Braata Folk Singers earns two silver and a bronze
The acclaimed Braata Folk Singers of New York handed Jamaica an early Golden Jubilee gift by walking away with three medals at the seventh International World Choir Games held in Cincinnati, Ohio, from July 4- 14.
The 12-member ensemble, under the direction of founder and artistic director Andrew Clarke, earned two silver medals and one bronze medal, taking silverware in all three competitive categories in which they participated as Jamaica's representatives.
Braata's two silver medals were in the categories of 'Scenic Folklore' and 'Music of The Religions', while the bronze accolade came in the category of 'Mixed Chamber Music'.
The 10-day event saw participation from hundreds of choirs representing some 70 countries from across the globe.
The medal table was topped by host country, the United States with 76 medals (23 gold, 46 silver and 7 bronze) followed by China with 43 medals (21 gold, 17 silver and five bronze).
Jamaica's medal haul of three, tied the nation with world superpowers Great Britain and Germany, as well as Caribbean neighbours, The Bahamas.
Despite being the second-smallest choir at the games, Braata emerged as overwhelming favourites among the fans as well as the other groups in contention.
Returning with the ensemble to New York last Sunday, Clarke was "over the moon" with pride and joy at the accomplishment of his three-year-old group.
"To know that we have come so far so fast, and that within three years of our existence we could take the stage at this prestigious event, representing Jamaica, and walk away with the same number of medals as Britain and Germany is just an incredible feeling."
The Braata Folk Singers now joins an elite corps of Jamaican choirs which have earned medals at the internationally renowned event, including the Nexus Performing Arts Company and the Cari-Folk Singers.
Of the three medals won, Clarke states that the bronze in the category of 'Mixed Chamber Music' was perhaps the sweetest of all.
"That category is really for classically trained choirs which we are not," he said.
"We were required to do a 15-minute suite in which we performed renditions of Freedom Song by Noel Dexter, Jammin by Bob Marley and Saloh - a Jamaican folk song - all sung with a classical bend. We took a big risk entering that category because it's not a style to which we are accustomed, but under the baton of musical director Garnett Mowatt, the members really delivered and the judges were extremely impressed."
For their silver medal-winning performances in the 'Scenic Folklore' and 'Music of The Religions' categories, Braata performed two suites of well-known Jamaican and secular selections.
Their folk repertoire included Evening Time, It Was Under the Coconut Tree and Dawg War, while highlights of the religious suite included Dip Dem Bedward, Bright Soul and Weeping Eyes.
According to Clarke, "The silvers in these categories were also rewarding as folk and religious music is more of our speciality. But just to know that we medalled in all three categories in which we participated - and that we could give Jamaica this pre-Independence gift in our Golden Jubilee year is extremely gratifying."
The group will have little time to bask in the glory of their accomplishments, with a slate of performances scheduled throughout the New York and tri-state area leading up to Jamaica's 50th birthday in August.
And although Clarke indicates that the group still has bills to pay relating to the trip to Cincinnati, Braata is already looking even further ahead - to the next edition of the games in Latvia, 2014.
"Everyone - audiences and judges alike - fell in love with our Jamaican energy and vibe - and they definitely want us back," Clarke said.
"Latvia will be an even more costly undertaking, but hopefully, with what we have achieved this time around, the support will be present to get us there again."