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Taromi Lourdes Joseph
Count on the musical director of the UWI Arts Guitar Ensemble, Anthony Williams, to keep things cheerful and lively whenever his charges appear before a largely knowledgeable audience.
So it was when the ensemble staged Unsquare Dance at the UWI Department of Creative and Festival Arts building in St Augustine on April 14.
Named for Dave Brubeck’s 1961 classic, Unsquare Dance, the programme, was actually an eclectic hodge-podge that never ventured too far in delivering creative outputs, but maintained interest and enthusiasm by players and audience alike.
It may have been preferable to have more rigorously challenged the guitarists under the baton, but the director pretty much kept things straight and safe.
The selections included, among others, two Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi pieces originally composed with the piano and strings in mind, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Edelweiss and an interpretation of traditional Dame Lorraine dance music.
Student conductors Natasha Joseph—an accomplished pan player in her own right— Callina Morrison, Andrew Samlal and Renée Roberts did the honours on Hisaishi’s Howl Moving Castle, Dimitri Shostakovich’s Valse No 2 and Edelweiss respectively.
Morrison would return to lead the ensemble on Dame Lorraine and a faithful rendition of Hit the Road Jack, while Natasha Joseph closed things off with Unsquare Dance—Brubeck’s hastily composed masterpiece with the unorthodox time signature that never fails to make the feet tap.
There was nothing particularly elaborate or adventurous about the Williams arrangements that evening, except when a recognisable riff from Fela Kuti’s Egbe Mi O turned up in the middle of Dame Lorraine and when trombonist Keitje Greaves let loose on Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out which featured Samantha Joseph on vocals and able support from Morrison on the electric guitar, and Chevone Pierre and Keon Galere on the trumpet.
Samantha Jones had returned to the stage having earlier joined with vocal group Music Sensation, led by Jenevah Chadband, for a rendition of Wayne Watson’s preachy ballad, Friend of a Wounded Heart.
For Joseph Manone’s all-time swing jazz favourite In the Mood, Williams prepped the audience by introducing a piece he said would have “fingers snapping, feet tapping and mouths dribbling.”
As DCFA head Jessel Murray says in his programme note, the group is “one of the unique entities of this type” in the country.
With Williams at the helm, ensemble members Pam Carimbocas-Snaggs, Trinity Cockburn, Kemi Ible, Phelix John, Wendell Moreau, Aneeia Ramdhan together with Callina, Roberts and Samlal are cutting a unique path for the DCFA music programme.
According to Murray, the progress of the guitar ensemble is “part of the exponential growth of instrumental and vocal opportunities in the music unit of this department.”
The audience dispersed following an interesting excursion, hopefully to re-assemble when next this new fixture on the UWI musical landscape emerges.
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