Excellent benefit concert for Devon House
To maintain a structure in any form for 134 years is no easy feat, so it was only fitting that the organisers of the Devon House anniversary concert used the iconic status and relevance of the site to Jamaica, as their guide in selecting the patron as well as the acts. Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson was selected as the patron.
At the concert, held on Saturday on the grounds of Devon House, located on Hope Road, the former prime minister of Jamaica, obviously pleased by his role, was witty and frank.
"In retirement you get all kinds of interesting invitations, most of them give you no difficulty in saying no. As you are aware, silence cannot be misquoted. But knowing my love of music, the invitation to be patron here tonight is like putting a child in a candy store," Patterson said.
He continued, "I think that having been asked to be patron that is enough and I really shouldn't be asked to say anything, but to say this [the show] has the P J brand of quality and class. And I don't hesitate to say so, having regard to the level of musical talents which we are about to enjoy."
Mr Patterson also briefly addressed history. "We are met in this exquisite setting, created by one who sought to overcome the limitations of the colonial plantocracy and to show them that anything they could do, we could do better; and that is my topping of the ice cream, for me to be identified with this special occasion."
"Let the music begin and let us enjoy ourselves on a wonderful night," he concluded.
And with such positive predictions, it was up to the artistes to deliver a high-quality Devon House 134th Fundraising Anniversary Concert. And they were successful in doing so.
Backing band, Desi Jones and Friends (Chris, Dale and Larque) got the musical feast going with the jazz pieces Tenor Madness and You Will Know. Then it was on to the up-and-coming, 14-year-old William Leathers. Alternating between playing the trumpet and the piano, he showed maturity beyond his years by providing background information before each selection. This had the attention of the large audience, and to top it off, he closed his set with a Jamaican classic, Jimmy Cliff's Many Rivers to Cross.
The rapture started by the preceding acts, intensified with the all-female vocalists Gem Myers, Karen Smith and Patricia Edwards or simply Pa-Kage. They were excellent in every aspect of their performance and had the audience moving, singing and applauding to favourites like, I'm So Excited, Jump and That's How Strong My Love Is.
Dean Fraser did not stop the ecstasy. His performance was just as contagious as he pierced the heart with selections of reggae and jazz. They included None A Jah Jah Children, Thinking Out Loud and the engaging, Diamonds.
Tarrus Riley was the surprise act of the evening. Ever the crowd-pleaser, he was witty and disarming. His set included Lions Paw and She's Royal, before delivering his closing song, One Drop.
Myrna Hague closed the very high-quality show with a strong dose of jazz and a sprinkling of reggae. Always stylishly attired and moving with grace and poise, the songbird got her set going with Over the Rainbow. She followed up with the ballad, St Louis Blues and Bob Marley's Waiting in Vain.
With her customary monologues preceding each song, she ended another fantastic performance with Only Love Sets You Free.
The programme for the Devon House 134th anniversary benefit show, was completed with brief remarks also from the CEO of Devon House Doreen Frankson, and Tourism Minister Dr Wyckham McNeill. Both thought the show went quite well. The Gleaner spoke to them after the show.
McNeil praised the Devon House board for doing a "fantastic job, more than doubling the earnings from operation. The grounds and the house are in great conditions ... . We are now in the process of expanding the Ice Cream Shop. On the other side, we see Devon House as a cultural entertainment centre." Meanwhile Frankson explained that the concert was "in keeping with the mandate by the minister (McNeill), to bring back Devon House to a place of excellence and to have all different types of music. So this is just the beginning of a series."
The MC for the evening was Fae Ellington.