EARLY LAST month, a roomful of opera lovers came out to meet composer Dr Shirley Thompson and soprano Abigail Kelly, UK-based classical musicians of the Jamaican diaspora, about whom they would have already heard much. Thompson’s 45-minute opera Sacred Mountain: Incidents in the Life of Queen Nanny of the Maroons was presented in the Vera Moody Concert Hall at the Edna Manley College’s School of Music. Untraditionally, the opera was written for only one singer (with some narration) and it was Kelly who sang. Judging from the applause when the opera ended and the animated discussion which followed between Thompson and the audience, the opera was well received. This was not only because of its music, but also its cultural context. The epic story is about our only national heroine’s life as a Maroon leader in the Blue Mountains and her victorious fight against British troops.
More of the discussion centred on the opera’s cultural aspect than its music, which Thompson described as “difficult”, “challenging”, “gritty” and “not meant to be beautiful” (although it does reflect the majesty of the Blue Mountains).
Subsequently, I have been in email communication with Thompson and Kelly, who have made it their mission to spread Jamaican culture throughout Europe, primarily through classical music.
Cultural historian Vivian Crawford should welcome that news. His comment to Thompson was, “I’m glad you performed it [the opera] in Britain first [last year] to remind them that though Britannia ruled the waves, they couldn’t rule the bushes. Thanks for telling a story of our people. This must be the beginning of many more such operas.”
On her choice of Nanny as an opera’s main character, Thompson told the audience: “I used my imagination to turn out a character that could represent every woman of Jamaica – that Abigail Kelly as Nanny in the opera ‘Sacred Mountain: Incidents in the Life of Queen Nanny of the Maroons’, staged recently in the Vera Moody Concert Hall, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, St Andrew.
Nazareth Past Students’ Sports Day is at the Nazareth All-Age School. Events include needle and thread, egg and spoon, and potato races, relays, and more. Prizes will be awarded to winners.
Hillz Jamboree is at Maidstone Square. Performances by Sizzla Kalonji, Turbulence, Lion Man and Abajoni Kush. Music by St Bess Most Wanted, Iceberg Million, Jacks International, Sonic 71 and Black Venom. Gate prize: 50 chickens and a bag of feed.
Today and every Friday Jackpot Sports Bar presents Come Drink With Me at 42 Giltress Street, Rollington Town, Kingston 2. Every Friday and Saturday, reduced prices on all drinks, lots of giveaways and free tokens to play slots.
This and every Friday, NK Deli and Salsa Society of Jamaica present Pre-Game Fridays, 2-4-1 Happy Hour, at New Kingston Conference Centre (upstairs New Kingston Business Centre). Free salsa classes at 6 p.m. Latin dancing continues until 10 p.m. Music by DJ Drizzy Dre and DJ Chan. Tel: 754-8714.