The Musical Apostles Debuts

Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer

The Kingston Parish Church is the most recent convert to the growing number of Jamaican churches with steel bands. The Musical Apostles was formed in September, and last Sunday was ceremonially dedicated to the church by the new rector, Bishop Don Taylor. He declared that having the band is "a joy".

The band was the brainchild of Rev Jim Parks, until recently the assistant priest at Kingston Parish Church. The 14-member band is composed of five boys and nine girls from Kingston Parish Church and Christ Church Vineyard Town, and officially belongs to both churches.

'Most qualified' steel panist

Its leader, Gay Magnus, is "probably the most qualified" steel panist in Jamaica, according to her assistant, Dwight McBean, an organist at the Kingston Parish Church. He told The Sunday Gleaner that the band desperately needs more pans.

"We have only enough pans for five positions, the minimum number of positions in a steel band, so teaching the 14 members is tedious," he said. "Everything has to be taught three times, so that all 14 can learn. The church actually owns only five pans; the others are borrowed."

He said the church will be having a fund-raising concert on December 28 to raise funds for additional pans, the smallest of which, the tenor pan, costs about US$800. Part of the proceeds will also assist the ongoing restoration process of the church's 99-year-old pipe organ, which was built after its predecessor was destroyed in the 1907 earthquake.

The fund-raising concert in the church hall will feature numerous well-known artistes, including singers Veila Espeut, Carole Reid and Andrew Lawrence, singer-trumpeter Dwight Richards and actress Grace McGhie, as well as the Musical Apostles.

The oldest male member of the Musical Apostles is Joel Brown, a percussion student at the Edna Manley College's School of Music, who wants a career in music. He teaches the other members how to play the trap drum set and is a Roman Catholic.

Loves all types of music

Albert McDonald, 13, goes to Greater Portmore High School and wants to be a pilot. He loves music "of all types", he says, but adds, "I don't fancy dancehall. It's too violent - all about guns and killing."

David Natty, 12, the youngest member, goes to Wolmer's Boys' School and initially wanted to be a musician (for a while he played drums, the clarinet and sang on a choir), but now he wants to be a scientist. Both he and Albert attend Kingston Parish Church.

Karan Mellish-Fisher, who plays six bass (the large, whole drums), is the Sunday School superintendent at Christ Church and an employee of the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League. She has loved music from childhood and studied piano up to Grade 6.

Lauren Mais, 20, the tenor panist, played the violin for 10 years while a member of Dr Olive Lewin's Jamaica Orchestra for Youth and now plays with the Jamaica Young People's Symphony. She attends Christ Church and the University of the West Indies (UWI), where she is a medical sciences student. She plans to be a doctor.

Bandleader Gay Magnus developed a love for music early in life as a piano student. While at UWI, she joined the Panoridim Steel Orchestra on the Mona campus and after graduating remained an active member. She has held several leadership positions, including band captain, musical director and musical arranger. She continues in the last-named position.

(Read more: Jamaica Gleaner)