Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Pan is truly beautiful
Some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard was at steelband music festivals events I have attended since childhood, dating back to the 50s.
Fast-forward to 1964 when the National Association of T&T Steelbandsmen (NATTS), forerunner to Pan Trinbago, held its first official festival at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.
It was historic for many reasons, one being that it was the first time a Defence Force steel orchestra had participated in a steelband competition. That contest also saw NATTS fining registered bands which did not participate a penalty of the princely sum of $20 each. The eventual champions of the festival were soloist Ray Holman, playing Minuet in C, and West Side Symphony, playing Roses from the South.
Through the years, this festival has served and nurtured the best pan musicians and steelbands on Earth.
Coming easily to mind also are conductors of the festivals of the past 50 years, some of them eccentric performers, like Ben Jackson.
Some of my favourite conductors have been the late Artie Cyril Shaw, Anthony Prospect, Fitzgerald “Uncle Jem” Jemmot, Pat Bishop and Paul Campbell.
The combination of Pat Bishop and Witco Desperadoes can only be defined as magical in the annals of the steelband music festival.
Under her direction, the Laventille Hill orchestra scored a hat-trick of wins (1986, 1988, 1992). Any true-blooded steelband festival enthusiast must fondly recall the interpretations of Boradin’s Polovetsian Dancer; Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave and The Bartered Bride, each one bringing audiences to their feet on final night.
My other memorable vignettes of the steelband festival have been Catelli (now Neal & Massy) Trinidad All Stars winning the historic 1980 edition, playing Von Suppe’s Morning Noon and Night in Vienna, a feat repeated in 1984 when the band played Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in F Minor Opus 36.
The 1980 festival was special as it was the first one held since 1973, also won by Trinidad All Stars, performing Dvorak’s Symphony for New World Opus 9 and winning the Spree Simon Challenge Trophy.
Following the inaugural 1964 festival, up to 1973, champions have included Tripoli (1965); Desperadoes (1967); and Trinidad All Stars (1968).
But I continue to cherish memories of 1966, an epic and iconic festival, when Pan Am Jet North Stars and City Syncopators both played Poet and Peasant as their Tune of Choice and the Test Piece, Anthony Prospect’s Intermezzo in E.
This was also the first time the festival was adjudicated by one judge, Prof John Russell. It was one of the most fiercely contested finals, won overall by North Stars, but Syncopators winning the Margaret Russell Trophy for the Best Performance of a classical piece.
The following year, the festival, adjudicated by Profs Russel and Alan Tongue, was also a memorable musical showcase.
Playing Mozart’s Excerpts from Twelve Dances, the adjudicators said Cordettes of Sangre Grande had the “sweetest set of pans in the entire festival” but the performance of Desperadoes, playing Paliestra, was defined as “fantastic.”
At the end of it, Desperadoes was adjudged “grand championship winner” and got the Governor General’s Trophy.
For being the top sponsored band, Syncopators took home the Prime Minister’s Trophy, while Cordettes received the Margaret Russell Trophy for Best Test Piece. Katzenjammers, the Best Tobago Band, also copped the Best Tune of Choice award, playing Funiculi Funicula.
Pan is Beautiful XII
Despite Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz’s claiming that the State and corporate world had not given the steelband organisation funds to assist with the staging of the festival, lack of funding wasn't evident last weekend as Pan Trinbago executive members and personnel sported new, beautifully designed polos and T-shirts, and technical infrastructure for the production, including stage and backstage structure, seemed to be well fortified, manned by Japanese technicians; UTT students; sound engineer Frank Agarrat; and DJ Joy Juice.
Having returned from Nigeria two Sundays ago and attending Saturday’s competitions, Diaz said: “Pan Trinbago has received no funding from the State or the corporate world for this festival. We wrote to at least 42 companies and got no feedback.
“This festival has the largest number of bands to register for a steelband festival since 1980 but in spite of financial concerns, we are going ahead as planned. This thing is too big and important to this nation to cancel it again.”
The weekend's experience in the Queen's Park Savannah had at least one unreal moment for me. It happened on Sunday evening, during the performances by the soloists, before the sun had set. As the musicians performed on stage, off stage, in the background, one could see youths playing football—the Savannah probably being the only venue in the world to facilitate a classical music event and sport fixture at the same time.
Pan is Beautiful XII continues on October 19 and 20 at the Savannah with conventional orchestras facing the adjudicators. Competition reaches boiling point on November 8, 10 and 16 when semi-finals and the grand final will be staged at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (Napa) and Jean Pierre Complex, Port-of-Spain.
As has been traditional, Pan is Beautiful XII is being held under the patronage of the President.
What they’re playing
Competitors are performing test pieces composed by Dr Leroy Calliste (Black Stalin):
• Respect the Steelband (Ensemble)
• Black Man Feeling To Party (Single Pan)
• Mr Pan Maker (Orchestra)
• and a tune of choice.
Soloists are performing on any steelpan instrument a musical composition of their choice.
A Pan Trinbago release said participants are competing for a total of $2.1 million in cash prizes.
Additionally, trophies are up for grabs for the best test piece, best tune of choice and champion in each of the categories.
While defending solo champion Micahi Felician, representing bpTT Renegades, didn’t make it to the final, defending ensemble champion Stryke Stars did.
Republic Bank Exodus is expected to defend its title in the conventional orchestra class.
Defending Single Pan champion SWMCOL Codrington Pan Family will compete in the orchestra category. Other big names registered in this category include bpTT Renegades, Courts Sound Specialists of Laventille and NGC Couva Joylanders.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.