Monday, November 14, 2016

Entertainment: Musical Excellence from MICO and More

Musical Fundraisers tend to bring out the best in most of the participants and perhaps even more os when the beneficiary - and organizer - is the Mico University College which, over the course of nearly 200 years, has impacted every sphere of  Jamaican life as THE pioneering teacher training institution in the hemisphere.

The need to update classes wit the latest technology spurred the Alumni Association to produce 'An Evening of Musical Excellence" at the Jamaica Pegasus on Sunday, and the cause was well served by the diverse line up.

The evening began in auspicious fashion with the Mico Music Department, the instrumental and vocal ensembles delivering a rousing package of  gospel and inspirational pieces, coupled with Jamaican favourites ("Dreamland" "My Boy Lollipop") that slowly but surely pricked the ears of the still arriving audience.

With most folks settled in, emcees (and Miconians) Hugh Douse and Sharon Bogues Wolfe brought on the first act, Kemelia "Candy" Isaacs. After beginning in a somewhat solemn (if impassioned) mode with "To God Be The Glory" she launched into what was, for this writer, the vocal highlight of the evening, Ella Fitzgerald's "Please Mr Paganini [You'll Have To Swing It]" punctuated by her own lively versions of the Grand Dame's trademark scatting runs. She took the tempo down on Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time" and took a well-deserved encore with Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross".

Whether Dem 3 Tenors (as they style themselves), or the  "3 Tenors Dem" as emcee Douse comically put it, a musical treat was in store. Accompanied on keyboard by the formidable Godfrey Taylor, Steve Higgins, Rory Baugh and latest edition, Commander John McFarlane charmed the audience with a sprightly programme that ventured from Mozart's "So Ave Sia Il Vento" (form Cosi fan Tutti) to Frank Sinatra's signature "My Way" and also included "Drink Drink" from "The Student Prince".

UK veteran King Sounds (53 years living and working in "the Empire") closed the first set showing great polish and emotion, ably abetted by an excellent trio of female background singers. He sang poignantly of "Brainwashing" as part of the cultural milieu, and ended with a composition form this year's somewhat surprising Nobel Literature Laureate, Bob Dylan, "I Shall Be Released" (first recorded by Robbie Robertson's The Band).

The second half, anticipation was high for featured act Ernie Smith, but the audience was given a  bit of a sonic "palette cleanser" courtesy of Miconian Tannice Morrison who, despite working to tracks, gave a reasonable account of herself, with a cover and a piece of her own, entitled "Missing Pieces".

The stage was thus set for the Maestro himself, with Skool Band - Desi Jones leading on drums, Chris McDonald on keys, Kenroy "Short Man" Mullings on guitar and Adrian "Jerks" Henry on bass - equally up to the task  but by the time he applied his baritone to the opening lines of "Pitta Patta" he was unstoppable, able to take the audience in any direction he liked.

After doing "All for Jesus" and the wryly comical "Duppy or Gunman" he took them down a trip through what can well be called The Jamaican Songbook - classic hits from the likes of John Holt and Brent Dowe (the Melodians) as well as ska anthems like "Sammy Dead" "Wings of a Dove" and "Amen".

With the audience refusing to let him go, Smith obliged with with his Festival Song-winning composition (1974) for Tinga Stewart, "Play De Music" putting a cap on a showcase which more than delivered on the promise of its title

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