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beginnings of Alpha Boys' School in JA in 1982

Posted by roots-ee 
beginnings of Alpha Boys' School in JA in 1982
January 18, 2006 06:46PM
Reggae roots sprung from order of nuns
> By Thomas H. Green
> Published January 17, 2006
> The reputation of the Catholic Order of the Sisters of Mercy is
> about 200 years of good deeds in some of the most underprivileged areas
> of the world. Less well known, and more bizarre, is that this order of
> nuns is also partly responsible for the birth of reggae music.
> The sisters had been working in Kingston, Jamaica, for 12 years
> when they founded the Alpha Boys' School in 1892. Its purpose was to
> house and educate "wayward boys," most of them from backgrounds of dire
> poverty.
> With instruments donated by a benefactor, a drum and fife corps was
> set up, which as the years passed became a martial brass band. By the
> mid-20th century, the connection with military music was still a
> constant, but the Alpha Boys' bandmasters were increasingly influenced
> by swing and jazz.
> "Without the school, there just wouldn't have been the blossoming
> of talent on the island in the key period of the '60s and '70s," said
> Laurence Cane-Honeysett, a music consultant to reggae label Trojan
> Records, who has compiled the album "Alpha Boys' School: Music in
> Education 1910-2006." "When the Jamaican music industry took off, it
> was totally dependent on those who studied there."
> A quartet of Alpha alumni -- Tommy McCook, Johnny "Dizzy" Moore,
> Lester Sterling and the celebrated trombonist Don Drummond -- were
> founder members of the Skatalites and, as such, co-creators of
> Jamaica's first indigenous pop music. Reggae eventually would bloom
> from these roots at Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd's hugely influential
> Studio One -- all built on horn sections featuring Alpharians.
> Another old boy, Winston "Sparrow" Martin, has been the school's
> bandleader for the past 18 years, having also worked with artists from
> Otis Redding to Bob Marley. He attributes the sound of Mr. Marley's
> original '60s versions of "Stir It Up" and "One Love" to ex-Alpha
> musicians.
> Mr. Martin well recalls life at the school in the '50s. "We worked
> six days a week," he said. "Some boys were on the morning shift, some
> on the evening shift. Those on the morning shift would go to band
> practice in the evening, and those on the evening shift would go to
> band practice in the morning."
> Despite the strict discipline, the school's musical reputation was
> such that trumpeter Mr. Moore faked tantrums just so his parents would
> be forced to send him there.
> There were, of course, times when the children weren't so willing
> to buckle down to work. "I was one of the boys who used to try to
> escape practice," Mr. Martin said with a laugh. "There was a tree they
> used to have by the name of the monkey puzzle tree, and I climbed up
> this tree, hid up this tree.
> "Rain was falling when Sister Ignatius found me and said: 'Come out
> the tree, you naughty little sparrow. What will your mother do if you
> stay there and drown?' From that day until now, that name is mine --
> 'sparrow.' "
> Sister Mary Ignatius Davies perhaps best encapsulates the spirit of
> the school. She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1939 at age 18 and
> remained at Alpha until her death in 2003, but it was her devotion to
> the music program for which she is remembered. Hard as it is to
> imagine, this nun also ran sound-system dances on weekends, where she
> would spin records from her vast collection.
> "Sister Ignatius preferred secular music to anything," said Sister
> Susan Frazier, the school's current director. "She was really a blues
> fan and loved jazz music.
> "In the early days in Jamaica, whenever there was any significant
> event such as a hurricane or earthquake, a 45-rpm record would
> immediately be cut about it. Iggy, as she was affectionately known,
> would send out a couple of boys to buy these records. She had an
> expansive collection, which eventually went to the Seattle music
> museum."
> Mr. Drummond's 1964 number "Eastern Standard Time" was Sister
> Ignatius' favorite piece of music -- and a key moment in the
> development of the Skatalites. As the Alpha Boys' School album runs in
> chronological order, it's possible to trace the astonishing musical
> impact of Mr. Drummond and his fellow Skatalites.
> Proceedings open with '50s British jazz recordings by Alpharians
> such as Joe Harriott and Dizzy Reece, but as the school's graduates
> develop their sound, such music gives way to something far rootsier and
> uniquely Jamaican.
> It seems that nuns -- and a boys' brass band -- inadvertently
> helped release the spirit of one of the most musical islands in the
> world.

one love one peace roots-ee
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