An affair with the arts in 2012
IN a culture dominated by indigenous popular music, other areas — classical music, dance, theatre and the fine arts — managed to hold their own in Jamaica during 2012.
Perhaps, the most dynamic area was theatre. With a performance week running from Wednesday to Sunday, local stages were awash with the full range of theatrical offerings from sombre dramas, melodic musicals to our own roots theatre.
Among the works which took to the stage in 2012 were revivals of Jamaican classics including Gloria Lannaman's Stanley, Fae, Pularchie & P; Trevor Rhone's Old Story Time; Louie Marriott's Bedward; and Sistren Collective's Bellywoman Bangarang.
The National Pantomime celebrated its 70th anniversary with the staging of Anansi & Goat Head Soup. This was a tribute to theatre personality Ranny Williams, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday.
The Ward Theatre would also mark its centenary. The iconic venue in downtown Kingston has been derelict for over a decade, despite calls and efforts from various quarters to have the edifice restored.
The Ward could not be mentioned without pausing to remember the life of long-standing foundation chairman Ruby Martin, who died in April.
For lover's of the fine arts, though not robust, the country's major gallery's managed to generate some buzz during the past year.
However, it is the National Gallery which must take credit for arousing the sensibilities of both artists and audience during the year. In addition to its on-going exhibitions, the gallery played host to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's photography and fine arts competition; the Barrington Watson Retrospective; the inaugural International Reggae Poster Competition; and capped the year with a strong showing for the National Biennial.
Like Jamaica, renowned painter Alexander Cooper celebrated 50 years as an artist, with a exhibition at the Mutual Gallery in the Corporate Area in September.
No major local films hit the big screen during 2012. However, the Jamaican story reached higher heights with the release of the Kevin MacDonald-directed Marley — a documentary which set out to showcase the man behind the King of Reggae, Bob Marley.
Thousands, including the Marley family, government officials, local and international media, the entertainment fraternity and curious Jamaicans gathered at Emancipation Park in St Andrew on an April evening for the local premiere. At the end of the two hours-plus, a rousing applause signalled the stamp of approval for the work.
The family of late film director and producer Perry Henzell was kept busy during the year. In addition to celebrating the 40th anniversary of Henzell's seminal film The Harder They Come, his daughter Justine took on One People, a documentary to celebrate Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.
The Jamaica 50 celebrations also held special meaning to past and present members of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), which also celebrated its golden anniversary.
Founded by the late Professor Rex Nettleford and Eddie Thomas in 1962, the NDTC has gone on to become the country's foremost dance company touring extensively and showcasing its rich repertoire which combines traditional Jamaican dance forms with modern dance techniques.
For its dance season in August, the NDTC remounted some major works over the past 50 years and brought back retired principal dancer Melanie Graham for the popular works The Crossing and Edna M.
Lovers of classical music were in for a treat in September. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra held two recitals — Northern Caribbean University, Mandeville and Kingston's Holy Trinity Cathedral. In addition to the great music from the orchestra, the artistry of Jamaican violinists Stephen Woodham and 14-year-old Naomi Reitzin as well as composer/arranger Peter Ashbourne bolstered the evening. British-born Jamaican Dr Shirley Thompson also added some spice to the presentation.
For their concert season in May/June, the University Singers focussed on the work of Jamaican composers. The highlight of the season was the unveiling of Franklin Halliburton's 1865, which is an opera based on the Morant Bay Rebellion.
The literary community also saw the revival of the Calabash festival after a one-year hiatus, as well as the launch of the autobiography by stage and screen goddess Leonie Forbes.