Rotary fest celebrates music

The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, in conjunction with The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, presented a three-day music festival last week.

A Celebration of Music featured three events. Broadway Under the Stars on Thursday, 10 March and Jazz on the Green on Saturday, 12 March, were held on the Great Lawn at the Ritz-Carlton and a Gospel Brunch was held at 7 Restaurant on Sunday, 13 March.

Funds raised from the Celebration of Music will go toward the construction of the University College of the Cayman Islands observatory project.

On Thursday, veteran performers Greg Rolph, a tenor, and Susana Diaz, a soprano, took attendees on a musical journey through famous Broadway shows, singing songs from the Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Man from La Mancha, Carousel, Les Miserables, My Fair Lady, Carnival and South Pacific.

Diaz, who was visiting the Caribbean for the first time despite both her parents having been born in Cuba, was particularly good in a beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I feel Pretty from West Side Story and I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady.

After hitting the high-note climax to the latter, even Rolph seemed surprised at the power of petite Diaz’s voice.

“Wow. Did that come from you?” he asked. “That’s what’s called a money note.”

Later, Rolph and Diaz did a tender duet, If I Loved You, from Carousel.

Diaz said she loved coming to the Cayman Islands and that performing in the night air wasn’t an issue for her voice.

“I do my fair share of outdoor venues and I must say, I love them,” she said, adding that she also enjoyed the atmosphere for the event on the Ritz-Carlton’s Great Lawn. “It’s magical.”

Jazz on the Green

Saturday night’s Jazz on the Green event was less formal, with about half of those in attendance not taking seats near the stage, but instead hanging back in a lounge area, enjoying the concert over drinks and cigars.

Local saxophonist Gary Ebanks opened the show and then provided the back-up for headliner Chuck Holden’s smooth jazz and R&B vocals.

Holden had a couple of guest singers join him on stage for two of the numbers, including Sunday’s featured performer Maryel Epps and resident Bridget Michaels.

Gospel Brunch

The venue moved across the street to the 7 Restaurant for the final event, a Gospel Brunch featuring Epps and local performers Clyde Kain and Omar Walters.

Epps won over the audience with gospel classics like Amazing Grace and Wade in the Water, but also sang easy-listening classics like You are So Beautiful.

The diva engaged the crowd, getting people to join in singing and had them up and dancing for Love Train late in her second set. By the end of the show, most of the attendees were either singing, dancing or clapping.

Rotary Club Fundraising Committee chair John Felder got enthusiastic responses from the audiences of all three events when he asked if the Celebration of Music should be an annual event.

The performers agreed,with all of them saying they’d love to come back again next year.

Rotary Club President Lori McRae said she thought the Celebration of Music went very well, especially for a first-time event.

“All of the performances were very good and it was wonderful that we were able to incorporate local performers in two of the three events,” she said. “When I think of Sunday and everyone having such a good time, and the fact that we raised some money for a good project, I feel the event was successful.”