BY RICHARD JOHNSON—
From the opening notes of the national anthems of Jamaica and the United States of America it was clear that the concert featuring the Inspirational Chorale of the University of Arkansas would have been a great evening of music.
Along with the Kingston College Chapel Choir, the visiting choir performed at the 353-year-old St Andrew Parish Church in the heart of Half-Way-Tree, as part of their recent Jamaican mini tour, and delivered a varied and thoroughly enjoyable performance last Tuesday.
The evening’s standout performance has to go to the the rendition of Clyde Hoyte’s O’er Our Blue Mountain with soloist Christopher MacRae, and the chorale in support. MacRae’s tenor voice beautifully captured Hoyte’s text and the arrangement of Noel Dexter. The soft tones of the supporting voices added to the texture required of this Jamaican gem.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer following his performance, which was greeted with spontaneous applause, MacRae, who is a member of the faculty at the University of Arkansas, noted how pleased he was to have been given this beautiful piece of Jamaican music.
Both choirs would combine their voices on Noel Dexter’s arrangement of Psalm 150 — O Praise Ye The Lord. Again it was a pleasure to hear the work of a Jamaican being performed by non-Jamaican choir. Despite its infectious nature, the performance could have been from a few rehearsals of the combined choirs in order to ensure a seamless blend of voices. The treble voices of the young men from Kingston College was somewhat overpowering. But judging by the applause at the end of this performance, this seems to have not been important to the audience.
The University of Arkansas Inspirational Chorale was founded in 1977 to give voice to the black students at the institution the ability to express their faith and culture through music. Today the chorale is racially mixed but their repertoire still rests heavily on the sound of the black American church.
A number of the pieces performed was in the ‘praise and worship’ style. Choristers raised hands, clapped and stomped through the performances without affecting the overall sound of the choir or loving the entertainment value. Take it to the Lord in Prayer, Blessed Assurance, He Shall Purify, My Soul’s been Anchored in the Lord and Even Me were done in this style. The chorale took Even Me to an even higher level inviting audience participation breaking to song down into four parts — soprano, alto, tenor and bass — with audience members singing the respective voices.
The spirited version of Joyful Joyful, from the soundtrack of the movie Sister Act, followed by Total Praise wrapped the performance.
The Kingston College Chapel Choir represented themselves well in their varied presentations which included Praise My Soul The King of Heaven, Exultate Cantamos Festivo and the Negro Spiritual Hush.
Tuesday’s performance was hosted by the St Andrew Parish Foundation with proceeds going to its charitable causes.