Ironically, there was very little toughness, and absolutely no roughness, in the Cry Tough concert staged by the faculty of the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts on Sunday.
The performers’ hearts were clearly not into the adversities of life. Instead, they focused on smoothly entertaining the audience that filled the Vera Moody Concert Hall. The large numbers followed an extensive marketing campaign, and an attractive poster which declared the concert would feature Roots, Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Funk and Pop music delivered by “15 world class artistes”.
It was a case of a promised fulfilled. The audience cheered and applauded enthusiastically throughout the two-hour long event, which, according to offstage announcer Coleen Douglas, was the first ever faculty ‘concert’.
Their previous shows, being more formal and strait-laced, were called ‘recitals’. Cry Tough, however, was generally relaxed and joy-filled despite the sombre instrumental opening number – Slain. Danced with angst by Kerry-Ann Henry, it was accompanied by slides showing numerous victims of murder and brutality in the country over the past few years.
There were futile – if deliberate attempts within the show to bring back, or even come close to, that initial mood of negativity. Thus, several tunes with gloomy titles were played – Cry Tough by Alton Ellis (to whom the concert paid tribute), Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone by Bill Withers and J.J. Johnson, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer, and Sting’s Fragile. The last two were sung well, by Carl Scharschmidt, a voice lecturer. The tunes’ main instrumentalists were; Ibo Cooper (keyboard), Cooper and guitarist Shawn Richards, Gerd Beyens (harmonica) and Richards. A large band, comprising perhaps 20 instruments, accompanied the featured musicians and singers throughout the concert.
The titles mentioned might suggest gloom, but the music was played with such vigour that joy was the feeling communicated to the audience. Besides, the gloomy titles, were balanced by happy ones – Damian Marley’s Autumn Leaves (sung by Scharschmidt), John Lennon’s With a Little Help From My Friends (by Ruth Browne), Stevie Wonder’s Lately (sung and played on the keyboard by Andre Adman), the Tina Turner hit, Rolling Down the River (by June Lawson and Derek Been), Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by Joe Zawinul (played on tenor saxophone by Ornisea Williams), People Make the World Go Round by Thom Bell and Linda Creed (played by flautist Keturah Gray); and Gene McFadden’s Wake Up Everybody (sung by Scharschmidt, and Trevelle Clarke-Whyne, with rapping by Kyran O’Connor).
These were only some of the approximately 20 items performed. Medleys were included, one of them being a tribute to the late, great Aretha Franklin, with snatches from Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Say a Little Prayer, Chain of Fool, and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Henry, the dancer, was the School of Dance’s contribution to the concert, while the School of Drama offered a dramatic excerpt from its production of the Sistren Theatre Collective’s play, Bellywoman Bangarang, directed by Camille Quamina. It opens November 9 and runs for two weekends.
By Michael Reckord
All photos used with this article were taken Neil Waithe.
First published by The Gleaner Online, November 7, 2018.