Nov. 10, 2005 The first annual St. John Christmas Music Festival will run Dec. 16 through 18 at the Winston Wells Ballfield in Cruz Bay. All events are free.
Concert producer and St. John resident Steve Simon said he decided to organize the event at the suggestion of fellow St. John residents Ira Wade and Julien Harley.
"The main reason is to bring our entire community together during the holidays," he said.
He called music the international language of love, unity and peace.
Wade said the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization had for some years wanted to have a holiday season event.
"Sometimes things are slow in the early part of December," he said.
He said the music selections should reach out to all segments of the St. John Community.
"And the price is right," he said, laughing.
The Music Festival kicks off at 8 p.m. Dec. 16 with an evening of Latin jazz. It continues Dec. 17 with an evening of music from Kim Waters and his band, as well as Maryel Epps. The closing night, Dec. 18, includes a candlelight parade and calypso and reggae music from St. John's Inner Visions.
The Dec. 16 program features Latin Grammy Award winner Nestor Torres, the Paoli Mejias Latin Jazz Quintet and the Eddie Russell Quelbe Latin Jazz Band. Russel was born on St. Croix.
The Puerto Rico-born Torres plays the flute, an unusual instrument for Latin music. After studying in Puerto Rico, he moved to New York with his family.
"That's where I first developed my improvisational skills as a charanga (Cuban dance music) flutist," he said in a news release. "In charanga, the flutist improvises a great deal – the focus of his solos are to make people dance. Even when I play today, my approach is still very rhythmic and melodic."
Torres has worked with everyone from Tito Puente to Gloria Estefan and many contemporary jazz greats. He still performs at benefit concerts all over the world, but especially in his adopted home of Miami. And he still gives master classes to students.
Mejias was also born in Puerto Rico. He describes himself as "percusionista de formacióón callejera, a person whose musical talent formed on the streets while watching and absorbing the styles of his mentors. He has toured around the world as sideman to Eddie Palmieri for more than eight years, recording and playing in the largest jazz festivals.
The Russell has played with Wynton Marsalis, James Moody, Jimmy Garrison, Sam and Dave and the Mighty Sparrow. The Eddie Russell Quelbe Jazz Band includes Russell on trumpet and vocals, Otto James on keyboard, Larry Bough on drums and timbales, Gregory Bennerson on percussion and pans, Wilfred "Junie Bomba" Allick on congas and bongos, and Mario Russell on bass.
At 8 p.m. Dec. 17, Grammy Award winner Kim Waters and his band, as well as Maryel Epps take to the stage. The gate opens at 6 p.m.
Waters, a saxophonist, composer and producer, has made 10 number one hits, recorded 13 chart-topping albums and sold over a million records, placing him among the top five best selling instrumentalists in contemporary jazz.
"When I first emerged on the scene as a recording artist, there was no smooth jazz but there was support for my music on R&B and urban radio, and that support has only continued to grow," the Maryland-born Waters said.
Epps is an acclaimed singer and songwriter. She blends jazz, blues, gospel and rhythm and blues. She has performed with musical legends like Billy Taylor, Chaka Khan, Dizzy Gillespie, and Patti Labelle. She can also be heard on the albums of superstars such as Michael Jackson and David Bowie.
As an actress, Epps appeared in the television's "One Life to Live," "Deco Drive" and such films as Spike Lee's "Mo Better Blues" and Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday."
A Children's Candlelight Parade begins at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18. It starts at Mongoose Junction, heads past the Cruz Bay ferry dock and concludes at the Winston Wells Ballfield. Santa and his elves will distribute presents to all the children who attend.
An evening of calypso and reggae starring St. John's Inner Visions follows at 7:30 p.m. The gate opens at 5:30 p.m.
Inner Visions has performed together for more than 25 years. The members are Phillip "Grasshopper" Pickering on guitar and lead vocals, Paul "Ras Paul" Samms on percussion and lead vocals, Alvin "Jupiter" Pickering on bass, drum and vocals, Akiba "Mr. Snooze" Pickering on the keyboard, and Aswad "Hollywood" Pickering on drums.
Simon said that those attending may not bring coolers because food and beverages will be for sale.
Sponsors are Donald Sussman, Premier Wine & Spirits, The Westin Resort and Villas, Holiday Homes, American Paradise Real Estate, Tropical Properties, Theodore Tunick and Co., First Bank, The Inn at Tamarind Court, and the Tourism Department.
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