Marjorie’s Christmas staple is back on the concert circuit
Joy to the World is back after nearly three years.
The pandemic put the once annual Christmas concert on hold.
Director Marjorie Pettit has promised big things from the show, which is hosted by the Bermuda School of Music and features the Bermuda Chamber Choir and Orchestra and the Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir.
“After a lapse of nearly three years I have one of the best choral groups ever emerging to delight audiences this Christmas,” she said.
“The programme will include many well-known Christmas favourites together with excerpts from Handel, Chilcott and Willcocks. There will also be a rousing selection of carols for audience participation.”
A highlight will be the performance by Matthew Ross and his former teacher Conrad Roach.
The pair will play Antonio Vivaldi’s popular Concerto for Two Trumpets in C major.
“He’s a former student of mine and he’s now well surpassed. It’s an amazing thing,” said Mr Roach, who is the lead teacher of music at Warwick Academy and minister of music at Vernon Temple AME Church and has performed with bands and orchestras here and around the world.
The pair met about 19 years ago when Mr Ross was two years into his trumpet lessons.
He took classes with Mr Roach until he left the island for the University of Toronto when he was 17.
“I’m excited to play with him. He was a big influence on my music and life – just how to be a good musician and a good person. It’s really special to come back to Bermuda and play with him,” Mr Ross said.
The six years he spent with Mr Roach prepared him for the career path he has been on since finishing university in Canada.
He has performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and Symphony New Brunswick. He is now the trumpet teaching artist at the Sistema Moncton Centre in New Brunswick.
“Trumpet is in my life,” he laughed. “And Conrad Roach was a big influence for me.”
It was Ms Pettit who suggested the two play Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets in the concert this weekend.
“We played it before, I think a few years ago,” Mr Ross said. “This concert, Marjorie has organised it for many years and it's great. In the past I know she's brought in a lot of musicians from overseas and I know in Bermuda we don't really get much of a chance to hear orchestra music so it's fun for the musicians in Bermuda and for me as well, living away getting a chance to go back home and play.”
As Mr Ross usually comes home only once a year, the concert gives him an opportunity to see his family.
“Being a musician, especially in Bermuda, is difficult. I've worked at Country Squire – when it was around – and Somerset Pharmacy as summer jobs but I haven't lived and worked in Bermuda for an extended period of time.
“I moved to study at University of Toronto when I was 17 and essentially lived in Canada and North America since then.”
Mr Roach is looking forward to playing with his former student and to performing in the concert which “is always great fun”.
“Marjorie Pettit concerts, for years, have been a staple of the Christmas season and it's amazing to have it come back in such a way,” he said.
Originally from Trinidad, Mr Roach moved here as a teacher in 1997.
“Matt and I met when he was a student of mine – I taught at Saltus at the time – and he took it the rest of the way. I used to have him play along with me in the pit at the panto or G&S productions and he really liked that type of thing – which is rare, not all students take on to music like that – and the rest is history. Now he has a full career as a trumpeter, performing and teaching, and he gets to pass that on.”
Joy to the World has been a much-anticipated showcase of carols and classical music for many years, Mr Roach added.
“It was definitely something that was a staple on the calendar. Since I’ve been here I’ve always known that. At one point Marjorie Pettit said she was retiring from it and we all said, ‘Oh no!’”
There was a similar disappointment when the social-distancing measures required by the pandemic made it impossible to hold the concert in 2020 and 2021.
“That affected all of the live music that was happening on the island, not just in the community but in schools. Music programmes suffered. Originally students weren’t able to play in class. And then the string students were able to play while the wind and brass students had to play outside or not be able to play at all if they didn’t have the facility to spread out,” said Mr Roach.
"It has really been a damper. So it's so exciting now, to have all this stuff come back with a vengeance. Everybody is super busy this season. This is one of several live events that are happening so I'm happy to be a part.”
Joy to the World takes place on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm at St John’s Church in Pembroke. Tickets, $60 for sponsors and $35 general admission, are available from ptix.bm, Bermuda Book Store and the Bermuda School of Music.