“In Memory of Sister Mary Ignatius the Mother of Modern Jamaican Music and Alpha Musicians”. We thought she would live forever, a dearly beloved Mother, Teacher, Mentor, Counsellor, Friend, a walking Encyclopaedia, a Beacon in dark sky, she carried the Torch left by our dearly beloved Jamaican founders Mother Mary Peter Claver “Justina Ripoll, Sister Margaret Mary Ximenes and Sister Mary Joseph Dugiol with distinction. As a past student of the world renowned Alpha Boys’ School, I know of the very hard work, the dedication and devotion of the Sisters of Mercy there.
I also realize how trying the work has been, especially in the light of the many setback and disappointments. However realizing that disappointments may be construed as signposts on the road of life, saying “perfect happiness is ahead” the Sisters have ever pursued their goal. Having taught us how to live the motto of our beloved School, “UPWARD AND ONWARD” the Sisters themselves has ever more so personified this maxim, as they continue to play their part in the apostolic work of the Creator.
They indeed continue to play their noble part, but what of us, who have been competently guided through our youthful days by these Sisters of Mercy at Alpha Boys School in Jamaica. Today our role, as ALPHARIANS, is being stressed in the spirit of renewal the spirit of “Aggiornamento.” This calls for a personal, interior renovation, which must be manifested exteriorly. Our country needs men “…with opinion and will,” Sister Mary Ignatius and the Sisters at Alpha petition us as ALPHARIANS to give our wills to the Creator. By living up to the teachings and instructions we have received from our beloved “alma Mater,” we can answer these petitions, and thereby assist in the growth of our country and the world at large.
Thank God for giving us Sister Mary Ignatius RSM. May she Rest in Peace.
Dr. Leslie Thompson PhD, (19 - 19) was the first black man to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, who had the honour of playing for Princess Alexander in London who congratulated him on his performance. He was also the first Alpha musician to have played in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra,
Bertie King (19 - 1973) Clarinetist and saxophonist Bertie King, like many Alpharians musicians after him such as Joe Harriot, Harold McNair and Dizzy Reece, King originally had to flee Jamaica simply to make a living playing music. His arrival in England in the '30s came at a time when there were few black musicians playing jazz in England and Europe. Bertie King, earliest studies as a musician were at the world renowned and respected Alpha Boys' School in Kingston Jamaica, the training ground of so many of the world’s best known jazz musicians.
King played clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone and was an extraordinary arranger. King played on British piano legend George Shearing's first recording and also played and recorded with Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter. After performing with many of the top calypsonians in Britain, King returned to Jamaica in the late 1950s where he was a pioneer radio orchestra participant at the then Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), and found the connections he had made in Europe to be quite valuable in helping to jump-start what would develop into a wildly active music scene in Jamaica.
His recordings of "Don't Fence Her In" and Glamour Girl" in 1951 were some of the first in the mento style, featuring instruments such as guitar, banjo, hand drums, penny whistle, bamboo saxophone, steel drums and the "rhumba box", that would play the bass lines. In the early days of mento there were no pressing plants whatsoever in Jamaica and it was apparently King who arranged for these first commercial recordings of Jamaican music to be manufactured at a factory in Lewisham, England, that was owned by Decca. This practice of pressing Jamaican records in England continued for some time. He was also responsible for the success of the hit mento recording Healing in the Balm Yard by the Ticklers.
Joe Harriott (1928 - 1973) was an Alpharian jazz alto saxophone player. He moved to the UK as a working musician in 1951 and settled there. He is known for his innovative development of "free form" music, in parallel with Ornette Coleman. He made several albums with pianist/composer Michael Garrick in the mid sixties, notably October Woman and Black Marigolds. During the late 1960s he and violinist John Mayer developed Indo-Jazz Fusion - an early attempt at building on music from diverse traditions. He died of cancer in 1973.
Wilton 'Bogey' Gaynair the “Alpharian” (1927 -1995) was also another ALPHARIAN tenor saxophonist an alumnus of the world famed and renown Alpha Boys School in Jamaica, along with Joe Harriott and Dizzy Reece and ska stylists Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez and Cedric “Im” Brooks etc,. On leaving Alpha, he started his career solidly on the good foot, working with Ossie Williams in a forerunner to Count Ossie & the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, before moving to Europe in '55. Passionate double-barrelled playing (and take no prisoners technical facility) illuminated the British hard bop scene in the late '50s, He resurfaced for a short while in the early '80s with Kenny Wheeler and Alan Skidmore in Third Eye, before returning to steady, but internationally uncelebrated work in Germany.
Don Drummond (1943-1969)- (Trombonist) - Alpha has produced some of Jamaica best musicians, in the world including trombonist, Don Drummond. A product of the Alpha Boys School, where he, like so many other great Jamaican musicians, developed their musical talents, Drummond, by the early 1950s established himself as a world-class trombonist. As a member of the famed Skatalities Band, Don Drummond was credited for such timeless compositions as Addis Abbaba, Far East, Eastern Standard Time and Man In The Street, among many others.
Tommy McCook (1927-1998), another great ALPHARIAN saxophonist, and a founding member and leader of The Skatalites, he also directed The Supersonics band and backed many sessions for for Duke Reid, Bunny Lee and others in the 70s. Tommy McCook was among the most innovative and most influential Jamaican musicians of his generation, a prime catalyst behind the evolution and international popularity of Ska, Rocksteddy and Reggae in Jamaica, born in Cuban of Jamaican parents Tommy McCook learned to play the saxophonist and flute while attending Alpha Boys School in Kingston Jamaica.
Lennie Herbert (19 - 19 ) arguably one of the most important yet overlooked icons of the Jamaican music industry Mr. Hibbert were among the great ALPHARIANS musicians, Don Drummond, Johnny Moore, Lester Sterling and Tommy McCook that made the distinctive sound of Studio One the enduring phenomenon it is today. Lenny Hibbert was one of the most influential music teachers at Alpha Boys School and Jamaicans accomplished xylophone and vibraphonist.
Harold McNair (1931 - 1971) was one of the most outstanding jazz musican of his time, like his fellow Alpharians musicans school mates which also included Joe Harriott a lifelong friend who considered “Little G" McNair as his younger Alpharian brother, Bertie King, Dizzy Reece, Wilton “Bogey” Gaynair and others great Jamaican musican who was taught at the one and only Alpha Boys School in Kingston Jamaica. Alpha Boys School has earned an international reputation for producing some of the world most excellence musicians and irrepressible rhythms.
Harold "Little G" McNair moved to Great Britain in the 1950s, which also included Joe Harriott, Bertie King, Dizzy Reece, Wilton “Bogey” Gaynair, Eddie "TanTan Thornton, Rico Rodriguez and many other Alpha graduates’ jazzmen. He quickly gained a reputation as a formidable player on flute, alto and tenor saxophone, His unique phrasing and on the flute led to great demand for his services among non-jazz musicians.
Thus, his recorded legacy is dominated by such supporting appearances. He played on the soundtrack for Ken Loach's film “Kes”, with music written by John Cameron. He also featured on many of Donovan 's mid to late '60s recordings - notably his unforgettable flute riff fusion on the hit single 'There Is A Mountain' from 1967. He also played with Ginger Baker's Airforce big band, played on John Martyn's album The Tumbler and Davy Graham's 1968 album 'Large As Life and Twice As Natural'. He worked with the group Cressida, and features on their album Asylum, and also guested on albums by the bands Magna Carta and Steamhammer, probably his most famous composition, 'The Hipster', which has become a perennial fixture on all the playlists at jazz clubs in the UK if not the world.
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