s last Thursday night was a glittering showcase of what artistic and musical director Gretta Taylor referred to in the programme notes as “moving contributions to the choral tradition by some of the biggest names—Handel, Bruckner, Vaughn Williams, and John Rutter.”
The event offered patrons a Christmas concert that was festive, fun, reverent, and relevant for all ages. The music was of the highest calibre, and the musical and dramatic talent of the three choirs—senior, youth, and children—authoritative, but playful and humourous, as well.
The programme’s first half featured 14 selections, among which were a soul-stirring rendition of The Lord’s Prayer performed by the senior choir, and the much-anticipated premiere of There Was A Man Sent From God, a composition of Dr Roger Henry, the chorale’s assistant musical director.
The work, a contemplative choral rendering of verses from St John’s gospel, set for a six-part choir with soprano and baritone soloists, received thunderous applause from the audience in the packed auditorium.
Sopranos Hermina Charles and Patrice Inglesbirth, and baritone Garfield Washington sang the shimmering solos that enhanced the verses, found in the first chapter of the gospel.
Then there was tenor Marlon De Bique giving a poignant performance of Robert MacGimsey’s Christmas quasi-spiritual Sweet Little Jesus Boy, followed by the ladies youth chorale lending their rich voices to the soothing refrain of the traditional Spanish carol/lullaby A La Nanita Nana (To The Little Nanny). The senior and youth choirs combined to bring the first half to a close with a blissful rendition of O Holy Night in which outstanding solos were delivered by Hermina Charles (soprano), Deborah Nahous and Giselle Clarke (contraltos), Marlon De Bique (tenor), and Murchison Brown and Kashif Dennis (basses).
The full orchestra, with accomplished musicians like pianists Jane Carter and Darren Shillingford; flutists Leslie Clement and Kezia Douglas; trumpeters Anthony Cambridge and Allan Nelson; trombonist Stephen Villafana; and, percussionist Odilia Garcia, provided accompaniment. Greta Taylor’s black floor-length outfit, as well as outfits worn by the singers, were designed by K2K Alliance designers Karen and Kathy Norman, themselves alumni of The Marionettes.
Outstanding features of the second segment, that showcased 16 selections, were a fun and funky execution by the Jubilee Swingers (Michelle Atal, Lisa De Caires, Jacqueline Johnson and Leah Lewis) of Zat You Santa Claus?, performed by Louis Armstrong on the 1977 album Christmas Through The Years; the Jubilee Orchestra’s compelling treatment given to Sleigh Ride, consistently ranked in the top 10 list of most performed songs, worldwide, during the Christmas season; the creative choreography in the youth chorale’s interpretation of Here Comes Santa Claus; and the childlike charm of the children choir members in delivering Mister Santa, and Nuttin For Christmas.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of bpTT Norman Christie, in congratulatory remarks to the chorale in celebration of its 50th anniversary, said the annual concerts are gentle reminders that “Christmas is intended to be a joyous, spiritual celebration, and not just the annual commercial event it has become in so many other places.”
He added: “BP and its heritage company Amoco have been associated with the Marionettes Chorale for more than 40 years of its rich 50-year history, and I think it is quite appropriate to congratulate my predecessors on their visionary decision to become and remain partners with the Marionettes Chorale as an effective vehicle for cultural growth and development.”
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