Fri | Dec 2, 2022

A mesmerising carol service at St Andrew Parish Church

Published:Thursday | December 23, 2021 | 12:09 AMDave Rodney/Gleaner Writer
The choir of the St Andrew Parish Church in a mesmerising  performance with music director Audley Davidon.
The choir of the St Andrew Parish Church in a mesmerising performance with music director Audley Davidon.
The astonishing vocal range of soloist, Danielle Brown, reverberated within the walls of the St Andrew Parish Church.
The astonishing vocal range of soloist, Danielle Brown, reverberated within the walls of the St Andrew Parish Church.
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The century-old Christmas tradition of the nine lessons and carols sung during the Yuletide season was born out of a need for more imaginative worship in the Church of England. Last Sunday, the choir of St Andrew Parish Church, supported by an army of extraordinarily talented musicians, redefined and elevated the genre. A cadre of passionate professionals transformed the usually sedate service into a rollicking, rhythmic carol fest that was loaded with messages of humanitarianism and hope, and broadcast globally online.

The service was an exciting blend of traditional Christmas favourites infused with a strong presence of Jamaican composers. And the programme was fully loaded with the footprints of popular indigenous Jamaican tunes. The evening opened with the traditional processional, Once in Royal David’s City, and the magic kicked in immediately with the commanding first-verse solo performed by Lori Burnett. The superbly done opener segued into another traditional favourite, O Come all Ye Faithful. The choir of 10 voices of rare beauty, backed by the three manual Walker & Sons organs with 3,000 pipes, and a live orchestra that included trumpet, tuba, flute, violin, timpani, bass guitar and euphonium, was sheer musical bliss.

“Lawd, I feel like the herald angels are singing at St Andrew Parish Church in Half-Way Tree tonight,” an online viewer posted.

JAMAICAN MUSIC

The rhythmic extravaganza continued with old treasures like Joy to the World and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, performed with fanfare. And, as if descending from heaven, a feast of Jamaican music unfolded. Against a backdrop of tropical-coloured lights beaming on ancient, stained-glass windows of the sanctuary, the in-house and online congregations were blessed with Ghetto Carol by Barry Chevannes (1940-2010) and Star from Bethlehem by Noel Dexter (1938 -2019). Another local composition, Jesus My Lord and Savior, arranged by Noel Dexter, sizzled to the folk tune of Nobody’s Business. And violinist extraordinaire Paulette Bellamy rocked the church with a heart-warming medley of Jamaican Christmas songs.

But beyond the feast of captivating Christmas music, there was, throughout the service, an underlying theme of peace and justice on earth, and prayers for the poor, the helpless, the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the homeless, the aged and the oppressed. The tone was set in the bidding prayer offered by Rev Fr Craig Mears, assistant priest at St Andrew, and this all-important sentiment was amplified through the reading of the lessons and the reading of themed poetry. Rev Deacon Bertram Gayle, assistant curate, read one of the lessons from the Gospel of John in Jamaican Creole. An eight-year-old, Nathan Sutherland, read a moving poem titled The God We Hardly Knew by Oscar Romero. And a spine-chilling rendition of Dudley McLean’s 11 poem My Soul is Troubled by Nicola Elliott plucked nerves and ruffled Upper St. Andrew feathers, as it spoke unapologetically about the related cousins of crime, corruption and abuse in Jamaica. The poem also lashed out against rising Christmas prices and the reluctance of many to follow the COVID protocols for the collective safety of the nation.

Later in the service, the astonishing vocal range of Northern Caribbean University graduate Danielle Brown, performing O Holy Night, reverberated within the walls of the red brick church that was founded in 1664. Ears perked up and jaws dropped. The soul-stirring festival of carols came to a joyful and triumphant end with the rousing recessional, Praise the Lawd, Shout fi joy Jezas Bawn by Noel Dexter, with choir and congregation, sung to the traditional folk tune of Mango Time.

“Mi heart full,” Canon Sirrano Kitson, rector of St Andrew, affirmed proudly towards the end of the mesmerising service. “The music has touched our souls and we’ve been transported from earth to heaven,” the rector said.

Music director at St Andrew Audley Davidson was equally pleased. “I am elated with the outcome of Sunday’s carol service. Given this year’s restraints, we did exceptionally well with a combination of our own choir aided by several friends of St Andrew Parish Church, and I would like to extend a big thank you to them all for making Sunday’s carol service a resounding success,” Davidson added.

Noteworthy is the fact that the church bells at St Andrew Parish Church will peal on Christmas Day before the start of the 8 a.m. service.