The magic of Marley’s music leads to a symphony

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Michael Reckord (Jamaica Gleaner) reports on the Marley Symphony, which premiered at The University Chapel, Mona (Kingston, Jamaica).

What happens when Christian meets Rastafarian? For decades in Jamaica there was hostility, violence and even death.

But when Jon Williams, a committed Christian and a musician, encountered Bob Marley, an avowed Rastaman and a musician, it was the common component, the music, not the differences, that became the focus of Williams’ attention. The result has been the magnificent Marley Symphony, which saw its world premiere at The University Chapel, Mona, last Saturday night.

If the enthusiastic reception given the nearly 25-minute-long work is anything to judge by, the symphony, like the rest of Marley’s music, will receive international acclaim. The standing ovation lasted several minutes and was every bit as loud as the symphony’s closing fanfare.

Admittedly, the applause might have been for the evening’s programme as a whole, including the skilled performance of the 40-strong Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica (POJ), conducted by Franklin E Halliburton. There was much more to the evening than the symphony.

Among the 11 main items, there was the Suite of Jamaican Songs for Viola and Piano, a 20-minute work composed and performed by Williams and his son Jovani. It also had its premiere on Saturday night and also got much applause.

Other items in the wonderfully rich programme were the opening five-minute evocative composition Waterfalls & Pebbles by Paulette Bellamy; a percussion-filled excerpt from the Nyabinghi Symphony by Andrew Marshall; Sinfonietta No 1, Xaymaca 1494 (about Columbus arriving in Jamaica) by Theodor Alardo Runcie; Two Songs for Soprano by Peter Ashbourne, and also his variation for a string quartet of O’er Our Blue Mountains; and an emotional singing of the National Pledge by a combined schools choir. The words are by Victor S Reid and the arrangement by Halliburton.

All these, except the Suite of Jamaican Songs, were in the first half. The second half, which ended with the Marley Symphony, also included the merry, energetic Festivities from Run A Boat Symphony; a hilarious, Jamaica-oriented re-writing of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, sung by Ellan Neil, and Ashbourne’s Jamaican Folk Medley for Voice and Orchestra (sung by Neil, with the POJ accompanying her). [. . .]

The creation of the symphony demonstrated the saying, “the longest journey begins with one step”, for Williams had no grand work in mind when he agreed to a request from Freddie McGregor a decade ago that he provide an orchestral opening item for McGregor’s concert in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The relatively simple arrangement of Marley’s Exodus and Redemption Song – chosen, Williams said, because of Marley’s popular appeal – was so well received that he re-worked it a bit and offered it to The Jamaica Youth Orchestra who asked him for a composition for orchestra for its launch some years later. [. . .]

For full article, see

For more information about the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica’s 10th Anniversary Symphonic Celebration, held at the University of the West Indies Chapel in Kingston, May 20-21, 2023, see

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