The outpouring of musical tributes on Sunday, Aug.25, with contributions by youth, were befitting venerable Guyanese composer Valerie Rodway, (1919-1970) whose patriotic compositions from her vast body of work filled the grandiose St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, in celebration of the music teacher’s 100th birthday.
The packed audience enjoyed, a grand musical odyssey, arranged by brilliant preeminent composer, Hugh Sam, who pulled together a stellar group of artistes for a nostalgic, gratifying production, under the conduct of incomparable director, Monty Blackmore.
Renowned broadcaster, Hugh Hamilton, who guided the program with precision and astute intellect, as host, in his opening remarks, reminded that it was the persistence of scholars like Dr. Vibert Cambridge, who led the struggle to ensure Guyanese artistes, composers, and cultural icons are appropriately honored for their invaluable contributions with a sense of pride, identity, and belonging.
Thanks to Dr. Cambridge, persistence spells success, as demonstrated in every performance that honored Valerie Rodway, who, Dr. Cambridge called, Guyana’s greatest composer of national and patriotic music.
The prolific production by Guyana Cultural Association, (GCA) under the patronage of Ambassador Rudolph M. Ten-Pow, and guest, Consul General, to New York, Hon. Barbara Atherly, began after the heartfelt singing of the National Anthems of the United States of America, and the Republic of Guyana, by Anthony Alleyne.
The flame of patriotism was then ignited when young pianist Kurleigh Lowe joined the String Quartet of Duane James, Camille Prescott-Archer, Hennigan Kearns, Mel Greenidge, and Kevaun McPherson, in an overture to set the tone for an awe-inspiring evening of culture, where Mildred, Kevin, and Kenrick Lowe, all had pivotal roles.
Royal College of London trained choir conductor, Avis Joseph, wielded her baton with razor-sharp accuracy, to lead the choir in, “Guyana the Free”, and “A Hymn for the Republic”, songs that fueled a sentimental longing and love of country, as heard the in fervent applause.
One of the most inspiring moments of the night was Edgar Henry’s passionate verve - A Tribute to Valerie Rodway.
Accompanied by musicians Erwin Edwards & Dennis Kadan, Henry narrated - “To every man, woman, girl and boy, you brought melodic fruits of lasting joy, we will always remember your musical slate - Yes! We pause to hail and celebrate,” to resounding applause.
The rhythm continued with Neika Jewell whose melodious voice filled the air with “To the Hibiscus” and “Twilight” - a lovely collaboration with Demon Webster, on violin, and Ronald Lashley on piano, that began a soothing, classical element, and ended with Albert Bentick –tenor performance of “A Poet’s Prayer.
Appearing on stage, in costume showcasing the colors of Guyana’s Golden Arrowhead flag, Dr. Rose October ‘s fluid unique choreography to Hugh Sam’s synthesized orchestration, River Idyll, added another facet to the historic production that highlighted the importance of dance to Guyanese culture, and October’s excellent contribution that spans over four decades.
The charm of a classical Indian mix was heard on the Tabla, Sitar, and Harmonium, during a symmetrical rendition, beautifully performed by Yashokamini, Kavish, Yogini and Umadai Gayadin and Yashokamini to the words of “The Weeding Gang” by Ramcharitar-Lalla.
The merry students of Impressions Dance Theater then took to the stage to, twizzle and cartwheel, in “How the Agouti Lost its tail,” a playful piece, choreographed by prolific dance director, Verna Walcott-White, narrated by Kishore Seunarine, and accompanied by Yashokamini on Tabla.
As expected, saxophonist Erwin “Flantis” Edwards mesmerized the audience with his usual showmanship style, so much so, that patrons, including Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and Consul General, Hon. Barbara Atherly, showed appreciation, with endless applause.
Selections Frolic and Kanaima by virtuoso Moses Telford took the audience on a journey to Guyana’s hinterland, in a well-executed piano solo that garnered a bravo.
Anthony Alleyne’s baritone vocal once again filled the halls with Hymn for Guyana’s Children, before the audience joined the Choir under Avis Joseph direction to sing O Beautiful Guyana, followed by a moving tribute by Frank Jordan and Cheryl Blackmore, that ended the delightful afternoon of Guyanese pride and patriotism, family members of the great Valerie Rodway must have surely appreciated.
All thanks to the dedicated GCA body, of Claire A. Goring, Dr. Juliet Emanuel, Claire Patterson-Monah, Maurice Blenman, Patricia Jordon- Langford, Penny Bascom, Jacqueline Newton, and many others, who made the concert possible.
To learn more of GCA’s upcoming festival, go to www.guyfo