January 2011 Volume 8

Liberation Comes To The Choir

Robert Kelly
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I was honored to attend my first Christmas Concert of the Kingston College Chapel Choir in decades on Sunday, December 19, 2010 at the University of the West Indies Chapel, Mona.  Scheduled to begin at   5 p.m., my small posse and I struggled to get there in a timely manner.  No need for worry, the capacity crowd was not in place until sometime after our 6 o’clock start, showing no timidity to interrupt the performance in search of premier seating.

Frankly, Part One of the performance was quiet uneventful.  You have heard it once you have heard it a thousand times: J.S. Bach, “Valet will ich dir geben”, “Zion hears her watchmen’s voices’, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’, G.F. Handel, “The King Shall Rejoice”, “Exceeding Glad Shall He Be”, “Glory and Great Worship”, etc. etc. As a chorister of several generations earlier, it was not difficult for me to see a stern Barry Davis glaring at me.  Intermission arrived soon enough.  Nothing had occurred in Part One to prepare us for an energized and memorable performance that was to come.

Conductor Audley Davidson, not a Fortis by birth, has clearly made up for that deficit.  He is young, bold and engaging and the energy he emits comes alive in the boys. They smiled easily, handled sophisticated pieces flawlessly and performed with the confidence one grew up expecting of Kingston College students on the big stage. Traditional pieces, “Sing Noel,” “See Amid the Winter’s Snow,” “Saxon Carol,” greeted us at the start of Part Two.  The congregation was encouraged and did join them in the renditions of “We Three Kings,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and then the sea parted.  Three pieces in a row, “Good News,” “Tell the Good News,” and “Sing de Chorus” illuminated the Chapel and electrified the audience. The latter, Sing de Chorus, had been nuanced and refreshed by Conductor Davidson. Hands clapped, flutes and trumpets blared and the beat of drums intensified as the Choir’s contemporary performance ranged from folk singing to reggae to down-right evangelical and top it all with Usain Bolt’s signature “to the worle.” 

The Kingston College Chapel Choir has arrived.  Their potential appears limitless.   Frankly, they sounded better than in my time, appeared happier and were definitely more sharply attired. Having made forty seven appearances nation-wide in 2010, the Chapel Choir is now the College’s finest ambassador. In my humble opinion the challenge that faces the Chapel Choir’s Brain Trust is how to parlay this phenomenon into not merely a self-sustaining entity, but one from which the school can reap much more that platitudes.  At a minimum, churches and entities seeking the Choir’s services should be encouraged to meet all reasonable expenses, sale of Chapel Choir music must be available and promoted at these venues and old boys must embrace and support the Choir.  The Choir still faces severe challenges raising funds to maintain its intense travel schedule, which includes travel, food and clothing and its frequent rehearsals.  With proper planning and execution these concerns can be put behind us.

Just as was the case in my era when Maurice Wilson brought maturity, stability and discipline to the choir, Hector Hall, who graduated the College some 20 years ago, does that today, supported by seven instrumentalists, none  of whom are past students.  Clearly there is a need for home-trained orchestral complement.

Robert A Kelly, ‘73    
President KCOBA USA Inc. (New York)

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