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Paying Tribute To Cultural Icons

FOR MORE than four decades, the Nassau Renaissance Singers have been inspiring audiences with classical, traditional and contemporary choral music by many 20th century composers of classical style. This year's concerts, entitled "Music For Christmas", are dedicated to the memories of Dr Keva Bethel and E Cement Bethel; two individuals who contributed greatly to the educational, cultural and musical fabric of this nation. The public is invited to join in the musical tribute, to be held in the Government House Ballroom on Saturday, December 10, at 8pm and Sunday, December 11, at 6.30pm. Choir director Audrey Dean-Wright said: "The Bethels have played an important role not only as it relates to the Nassau Renaissance Singers, but to the development of the arts and education throughout the Bahamas." The Nassau Renaissance Singers began as a quartet in 1965 under the direction of David Fysh. From 1967 until his death in 1987, the choir was directed by the late E Clement Bethel, a Bahamian who trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The "Singers" grew under his direction, becoming one of the country's premier vocal groups. A statement from the Singers said: "Clement strove for excellence in all art forms, and was a catalyst in the development of the National Dance School, the National Youth Choir and the E Clement Bethel National Arts Festival. "He is an accomplished composer and writer (known for the popular folk opera "Same Swain" and Praise Hymn) as well as a gifted pianist. "Clement also played a pivotal role in assisting visual artists such as Amos Ferguson to gain international recognition. "A promoter of all things Bahamian, he visited Junkanoo shacks, walked and talked with the people of Bain Town and Congo Town in order to get a true sense of our cultural heritage. Clement was our first and most outstanding Director of Culture." Though acclaimed on his return from university as "one of the world's best up-and-coming pianists", by the famed Van Cliburn, Mr Bethel gave up what could have been world-wide fame to return home and serve his beloved Bahamas. Dr Keva Bethel, a musician in her own right, was a faithful founding member of the Nassau Renaissance Singers, being one of the four in the original quartet. This group always walked away with first place in the then Bahamas National Arts Festival. The statement said: "Her rich alto voice is remembered fondly by members of the Singers." Dr Bethel was also a talented pianist. She was accompanist for the Government High School Choir where she also took up a teaching position for Modern Languages in 1959. In 1975, she transferred to take up a post at the College of the Bahamas, where she remained until her retirement in 1998. She was named principal in 1982 and later, the college's first president in 1995. Dr Bethel is credited with putting COB "on the map" in the eyes of students and educators, laying the groundwork for moving the school from a two-year community institution to a recognised four-year university. Keva and Clement shared 25 joyful years together, until his death in 1987. In this years concert the audience can expect a varied selection of pieces that will put them in the Christmas and holiday mood. To continue a popular tradition, the Dicey Doh Singers will delight the audience once again this year. The statement said: "The Nassau Renaissance Singers choir is committed to assisting young, talented musicians in realising their dream to develop their art form by providing scholarships to the College of the Bahamas. "This year, we are proud to have two recipients of the Nassau Renaissance Singers Scholarship at COB. They are our featured artists for this year's concerts: Thurman Johnson and Ruebendero Gibson." Thurman Johnson said the scholarship has been a blessing to him because he did not have the funds to attend COB. He said: "The scholarship came out of nowhere, like a miracle. "I have learned so much since entering the College of the Bahamas this fall". Thurman has particularly enjoyed his major area of interest, the trumpet, as well as the new choral techniques and performances with the College of the Bahamas Concert Choir. Nassau Renaissance Singers tickets for December 10 and 11 are available at Logos Bookstore in the Harbour Bay Shopping Centre, at Custom Computers on Cable Beach and from choir members.

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