BRAATA BIG DEAL

Fresh from the sold-out revival of their 2011 concert season production, Wheel and Come Again, the New York-based Braata Folk singers, under the artistic direction of Jamaican-born actor and singer Andrew Clarke, are turning their attention to their most prestigious assignment to date: representing Jamaica at the 8th World Choir Games to be held in Cincinnati Ohio from July 4 to 14.

The trip to Cincinnati will form yet another milestone for the three-year-old group, which continues to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence with major calendar events during this year.Their 2012 concert season, to be held at The Jamaica Performing Arts Center in Queens, New York in June, will be a tribute to Jamaica and Jamaicans over the course of the last half century.

But that season is really the precursor to the glittering Choir Games Festivities, which will see several thousand performers from over 70 countries competing for gold, silver and bronze medals in several categories.

Braata will be bringing their unique performing style of “choral theater” to two categories- ‘Scenic Folklore’ and ‘Music of the Religions.’

A collection of renowned Jamaican folksongs will comprise their suite in the Scenic Folklore category while several gospel songs in the Jamaican ‘revival’ tradition will form the repertoire in the Music of The Religions category.

The games were first held in 2000 as the World Choir Olympics, and were organized by German organization Intercultur, to spread peace through music The event has been held bi annually ever since, in various exotic locations around the globe including Bremen Germany, Graz, Austria and, most recently, Shaoxing, China in 2010.

Artistic Director of the folk singers Andrew Clarke is aware of the enormity of the occasion, not only because it will be Braata’s first time at the games- but because of the rich tradition of excellence that has been established by other Jamaican choirs at the event over the years.

“We have some pretty big shoes to fill,” Clarke says, “Because the list of choirs that has represented Jamaica includes the Glenmuir High School Choir, The Carifolk Singers and Nexus Performing Arts Company- huge names in the pantheon of Jamaican choral music. The Carifolk Singers earned two silvers and one gold medal in Germany, 2004 while Nexus walked away with one gold, one silver and two bronze medals in Austria 2008. In this fiftieth anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, we are aiming to fly our flag high and hopefully claim some silverware for our country prior to our athletes doing the same at the Summer Olympics in London just weeks later.”

To that end, Clarke and his creative team, including Musical Director Garnett Mowatt and choreographers Chris Walker and Jermaine Rowe have been putting the group through their paces for several weeks.

“You are competing against the very best choirs in the world,” says Clarke. “Every point we can extract from the judges is tremendously vital in a competition where the difference between gold, silver and bronze medals- or no medals at all- can be fractions of a point.”

As always, funding for the undertaking has not been easy to come by but with three months to go before the trip, Clarke is optimistic that they will cross the finish line.

“Our 2012 concert season next month will be our major fundraiser so we are obviously hoping that the show will be well supported. We have also been doing several performances for various organizations and corporations. But every little bit helps, so anyone who wants to learn more about how they can help us get there can go to our website www.braataproductions.org . We also have an online campaign going at www.indiegogo.com where persons can search Braata Folk Singers and donate as little as $10 US to our effort from anywhere in the world. While so doing, they will be thanked with wonderful prizes from the Braata family.

Interestingly enough, the Braata Folk Singers will not be the only Jamaica choral group carrying Jamaica’s flag at this major event. The Jamaican Youth Chorale (JYC) under the Artistic Direction of Gregory Simms will also be in attendance.

Clarke is delighted that the JYC– who will compete in separate categories one week before Braata takes the stage- will be present.

“The unique rules of the World Choir Games allows several groups from the same country to participate, and we embrace the opportunity to be part of this event along with the JYC. Victory for any of us is a victory for Jamaica, and there would be no better way to cap our 50th anniversary independence festivities.”

More from Around NYC