The UWI mourns the passing of Mr Noel Dexter
The University of the West Indies (The UWI) joins the friends and family members of Mr Noel Dexter in mourning his loss.
Mr Dexter, who passed away on Sunday, August 18, achieved eminence in the arts and related fields of intellectual endeavour, making outstanding and widely recognised contributions to the Caribbean. As Director of Music at The UWI Mona Campus for some 39 years, Mr Dexter led the University Singers to fame and excellence in choral theatre in Jamaica, the Caribbean and internationally.
Credited for composing The UWI’s song, “There is a Light,” Mr Dexter also composed numerous hymns and songs which have become standards in the repertoires of both religious and secular choirs. Among them, “The Right Hand of God”, “Freedom Song”, “Sing De Chorus, Clap Yuh Han’”, “Lord we are Ready”, and “Make a Joyful Noise”. His work has been published widely in hymnals and anthologies, including his outstanding “The Right Hand of God” which has been published in four hymnals worldwide. He also penned lyrics for some eight theatre productions, including the Pantomime “Jack Mansong” and the musicals “Cindy”, “Port Royal Ho” and “Masquerade” among others. He conducted numerous workshops in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and almost all the countries of the Caribbean, and toured the world with the University Singers, the National Dance Theatre Company and other chorale groups.
A graduate of The UWI Mona Campus, with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Mr Dexter also earned a Licentiate in Class Music Teaching from Trinity College London through the Jamaica School of Music. Following his retirement as director of the University Singers, The UWI honoured Mr Dexter with the award of a Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree in 2013. Mr Dexter received other numerous awards, among them the Silver Musgrave Medal and the Order of Distinction by the Government of Jamaica.
In the citation read at the graduation ceremony during which he received his honorary degree, the Public Orator characterised Mr Dexter as, “the gentle, but formidable force of nature behind the University Singers.”
Expressing his condolences on Mr Dexter’s passing, on behalf of the entire regional university, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said, “The UWI is built upon the genius of the Caribbean family and Dr Dexter brought to the fore our Jamaican cultural commitment to performance excellence and the insistence of integrity. We cannot celebrate him enough. Through his alliance with the late, great Rex Nettleford, the University community and the world beyond were treated to a display of the intellectual magnificence that defined the Mona Campus. The University Singers he inspired and directed became a symbol of The UWI’s status as the top ranked university in the Caribbean, and within the top 5% of the world’s best. We owe Dr Dexter a debt of gratitude, never, ever to be taken for granted.”
His colleague in the University Singers fraternity, and friend for 56 years, Dr Lilieth Nelson, in her reflections on Mr Dexter’s life and contributions, said “the chasm left in Jamaica, the rest of the Caribbean and the wider world, is so wide that it is hard to imagine how it can be filled. However this super-talented, creative, generous and humble giant has shared his gifts with so many over the years of his sojourn on this plane, that it is comforting to know that his legacy will live on, and the work will continue through his daughter, Carol, his grandson, Jhada and his numerous voice students and choir members.”
Another close friend, Mr Franklin Halliburton added, “Noel Dexter dedicated his entire adult life to The University Singers. He joined and performed with the group as a student at The UWI, Mona between 1965 and 1967. He later served as an accompanist and arranger for the group during the 1970s before taking up the choir’s musical directorship in 1977. Even after his retirement from the choir’s leadership in 2012, he remained involved and eager to ensure that the group maintained the highest standard, evidenced by his seminal contribution to the choir’s recently completed Season of Concerts in June 2019. He was our father, teacher, mentor and friend and his life stands as a true testament of selfless commitment and dedication. But over and above all his achievements, he was a most humble soul who genuinely cared for and about the choristers he nurtured. He has bequeathed to us all a legacy of excellence and we will continue to sing not only his beautifully written anthems and songs, but also his praises for decades to come.”
In respect, The UWI’s flag will be flown at half-mast on the day of Mr Dexter’s funeral.