Dec. 1, 2004 – St. Thomas is in for a musical treat when the University of the Virgin Islands' annual Christmas concert comes to town Saturday evening.
To get the Christmas spirit up and dancing at the Reichhold Center for the Performing Arts, there'll be a concert band, two ensembles (jazz and steel pan), a concert choir, a bevy of soloists (instrumental and voice), definitely drummers drumming and pipers piping, and probably ladies dancing and gentlemen a-leaping.
Christmas music of composers J.S. Bach and Gustav Holst to Leroy Anderson and Glenn "Kwabena" Davis will be played and sung by the UVI bands and ensembles and flute, trumpet, and percussion soloists. The centerpiece of the varied program is a visiting harpist who will accompany the UVI concert choir in Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols" as well as playing her own arrangement of "Silent Night."
Harpist Joffria Whitfield has been brought to St. Thomas especially for this performance, and she will be playing a local harp, generously loaned for the occasion.
Thinking of the impossible logistics of transporting a harp, Whitfield reports she checked the directory of the American Harp Society and found to her surprise and pleasure a member resident on St. Thomas. This contact led her to a St. Thomas family that owns a harp, and they have loaned the harp of their son, Lane Sell, for the performance.
Since Whitfield always travels with two complete sets of harp strings, she spent Monday changing a couple of errant strings and getting acquainted with the instrument. Each instrument is different, she explained, not only each manufacturer's product, but each individual instrument. The pedaling, which creates the chromatic sound, has a different "feel," and each pedal can be set to one of three positions, from a pad which locks it into a niche or to a float position, and allows the harpist to create the singular sound of a harp.
Whitfield, a school and private studio music teacher in California, is as well a dancer and a multi-instrumentalist, proficient on strings, woodwinds, percussion and handbells. She is at home with classical, jazz, gospel and popular music. She is part of a family in which all seven children are musical. She is accompanied on this trip by her mother, Josie Pearl, who provides technical, musical and, presumably, emotional support, and who has wonderful recollections of a long life in music and family.
Between the opening Britten number and the closing harp solo there'll be Christmas music of all sorts from the concert choir, directed by Kirsten "Kristi" Kienberger; the concert band, directed by Austin Venzen; the jazz ensemble, directed by Martin Lamkin, and the steel pan ensemble, directed by Shenelle Warner.
One of the choir's numbers, "Look Over Yonder," was composed by "Kwabena," and one of the soloists elsewhere on the program is his daughter, Detra Davis.
Tickets for the concert, which begins at 8 p.m., are available at the UVI's bookstore, humanities division and the Reichhold Center box office, and at Dockside Bookshop in Havensight Mall. The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children and students.
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