January 2019 Volume 15

Kingston College Chapel Choir awarded Musgrave Silver Medal 2018

Peter-John Gordon
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The Institute of Jamaica established the Musgrave Medal in 1889, in memory of Sir Anthony Musgrave (Governor of Jamaica 1877 – 1881). Sir Anthony who died in 1888, founded the Institute in 1879. Each year the Institute recognizes notable contributions to Literature, Science and Art with the awarding on the Musgrave Medals. These medals are issued in Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold medals are awarded in recognition of "distinguished eminence", silver for "outstanding merit" and bronze for “merit.”

The Musgrave Award is one of the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The first medal was awarded in 1897. Up to 1906 the medals were awarded as prizes in cultural competitions. Edna Manley was the recipient of the first Gold medal in 1941 for her work in promoting art and literature.

The list of past recipients of Musgrave Medals is very impressive. Winners for science includes: Lawson Douglas, Graham Serjeant, John Golding and Manley West. Medals have been awarded in the field of literature to: Dereck Walcott, Orlando Patterson, Lorna Goodison, Phillip Sherlock and Amy Garvey. Art recipients include: Barrington Watson, Kapo, Rex Nettleford and Louise Bennett. Listed among the winners for music are: Sly and Robbie, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Chris Blackwell, Sir Coxsone, Olive Lewin, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Monty Alexander, The Mico and the University Singers.

The Kingston College Chapel Choir in winning a Musgrave Silver Medal in 2018 has therefore joined a most exclusive club. It is the third choral group to have won the award and the first high school group. This achievement comes in the 71st year of the Choir’s existence, but also during a year that the Choir and the KC Family has had to deal with some sad events. A former choirmaster, Gordon Appleton, born a year after the formation of the choir, died suddenly at the organ of Ripon Cathedral in the United Kingdom, as he was just about to play the opening hymn for the Easter Service. The Choir has also had to deal with the death of 5 schoolboys since the beginning of the school year.

The Kingston College Chapel Choir has always produced choir music at a very high standard. In the past the repertoire was almost exclusively European Church music from 16th to the 18th centuries, and to a lesser extent some Negro Spirituals which expressed the black American experience. West Indian and Jamaica compositions were very few and would be mostly setting of Psalms by Noel Dexter and a few Christmas Carols. Over time the Choir has broadened its repertoire, which has accelerated under current Choir Director Audley Davidson. The great European liturgical music now sits comfortably beside Jamaican music which was composed not necessarily with worship in mind. Choirmaster Davidson has arranged some well know Jamaican music from the popular genre for choral presentation. These include Ernie Smith’s All for Jesus, Peter Tosh’s Jah Is My Keeper and Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. Other songs from Jamaica’s popular genre which have entered the Choir’s repertoire include: Chalice’s Praise Him (arr. by Paul Thornbourne/Roger Williams), Fab 5’s Glory to God, Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get It If You Really Want and Many Rivers to Cross (arr. Grub Copper/Peter Ashbourne). The Choir also do music composed/arranged by Jamaican composers such as Noel Dexter (several Christmas Carols included), Grub Copper (Sleep Baby Jesus, written for the Choir), Beryl Donaldson (Caribbean Hallelujah), and Joan Andrea Hutchinson (Peace and Love). Included in the Choir’s repertoire are songs which could be described as ‘patriotic songs of Jamaica’ which include This is my Land (Kenneth Lightbourne/Arr. Noel Dexter), O’er Our Blue Mountain (Clyde Hoyte) and No Snow On Our Carib Island (Clyde Hoyte). Jamaican Folk songs like Linstead Market and Dis Lang Time Gal are also regularly performed by the Choir. Choirmaster Davidson has also utilize contemporary music from elsewhere e.g. The Prayer (Arr Tom Fettke), Praise His Holy Name (Keith Hampton) and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (arr. Andrew Marshall). No doubt a repertoire which has become more inclusive of Jamaican music has raised the profile of the Choir with the national institutions such as the Institute of Jamaica.

The Choir will present its annual Christmas Concert on Sunday December 16, 2018 at the University Chapel. This year the Choir commissioned the main work – Magnificat (A musical setting of Mary’s Song) composed by Jamaican Andrew Marshall. This promises to be a spectacular concert. Preparation began as usual with a 10 day summer camp at St. Hilda’s Diocesan High School in Brown’s Town in July.

The Choir was forced to make many adjustments to its rehearsal schedule because of unplanned events such as funerals of members of the school community. National recognition recently manifested though receipt of the Musgrave Medal, invitation to sing the National Anthem at this year’s Independence Grand Gala event at the National Stadium and singing at the National Heroes Day ceremony at Kings House in 2017, are all welcomed by the Choir and the school, as this signals that the Choir is having an impact on the cultural life of the nation. The Choir is humbled by this acknowledgement, but it always reminds itself of its core functions: ministering to the school community and the education of the boys of Kingston College. The Choir has demonstrated that it is willing and able to adjust when its services are required to help the school community mourn and celebrate the lives of members of this community. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.

Peter-John Gordon

Member Kingston College Choir Management Committee

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