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‘Christmas Joy’ returns for Jamaica Youth Chorale

Group elated for first Yuletide showcase since 2019

Published:Tuesday | November 22, 2022 | 12:10 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
From left: Jamaica Youth Chorale’s Cedron Walters, Brittany Johnson, Greg Simms, Sherona Forrester and Anthony Morgan.
From left: Jamaica Youth Chorale’s Cedron Walters, Brittany Johnson, Greg Simms, Sherona Forrester and Anthony Morgan.

The Jamaica Youth Chorale (JYC) is set to make a spectacular return to the stage this Christmas. The Gregory Simms-led award-winning collective will stage their concert dubbed ‘Christmas Joy’ on December 3 and 4 at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

It will be the JYC’s first Christmas showcase since 2019 when the global COVID-19 pandemic interrupted their building of a tradition to perform Yuletide classics for large audiences.

Not by accident, this year’s theme was conceptualised to evoke a deep sense of gratitude and to rejoice in the opportunity for its members to gather and celebrate with their loyal supporters live and in person, said Simms of the upcoming show.

“We’ve spent the last two years building out the online community through virtual performances, and we feel it is time we invite a wider audience to join us live for what will be an eclectic performance in a wide cross-section of music,” he said.

Simms, a member of the World Choirs Council, added that the group was looking forward to welcoming families locally and even those visiting the island, “as the show is really about celebrating togetherness and the engaging repertoire of music from classical, standard carols to authentic Jamaican style music”.

The JYC has performed for two major showcases this year, including a recital at the Church of the Good Shepherd in St Andrew in June and again last month, in collaboration with The University Singers, for a performance to raise funds to improve the facilities at the University Chapel.

“The concerts were a success, but we’re just elated to reconnect and share with our core audience again for Christmas. The past two Christmases were virtual performances and, while we did receive good reviews, we want to be able to present a full show of our talent with a special focus on Jamaican Christmas expression, performed by some amazing young Jamaicans,” Simms shared.

Christmas Joy is proposed to be presented in two 40-45 minute acts, no longer than two hours, with an intermission, he said. Some of this year’s selections include carols from German-British composer George Frideric Handel and Jamaica’s own renowned choir director and composer Noel Dexter, who passed away in August 2019. The show will feature JYC’s composer Cedron Walters, jazz pianist and band leader Kathy Brown, and pianist Stephen Shaw-Naar who holds a master’s degree in piano performance.

Founded in 2008, the JYC quickly emerged as one of the nation’s leading choirs, being featured in many local, regional and international publications, productions and events, to critical acclaim. This includes representing Jamaica at the World Choir Games - Championship level in South Africa, features on the BBC, Caribbean Passport and The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in the UK. They are now looking forward to touring in 2023 and continuing the promotion of their album, SPIRIT: Spirituals & Other Sacred Works, by Jamaican Composers, which was released in November 2021.

“We are basically celebrating the album’s one-year anniversary. It did well, but we could have promoted it some more. There is a lot we did not get to do, including recruitment as we normally would because we were hindered by the pandemic, but we’re about 38 members strong. With a big milestone coming in the upcoming year — our [15th] anniversary — we look to make a wide impact with our Christmas return,” Simms said.