I recently learned that the Ormsby Memorial Hall at 3-5 Victoria Avenue in Kingston is being sold and there is a campaign to save it for the arts. The hall was named in memory of the Reverend Stephen Oliver Orsmby, beloved rector of St Michael’s Anglican Church, who died in 1924. It was built through public contributions to the Ormsby Memorial Fund. The Ormsby Memorial Hall was opened on June 5, 1930. It was a space used from then on for concerts, recitals and other events.
In this series, I wrote about George Goode, a pioneer of music in Jamaica who would have known this hall. It was also used regularly by the Foster-Davis sisters, who also made significant contributions to the development of music in Jamaica. In the period before independence, there were many music teachers and music studios. Jamaica was alive with great music of all genres. Parents wanted their children to have a full education and that included music, playing an instrument, being part of an orchestra, a quartet or a choir.
Like the Jeffrey-Smith sisters of last week, the Foster-Davis sisters – Florence, Sybil and Ena Noel – were well-known educators and musicians, teaching and performing. They were the daughters of Kingston and St Andrew Corporation engineer Leslie Foster-Davis (1861-1930) and his Jamaican wife, Jane Matilda Hopwood (1865-1945). They had 10 children. Leslie Foster-Davis would become Deputy Clerk.
Florence Emily Foster-Davis, born in 1895 and educated at Alpha Academy and Wolmer’s Girls School. She was a music teacher. In 1939, she was appointed director of the Carron Hall Training Center at St Mary’s.
Sybil Eugenie Foster-Davis, born in 1898, attended Alpha Academy, St Hugh’s High and Wolmer’s Girls. She obtained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in England and spent several years in Europe. She was a pianist and singer ( mezzo soprano). Back home, she appears to have founded the Kingston Academy of Music from her home, Karton Villa, at 6 Upper South Camp Road, which later became the Foster-Davis Music Studio. She was assisted by her musically gifted younger sister, Ena Noel. Sybille died in 1957.
Ena Noel Foster-Davis was awarded a violin scholarship to Trinity College of Music, London in 1936. She was an outstanding student at Trinity College, excelling not only on the violin, but also on the piano, cello, viola and viola. the guitar. She also sang. Upon her return to Jamaica around 1958, she joined her sister, Sybil, to teach music at the Foster-Davis Music Studio.
Ena Foster-Davis returned to Britain in 1942 and seemed to have started using her middle name as Noelle. She stayed in Europe for 17 years. During this time, it is reported that she promoted Jamaican music by performing folk songs. She wrote a Jamaican ballet called “Jamaican Legend”, which was performed in Paris. She joined the staff of Trinity College London and worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on both radio and television. She returned to Jamaica around 1959 and opened the Foster-Davis School of Music, with Australian musician Pamela O’Gorman. Ena Noel Foster-Davis died in 1985.
Many great Jamaican singers/musicians were educated by the Foster-Davis sisters. Much more research would be needed to fully tell the story of these musically gifted sisters and their contribution to the development of music education in Jamaica. Hopefully their legacy and that of others like George Goode will be honored at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
I hope Ormsby Memorial Hall can be saved for the arts and in memory of these musicians.
– Contributed by Marcia Thomas