Pan Trinbago vice president, Brian Serrette, rather curiously asserted at the opening of the University of T&T (UTT) produced Mallets, Brass and Steel concert on June 13 that "in order for it (pan) to take its place, it must be able to be played alongside other instruments."
The performance of Supernovas Steel Orchestra alongside the Percussion Ensemble of the University of Delaware (UD) and the UTT Brass Ensemble however went on to confirm the long-established credentials of pan as an instrument in its own right. Few would have thought there was a question to answer or credentials to be determined.
The Amrit Samaroo-led band from Lopinot won in the Small Band category of the annual Panorama competition in 2014 and, in 2016, is expected to skip straight through to the Big Band contest– just six years after its formation.
So, when the combined ensemble of mallet, brass and steel took the stage for Lord Kitchener's Pan in A Minor there was no contest to determine the bona fides of well-established musical instruments, only an entertaining mingling of diverse musical disciplines.
The vibraphone and tenor pan conversed in familiar tones throughout the evening's performance, particularly when UD associate music professor Harvey Price played solo on Chick Corea's Spain and found equally competent responses from pannist Mia Gormandy and trombonist, UTT lecturer, Aiden Chamberlain.
It was the highlight of an evening that brought out a sizeable audience at Theatre 1, Napa, with many patrons having to stand throughout the 90-minute concert.
The UTT Brass Ensemble, under the direction of Kay Gainham, delivered a crisp rendition of Jim Parker's Londoner in New York: Central Park, Radio City followed by a fantastic version of Catching Shadows, a nostalgic melody composed by the enigmatic American percussionist, Ivan Trevino.
The combined ensemble would later return with an Amrit Samaroo arrangement of Quimbara, a big-band Afro-Cuban song made popular by the late Cuban singer Celia Cruz and composed by Junior Cepeda.
The groups followed up with Song of Lopinot composed by pan maestro, Jit Samaroo. Lopinot's haunting made-for-pan refrain, arranged by trombonist Chamberlain, barely had time to settle in by the time baritonist, Krisson Joseph took the stage following a dreamy interpretation of Besame Mucho played by Supernovas.
Joseph brought some members of the audience to their feet with Thinking out Loud followed by a spirited rendition of his father, The Mighty Penguin's unforgettably naughty composition The Slipper. Some in the crowd wanted an encore, calypso tent style. The show could have been named Mallets, Brass, Steel and Voice–a big one at that.
By that time, Supernovas had already been joined by the UD percussionists and UTT Brass, setting things up for a grand finale in the form of a memorable Chamberlaine arrangement of Giuseppe Verdi's Overture to the Force of Destiny, originally composed for strings and brass, but rendered on the occasion by a percussive fusion conducted by Ben Jackson.
In the end, the only credentials established were the successful romancing of mallets, brass, steel, voice and sustained applause.