Sun | Jan 26, 2020

Ward Theatre orchestra pit still in place, says KSAMC

Published:Friday | December 6, 2019 | 3:04 PM
Mayor of Kingston, Delroy Williams, addressing guests during a guided tour of the Ward Theatre on Wednesday, December 4, 2019. The popular theatre is under renovation - Gladstone Taylor photo

The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation is maintaining that the orchestra pit at the under-renovation Ward Theatre has not been removed and will remain a feature of the 107-year old building.

The issue was raised by some members of the performing arts community during a tour of the building on Wednesday.

READ:  Conductor rips Ward Theatre reno crew

The municipal corporation, in a statement today, insisted that the core character of the building has remained unaltered.

FULL STATEMENT

Within the last 24 hours, both the Jamaica Gleaner and the Jamaica Observer have carried opinions and stories alleging that the orchestra pit at the Ward Theatre has been removed. 

The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) refutes these statements and would like to have it placed on record that the orchestra pit is very much present and it has always been a part of the plans to keep it as an element of the theatre. 

A story carried in the Jamaica Gleaner on December 5, 2019, has allowed several falsehoods to be spread surrounding the restoration of the theatre.

Among them, is a statement purporting that the renovation team has failed to "retain the iconic building’s core character". This is very misleading and inaccurate.
 
Not only is the statement an exaggeration; it is an exaggeration based on misinformation. The core character of the building has remained unaltered save for plans to improve access to key areas for persons with disabilities and the removal of the termite infested wood along the seating area, orchestra pits and roofing repairs. 

The team led by His Worship The Mayor, Senator & Councillor Delroy Williams led a tour of the Ward Theatre on Wednesday, December 4, 2019, to give an update of works done and an idea of where the project currently stands.

The tour also featured performances by Dawn Martin and Mario Nelson's rendition of Owen "Blakka" Ellis' "Gate Man". 

During these performances, just metres ahead of the guests on the tour, sandwiched between the performers and the audience, was the much-talked about orchestra pit at the Ward Theatre.

Several persons asked questions about the retention of the pit as a feature of the Ward Theatre based on the removal of the board fencing that once enclosed the orchestra pit.
 
The mayor explained that the fencing and much of the woodwork in the seating area were removed due to a termite infestation that the theatre has been battling with for some time.

Persons on the tour not only saw that the orchestra pit was still very much present, but some also walked down into it and took pictures. 

From as far back as February 2017, at the genesis of the restoration, the KSAMC has been weighing two options as it relates to the Ward Theatre orchestra pit.

The first is the option of keeping the pit at its current size, and the second; based on consultation with local experts; the option of having the pit expanded.

The intention has never been to remove the pit and that this falsehood has controlled the media for so long is most disheartening. 

An opinion submitted by celebrated journalist Barbara Gloudon; based on the Jamaica Gleaner story; suggesting again that the orchestra pit was removed.

Like many others, she has been misled by the initial report, including comments from Peter Ashbourne.  

The orchestra pit remains and the hardworking team executing the much-anticipated restoration is retaining the iconic building's core character.

The KSAMC will be hosting a series of guided tours throughout the restoration with industry stakeholders, agencies and the media. 

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