Dr. Patricia Cambridge.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

The hush that fell over the Guyana National Cultural Center Recital Hall, in Georgetown, was followed by a skillfully played rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, to open “Piano Improvisations” by Ohio-based pianist Dr. Patricia Cambridge.

The sheer power of the first note, which filled the audience that included the President of Guyana David Granger marked the beginning of a night of enchanting and phenomenal piano music, the first after many years for Dr. Cambridge who changed careers to become a professor of Mass Communication at Ohio University in Athens.

Dr. Patricia Cambridge, a Guyanese-born classical trained pianist, recognized as one of the most gifted musicians of her generation, fell into a trance as her fingers moved magically along the keys of the Steinway as she played “Chopin’s Prelude,” “Op 28 No 1,” “Medtner’s Quatre Contes,” “Op 26 No. 3” and “Bagatelle’s OP. 5. No 1,” classical pieces that showcased her exceptional talent.

Donating her musical passion to help the Guyana Musical Arts Festival, Dr. Patricia Cambridge, in her tribute to “Three Women” — Brahe, Ashford and Androzzo, soothe her audience with “Bless This House,” “My Task” and “If I can Help Somebody” in her improvisation style, that captured the beauty of her musical flair.

Most stunning was the impressive way she played Guyanese folk songs in a classical, yet jazzy style to entertain her appreciative audience.

Following the intermission, she opened with “My Native Land” and playfully followed through with “To The Hibiscus” and Twilight, well written pieces that showcased Guyana’s beautiful heritage.

“We Hail Thee, Guyana, and Let Us Corporate – award-winning selections by Guyanese great, Phillip Pilgrim filled the auditorium, while folk songs, Sitira Gal and Itanami were played with flare and elegance.

Dr. Patricia Cambridge, winner of the Phillip Pilgrim Memorial Harp and a graduate of Boston Conservatory, during a pre-recital interview with Caribbean Life, said it was very exciting to perform solo for the first time at the National Cultural Center, after a joint recital some years ago.

“This is very humbling. It feels good being home and to share my talent with everyone including all the piano lovers who were wondering if I still played the piano,” said Dr. Cambridge, a member of the emeriti faculty of Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.

She is encouraged by Guyana’s strides in the area of piano music and praised the School of Music which now trains young children to play instruments and read music.

“This is a wonderful development because far too long we have had this idea that if you play in a jazz or pop band, you didn’t need to read music. This is not true. Top musicians in the world, even Rhythm and Blues artists receive formal training, and attain degrees.

This, she said, allows for excellence, as musicians reach their full potential, regardless of what type of music they play.

The daughter of the late Reverend Jack Smith, Dr. Cambridge thanked her father who reminded her that she had a God-given talent to be used, when she contemplated giving up the many instruments she played. “At that time I though it was so dramatic, but now I know if my dad was not insistent, I would not be here at this recital.”

“I love improvisation because as a child I always deviating from what I was supposed to do in piano lessons, and trying to play the songs I hear on the radio. Not that I didn’t know the words, but I didn’t associate with it at that young age.”

While raising two children, and embarking on a career after her studies, Dr. Cambridge said she did have the time to play classical music, but because of her lifelong love of piano music, and because she was an accomplished musician, she returned to the art form, giving credit to her husband, Dr. Vibert Cambridge who encouraged her to record an album of Guyanese music.

“It is exciting to be playing the piano after so many years. I never really stopped, I was just not playing with this intensity half of the time,” she added.

Wearing an elegant purple gown, her performance was relaxed and focused, and she did touch her audience during the entire night’s presentation, at times, stepping to the microphone to address patrons.

Versatile from a very young age, Dr. Cambridge at 15, was the youngest ever accompanist for the distinguished Guyana Woodside Choir, and was later awarded a government of Guyana scholarship to study music at the Boston Conservatory. She then went on to earn her M.A in International Administrative Studies and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication at Ohio University.

The world-renowned pianist is now accepting invitations to perform around America, as her Piano Improvisations album of five Guyanese songs, continue to be a best seller on media platforms — Amazon.com, iTunes, CD Baby (discs and digital downloads) Google Play Music, YouTube and Spotify.

From left, Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry; Dr. Patricia Cambridge; President of Guyana David Granger and Dr. Vibert Cambridge, husband of the pianist.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

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