September 2011 Volume 8

Remarks at the Launch of the Kingston College Chapel Choir CD

Peter-John Gordon
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Kingston College was started in 1925. Its founding headmaster Percival Gibson who later became Bishop of Jamaica and Bishop George de Carteret, then Bishop of Jamaica under who auspices Kingston College was founded, set about to establish a high school for boys. This was to be no ordinary high school. This school was to target the children of the poor and its mission was to turn out Christian gentlemen. In order to appreciate the magnitude of the undertaking it is important to remember that in 1925 secondary education was reserved only for the privileged few. Of course, in Jamaica of 1925, there was a strong correlation between privilege, ethnicity, colour and class.

Kingston College was not meant to be simply another high school. It was a profound political statement by these two giants of the Anglican Church. Bishop Gibson was determined that the education obtained at Kingston College should be second to none. It was important for him to demonstrate that the sons of the humble could do as well as the sons of privileged. It was important that his boys demonstrate to the world that they were no less capable of excelling at all the areas which were traditionally thought to be beyond the station of the poor.

It was not by chance that the Kingston College Chapel Choir was started in 1947. Yes, the public statement was that it was to accompany the newly constructed St. Augustine Chapel at the Clovelly Park campus, and this was true; but the more profound reason was to demonstrate that the boys of the poor could make music not only as well as anyone else in Jamaica but also as well as the boys of the great cathedrals of England. Bishop Gibson's experiment of Kingston College and its various parts was to demonstrate the equality of all men and to lay the foundation for a different Jamaica than that which existed in the early to mid 20th century.

The choir has continued to make steady progress over time. It is an invaluable tool for the formation of its members. It is true that some choristers have gone on to making their living from music in different genres – immediately I can think of Prof. Richard Beckford, chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at South Carolina State University, and Donald Morris choirmaster of the New Jersey Boys Choir in what is loosely called the classical genre and Tyrone Downie who played with Bob Marley and Frankie Campbell of Fab 5 in the genre of popular music. There are others. However, for the majority of us past choristers, we make our livelihoods outside of music: the majority of current choristers will do likewise. The experience of the Kingston College Chapel Choir has however been very important in the lives of past choristers and will continue to form the characters of current choristers. Through the choir, members have learnt valuable lessons of team work, of discipline, of dedication and of hard work. They have discovered what excellence feels like, and more importantly what is required to produce it. They have developed a sense of self which tells them that they are capable of greatness and of beauty. These are attributes which each chorister can transfer from the choir to their individual endeavors for the rest of their lives. The choir reinforces the central message of the school and church. The sense that God the creator has called us to greatness; as individuals and as a nation. That we must have self-confidence, we must strive to achieve, we must work hard and recognize that we are all important for the benefit of the whole.

The Choir Management Committee came into being to assist the school in the management of the choir. Last year the choir participated in over 40 events, the vast majority of which were external to the school. We are on track this year to surpass this number. When we remind ourselves that there are only 52 weeks in the year we get a sense of the magnitude of the job of managing the choir. The Management Committee seeks to raise financing for the choir, take on many of the logistic functions such as arranging transportation, food, uniforms, organization of the annual choir camp etc.

This CD is a fine product. It showcases the beauty and technical skill of the choir. We certainly would like to pay public acknowledgement to the role of Jamaica National not only in this project, but for the support received in staging our annual Christmas Concerts in Kingston and Montego Bay over the past six years. Ladies and Gentlemen I encourage you to not only add this CD to your musical libraries, but also to share it with your families and friends. It would make a wonderful gift. Thank you.

Peter-John Gordon Choir Management Committee Member September 18, 2011 Kingston Parish Church

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