The Embassy of Spain in Jamaica, in collaboration with the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, the engineering company TSK from Spain, and the Spanish Government, invited world-renowned saxophone quartet “SIGMA Project” and violinist Cecilia Bercovich to offer two concerts in Jamaica dubbed ‘West Winds”. West Winds is SIGMA Project’s personal homage to the 100th anniversary of American Composer Bernstein’s birth; and took place in Montego Bay at the Rose Hall Great House and in Kingston at the University Chapel, on June 23 and 25 respectively.
The talented musicians played pieces of two master minds of 20th century music from “The West”: Leonard Bernstein, whose 100 birthday would have been celebrated this year, and Phillip Glass, the minimalist musicians from Maryland. Hence, the title of the concerts that referred to the origin of the two American composers and the wind quartet.
Both composers have been recognised worldwide for their capacity to generate images through their music. Thus, they have composed some of the best film soundtracks, such as Leonard Bernstein’s well known West Side Story (1962, 10 Academy Awards) or Phillips Glass’ scores for The Hours (2002, Academy Award nomination) or the Truman Show, 1998.
Bernstein’s West Side Story, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet - originally released in 1957, remains one of the most memorable musicals and greatest love stories of all time. After the exquisite delivery by the four saxophones of SIGMA Project and Cecilia Bercovich`s violin of some of Bernstein’s well known West Side Story songs, the musicians received a standing ovation both in Montego Bay and Kingston. Their performance included notable songs “Tonight”, “Maria”, and “Somewhere” that the Jamaican audience quickly recognised.
Audience members also had the great opportunity to listen to the Jamaican premiere of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No.5, arranged for the first time for a saxophone quartet. The audience was surprised to hear the precision achieved by the saxophone players, usually only expected from a string quartet.
Outlining the relevance of the occasion for both cultures, Josep Maria Bosch, Ambassador of Spain to Jamaica, expressed that “Spain believes in the key role of culture as an indispensable developing element, helping not only to bring societies together, but also countries. Jamaica and Spain have a long common history and we are very happy to be part of the beautiful Jamaican blend, so beautifully described as “Out of many, one people”.
Carmen Rives, Deputy Head of Mission and responsible for Cultural Affaires at the Embassy of Spain in Kingston, referring to the American origin of the composers, outlined that culture has no boarders. “Some artists, such as Leonard Bernstein, have been so instrumental to the evolution of Arts that they enter a universal category”.
“Leonard Bernstein was not only a composer, but also a music educator. He was obsessed with bringing music to the general audience and very well known for his music programs on TV. That is why, in his honour, at the Embassy of Spain, we have wanted to humbly imitate him, by organising, apart from the two- admission free-concerts, two workshops with the Jamaican youth of Montego Bay and Kingston, to guarantee a greater access to culture.”
Bernstein, born on August 25, 1918, died on October 14, 1990. Globally, the celebrations for the birth of Leonard Bernstein the composer, conductor, educator and humanitarian, began on August 25 2017 on his 99th birthday and will continue until the same date in 2019, with more than 2,500 events on six continents.
SIGMA Project is also celebrating their 10th anniversary this year.