Remembering Rex, Barry and Noel - Tribute concert Feb 18, Little Theatre
Executive Director of the Rex Nettleford Foundation, Elizabeth Buchanan, shared with The Gleaner that each year at the annual Remembering Rex tribute concert, there was one person who could always be counted on to stand by her side in the lobby and greet patrons, and also to give her the cues at the end of the intermission. That person was Barry Moncrieffe. “We would watch the performances and they were always filled with so much passion, he would say, ‘Rex is in the house’,” Buchanan recalled.
This year, however, Moncrieffe, the former artistic director of the National Dance Theatre Company, will not be able to take his usual place in the lobby, but he will certainly be in the house, right there with his mentor, Nettleford, and Noel Dexter.
All three creative stalwarts are larger-than-life figures in music and dance, and they share a bond and a legacy that is timeless. It is no wonder then that the Rex Nettleford Foundation has taken the decision to have a triple focus at this year’s 10th anniversary of the Remembering Rex tribute concert at the Little Theatre next Tuesday, February 18.
Moncrieffe, who was the former artistic director of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), passed away on January 16 this year. Having joined the NDTC in 1963, one year after its founding, he dedicated virtually his entire life and career to the company. He distinguished himself as performer, choreographer and teacher-mentor through his 55-year association, also teaching at the Jamaica School of Dance. Moncrieffe also became widely known as a fashion designer and participated in the renowned Caribbean Fashionweek, among other shows.
Noel Dexter, who passed in August last year, held the post of director of music at The UWI, Mona, for some 39 years. He led the University Singers to fame and excellence in choral theatre in Jamaica, the Caribbean and internationally. Among his numerous credits as a composer is the UWI’s song, There is a Light. Several of his other compositions and arrangements have become standards in the repertoires of both church and secular choirs, including Make a Joyful Noise, Freedom Song, Sing De Chorus, Clap Yuh Han’, and The Right Hand of God, which has been published in four hymnals worldwide.
“Every year since Professor Nettleford’s passing, we host a tribute event in his honour. Both Barry and Noel were integral to this event, and they were instrumental in what would appear on the programme,” Buchanan told The Gleaner.
She noted that although Moncrieffe had stepped down in the latter part of 2018 and had handed over to Marlon Simms, he was still very much a part of the company, and to the dancers, he was their beloved ‘Uncle Barry’. She pointed out that Nettleford had selected Moncrieffe to take over from him, and so, too, Moncrieffe had groomed Marlon Simms as his successor, and Dexter had chosen Franklyn Halliburton to carry on.
Moncrieffe was honoured by the NDTC in 2017 and Dexter in 2018, and Buchanan recalled that it was a proud moment. “They were so moved and spoke of their passion for music and dance,” she said, adding, “They were so talented yet so humble and gave unselfishly of self to the company. When Professor Nettleford left, there was a huge void in the region and in the diaspora. That void is ever bigger now.”
Buchanan, however, is confident that there resides in Simms, Halliburton and the companies “the substance and talent” to move forward. “The legacies are in good hands,” she said.
In addition to dance and vocal performances, the foundation will also continue its mission of assisting talented students who will receive the Rex Nettleford Foundation, Cornwall College and Rex Nettleford Hall awards, as well as the Rex Nettleford Foundation Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts Scholarship.
Tickets for Remembering Rex are available at the Little Theatre or at the Institutional Advancement Division, UWI.