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Focus on pan
Champs of Steel is a plus. On the morning of March 2, the National Carnival Commission (NCC) is hosting its Carnival Stakeholders Consultation—Crystallising the Role of the NCC—at the UTT Auditorium, National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), in Port-of-Spain. Today, I respectively am making a suggestion to the NCC; whatever planning team is selected for next year’s staging of Dimanche Gras make sure that Norvan Fullerton is included on it.
Last Saturday night, the Malick Folk Performers director stage-managed Pan Trinbago’s 29-item Champs of Steel Plus in four hours and 30 minutes—many hours less than Dimanche Gras, Big Friday’s King and Queen of the Bands finals and the National Panorama finals. When it comes to staging big shows, Fullerton has years of experience under his belt, having directed the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition and Dimanche Gras. Produced by Pan Trinbago, Saturday night’s programme was virtually seamless, its few lapses being the time to set up the participating steelbands, eight all told, on stage. Had the Savannah been equipped with a dual stage, like in many show venues in the metropole, with two bands being set up at a time, more than an hour would have been shaven off the duration of the programme.
Held in honour of late pan technician Bertie Marshall, the opening tribute to the departed icon was most appropriate, and truly reflected the amazing strides made by the national instrument in 50 years of development. This segment featured a quartet of pannists (Earl Brooks, Duvonne Stewart, Helon Francis, Darren Sheppard) playing four different instruments—the Pan App, PHI pan, E Pan and a conventional high tenor. Played by Stewart, using his fingers, the tiny Pan App module is a magical development of pan.
Among the junior performers in the first third of the programme were Primary School Panorama winner St Margaret Boys Anglican School; St Francois Girls’ College (Secondary Schools champion); Success Stars Pan Sounds (Non School champion); Junior King and Queen of Carnival (Kwesi Philbert and Nekilah Thomas), respectively; Junior Calypso Monarch Marq Pierre; Junior Band of the Year Rosalind Gabriel’s Lost in Paradise and special guest children’s band Boissiere Village’s Passion for Pan, the latter, with beautifully-designed costumes, making quite an impression, despite its small size.
This segment also featured Calypso Queen Joanne Foster and Young Kings Monarch Stephen Marcelle. I am still at a loss as to how and why Marcelle, singing Politics Does Spoil The Lime, was not selected among this year’s 40 monarch semi-finalists. He received a thunderous and well-deserved ovation after his performance.
Taking proceedings into intermission was Single Pan Panorama champion San Juan East Side Symphony, performing an exhilarating Duvonne Stewart arrangement of Tambu’s Rant & Rave; and, Extempore Monarch Lady Africa facing off against runner-up Lingo. Advertised to perform next, National Chutney Soca Monarch Raymond Ramnarine was a no show.
In the break, Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz made a presentation to former Pan Trinbago PRO Selwyn Tarradath for being the progenitor of Champs in Concert, with deceased Pan Trinbago president Arnim Smith, while two patrons received complimentary air travel to Caribbean Airlines destinations.
Panorama large band People’s Choice winner Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars was another no show but medium band winner Courts Sound Specialists of Laventille was there and delivered a robust performance of Ken “Professor” Philmore’s arrangement of the late Arrow’s Long Time. Small Band Panorama winner Arima Golden Symphony preceded joint Kings of Carnival Ted Eustace and Gerry Weekes, and Queen of Carnival Charisse Bovell; and, masqueraders from Brian Mac Farlane’s winning Band of the Year presentation Joy: The Finale.
One of the night’s most scintillating performances came from Medium Band Panorama champion NLCB Buccooners. The Tobago steelband executed Seion Gomez’s arrangement of the late Maestro’s Gold like it was performing on a final night. Also delivering an awesome and exhilarating performance was Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove, playing Len “Boogsie” Sharpe’s More Love.
Political Commentary Calypso category champion Kurt Allen again won raves for his Political Sin-Phony, a feat repeated by National Monarch Pink Panther, singing Travel Woes.
The anticipation of SuperBlue, billed as the programme’s finale, dulled the performance of penultimate act Groovy Soca runner-up Iwer George, singing a medley of his old songs, as well as Bubble. Even without his trademark knack for climbing on scaffloding and speakers, SuperBlue, dressed mostly in white, delivered everything his captive audience expected, with patrons being able to exit the venue at 12.30 am.
Students’ Companion on Pan
Which steel orchestra has won a National Panorama title in every decade of the competition’s history? Who is the most successful Panorama arranger of all time? If you are searching for the answers to these questions, plus answers to 398 more on pan, since 1960, you must get 400 Questions & Answers on Pan...1960 to Present, written and compiled by Ian R Franklin.
Interviewed, Franklin has compared his book to the comprehensive publication of The Students’ Companion, published eons ago by Wilfred D. Best. Franklin’s book is broken down by decades, making it easy to digest its contents.
Franklin, who resides in North America, was born in Trinidad, grew up on Laventille Road, within a stone’s throw from Witco Desperadoes panyard, and attended Richmond Street Boys’ School in Port-of-Spain. A veteran pannist, he has been residing in Florida since 1995 and is a founding member of the Lauderhill Steel Ensemble.
Franklin has a vision for the future of the national instrument, among them being Pan Trinbago awarding points in the Panorama competition for bands with “the best traditional tone.” A self-confessed traditionalist, he is averse to the chroming of the instrument, a process which diminishes the authentic tone of the instrument.
Apart from the extensive Q&A facts in the book, Franklin also documents pan in New York, from the 1970s.
This Carnival, Franklin updated the publication and it’s now titled 600 Questions & Answers on Pan...1960 to Present.
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