Three Little Birds goes classical

On Saturday night, the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica gave a spectacular concert to a packed audience at the St. Peter and Paul Church in Kingston. The occasion was a fundraiser for this wonderful group, which trains about 50 youth from inner-city communities to play an instrument. The concert was extra-special as the NYOJ has a guest composer from Spain called Hugo Carrio.

The youth did not have much time to practice, but by all accounts (I did not attend, thank you to fellow volunteers Rhonda and Suzanna for taking pictures), delivered a great performance of a variety of songs, both classical and contemporary. Even some Rihanna and Bob Marley tunes were thrown in. The NYOJ targets youth who would not otherwise have such an opportunity, with most hailing from local high schools like Kingston College, Alpha and Denham Town.

The event was called a Celebracion, A Cultural Infusion, and was also hosted by the Spanish Embassy. Here is an excerpt from a Gleaner story, quoting one of the American instructors:

Avery Waite is one of the instructors. In spite of being on the island for only two months, the lanky American hit the musical spot with his selections and arrangements of Bob Marley’s, Three Little Birds, Redemption Song, and Jamaican folk songs Wata Come a Me Eye and Hold ‘Em Joe. So why did he choose these songs?

“Well, I figured that the kids love playing their own music, music that is familiar, music that they grew up with, that their parents sing to them, so these old Jamaican folk songs with their mento, they just connected on a whole,” Waite explained.

And here is a description of some of Carrio’s quick work with the youth:

With the full orchestra, wood, wind and strings at his finger tips, the youthful-looking maestro had the audience captivated as he guided his musicians through Handel’s Minuet in D arranged by Jamaican Daren Young, Waite’s two folk arrangements and D. Bellwood’s Three Latin Dance.

But it was with Carlos Medrano’s Merengue en Primero that his skill as a conductor was on full display.

The first sign of his creativity came when he had the young student musicians all swaying in unison, then in four groups, he had them doing a dolphin-like dance, or better yet, before moving into a Mexican wave, all the while playing the uptempo Spanish song.

And as if that was not enough, he instructed them to dance in circles, still playing their instruments, much to the delight of the audience who gave a standing ovation and requested a repeat performance of the piece.

He obliged but asked them to join him in giving the count.

Carrio, delighted by both the response from his stewards and the audience, later explained to The Gleaner that he enjoyed the opportunity to teach the children to dance with their instruments, in essence to enjoy the music while playing.

Congratulations to all involved, including fellow Cuso volunteer Karen Prentice.

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