Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Philharmonic Orchestra delivers with ‘Jiizas A-Go Baan’

Published:Wednesday | December 11, 2019 | 12:18 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica conductor Franklin Halliburton.
Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica conductor Franklin Halliburton.

To a music connoisseur, a live performance from a philharmonic orchestra is the absolute experience. And for the full house in attendance Saturday at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, for the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica and the Jamaica Chorale Scholars presentation of Dr Andrew Marshall’s Jiizas A-Go Baan, it was such an experience, with ‘brawta’.

Jiizas A-Go Baan is written in three parts, using the text of the Jamaican version of the New Testament. It focuses on the birth of Jesus. The riveting story was brought to life by a talented ensemble of musicians on stringed, percussion, wind and brass instruments, as well as a choir with some soloists. Marshall alternated his conducting with playing the keyboard.

Singing Jamaican dialect in a classical genre is a guarantee of humour. And so it was when the vocalists coloured the distinct dialect words with the classical twirls. Soloists Denise Grant, Rosette Salazar, Karim Chang and Miguel Lowe were excellent. Calynton Blake was scheduled to sing the parts of the narrator. But, unfortunately, his absence left it to be imagined how his bass range would have impacted the riveting presentation. In his absence, Joan Richards-Goffe read the lines.

The 75-minute-long production was first written as an abbreviated version in 2017, at the invitation of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica. More pieces were subsequently written for the 2018 and 2019 performances.

And in speaking with The Gleaner, the talented Jamaican composer said the inspiration for his composition came from two sources.

“I wanted to use the conductorly techniques, usually affiliated to the Western techniques, and infiltrate them with the Jamaican technique. But the Jamaican New Testament was the inspiration by far, and right now I am just waiting on the Old Testament. But it was the text first.”

Another bonus to Jiizas A-Go Baan was the presence of the distinct sounds of Jamaican music forms such as reggae and revival, despite being written in the classical form.

“It was intentional to incorporate elements of Jamaican music, throughout. We hope that was achieved,” Marshall confirmed.


Andrew Brodber believed that the presence of the Jamaican music was extraordinary.

“I really enjoyed what happened here tonight. What I am seeing is an expression that is ours. That it comes out in the music is extraordinary, and where I see our music going. A lot more persons need to experience this, so that which is Jamaican can transcend the world. It was fantastic.”

The classy two-segment show began with the Philharmonic Orchestra performing Georges Bizet’s Farandole from L’ Arlesienne, Suite No. 2. They followed up with Jon Williams’ Marley Symphony, Mvt. II, and Franklin Halliburton’s Ave Maria. Sections of the orchestra accompanied Althea Neblett, oboe solo piece, Gabriel’s Oboe, arranged by Kathryn Griesinger, and Rafael Salazar, solo clarinet, performance of Hugh Martin’s Have Yourself a Merry Christmas. Franklin Haliburton was the principal conductor this segment of the concert.