GCA presents late Valerie Rodway Centenary Concert

The Guyana Cultural Association Inc. under the patronage of H.E. Rudolph M. Ten-Pow, permanent representative of Guyana to the United Nations, and guest of honor, Consul General of Guyana, to New York, Barbara Atherly will present the Valerie Rodway Centenary Concert on Aug. 25.

The celebration will begin at 5 pm, in St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, 331 Hawthorn St., in Brooklyn, and will feature performances by distinguished Guyanese musicians and ensembles, hosted by award-winning radio personality Hugh Hamilton.

Illustrious music director, and former head of lighting of Guyana’s prestigious Natural Cultural Center, Monty Blackmore, told Caribbean Life during a rehearsal, that he was honored to be directing the historic production, and reliving the composer’s music, especially for the younger generation.

“I want young people to hear the music of Guyana. They don’t know anything about Valerie Rodway, so I want to add some fullness to the music so they can enjoy it,” said Blackmore, who has been directing for more than 40 years.

Adding a bit of “rap” into the song ‘Glory” a favorite, for inclusivity of youth, while bringing it into the 21st century is just one element of the production.

“The audience will enjoy the concert, because they will sing along. This is where we’re going to take this music, this is history at its best,” assured Backmore.

Piano instructor, Edgar Henry, praised Rodway who composed national songs, “Oh Beautiful Guyana” “Hymn for Guyana’s Children ‘Arise Guyana’, and others. He said he was elated to relive the extraordinary music of Rodway, who was among greats, such as Lynette Dolphin, and his former music teacher Marian Simon.

Henry will honor the late phenomenal composer with a poem that speaks to her life and works. “I will be accompanied by pianist Dennis Kaden, and saxophonist, Flantis,” said Henry, who reminisced that Rodway’s composition, “Guyana the Free,” was not selected as Guyana’s National Anthem, as intended, but noted, “Oh Beautiful Guyana” became just as popular.

“She was an educator, before becoming a music teacher. She was extraordinary, a maestro in her own right deserving of this honor. I hope many people come out to hear Valarie Rodway’s music. She would have been 100 years if she were alive. She born on Feb. 12, 1919,” he shared.

Kisore Seunarine, actor, writer, whose daughter will play the Indian Tabla and harmonium, is honored that he was asked to bring a new element to Rodway’s works to the production.

“I never knew Valarie Rodway did this type of music. I was blown away when I heard a piece. A mixture of classical and jazz, and when GCA asked my daughter Yashokamini, to add the Indian element, by playing the sitar, tabla, harmonium, combination, I immediately agreed.”

“We are creating something to give that flavor and rhythm, which is a part our national cuisine. It will be a classical Indian mix, an innovation in music,” explained Seunarine.

Yashokamini Seunarine, who was not yet born, when Rodway’s music was created, said she was honored to be a part of the concert.

“It will be interesting to see how the tabla blends into the compositions, since these pieces are classical. This is an opportunity for me to broaden my horizon. Instead of playing Indian music, I will be playing classical and jazz music on the instruments,” she said.

Kurleigh Lowe, another youth, knew of Valarie Rodway’s national songs, “Oh Beautiful Guyana,” and “Guyana the Free” but noted that many aren’t aware of the plethora of music she wrote.

“It is unfortunate that Guyanese only know of her national songs. I would tell young people. If you find it in yourself to be a musician, create your own music, but be like Valarie Rodway.”

He asserts that there is a greater need for Guyanese music to be played on the airways, and since Guyanese artistes are creating music every day, they need support as well.

Valerie Rodway’s body of work is expansive in scope. It reflects genre diversity, national pride, and commitment to quality, according to Dr. Vibert Cambridge.

“A close examination of the songs indicates that she selected poems that encouraged and nurtured a set of positive values — service to the nation, respect for the heritage, the creation of a just and caring society — essential values for the new multi-racial nation,” said Dr. Cambridge, adding, “Valerie Rodway Centenary Concert will be a fitting tribute to a Berbice-born musician whose work has contributed to the development of the Guyanese identity.”

Claire Patterson-Monah, front house manager, is confident of bringing a packed audience to St. Gabriel’s to experience the extraordinary works of Valarie Rodway, and has put in place ticket purchase options — Evite, Eventbrite.

For preferred seating, tickets could be purchased online. Guyana Cultural Association is registered with Zello — claireagor[email protected]ol.com

Tickets are also available at ENG Vision Center Corp. 1012 Flatbush Ave., or by calling, GCA — 718-209-5207. Tickets cost $25.00.

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