A Web cast will tomorrow transport pan faithful to the cornfields of Illinois where one of best steelbands in America will perform.The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Steelband directed by Liam Teague and Cliff Alexis will give its Spring 2013 concert and feature special guest Robbie Greenidge.
The NIU steelband programme was formed 40 years ago and has evolved into a powerhouse under the leadership of Teague and Alexis. The spring concert is the band's annual showcase and offers a full and varied programme featuring performances from the All University Band and the "by audition only" NIU steelband of the best players.
The All University Band is run by four graduate students pursuing a two-year master's degree in pan performance. These students are some of the hottest young pannists around and hail from several different countries.
The concert will be the last for two of these graduate students as Barry Mannette and Khion De Las, both from T&T, are graduating later in the spring. Mannette is the son of pan legend Birdie Mannette and the nephew of pan legend Ellie Mannette. Barry grew up in Invaders panyard and has played with many of the best steelbands in T&T.
He has arranged for Starlift and Starlift Jr and this summer will be arranging for St Vincent panorama. De Las earned an undergraduate degree from the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, and was a member of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra from 2007-2012.
Other NIU pan graduates include Josanne Francis, from Diego Martin, Trinidad. The only non-Trini of the group is Khan Cordice from Antigua. Cordice is considered by many a pan prodigy and has been a winning arranger with Hell's Gate Steelband of Antigua. For the spring concert, each of the four has arranged one piece for the All-University steelband. The tunes vary in style and scope, ranging from Alicia Keys to a selection from the musical Les Miserables to an old Latin selection to, of all things, video game themes.
Every concert, the NIU steelband features a guest soloist to join the band. This spring, Greenidge, who has previously been a guest at NIU in 1991 and 1993, will feature him playing jazz numbers and Boogsie Sharpe's Take a Break Today.
In addition to guest soloists, the concert features professor of Conducting Dr Ronnie Wooten conducting sections of Felix Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony arranged by band member Yuko Asada and Professor Mike Mixtacki, a Latin jazz specialist, who will join the NIU steelband on an arrangement of Mongo Santamaria's classic Afro-Blue.
Despite being 1800 miles from the Queen's Park Savannah, the NIU Steelband will play an arrangement by Teague of past Panorama tunes "Vibes," by the Mark Loquan and Ken "Professor" Philmore, Cliff Alexis' "More than an Oil Drum," and Superblue's 2013 Soca Monarch and Road March hit "Fantastic Friday" arranged by Barry Mannette.
If this concert isn't enough, Liam Teague will be performing a unique faculty recital featuring a number of new commissions on April 25. This recital and tomorrow's concert, which starts at 5 pm T&T time, will be Web cast free of charge through the NIU school of music Web site.
The NIU Web casts have become popular with serious pan fans around the world. Head of recording services Dan Nichols said: "Our Web cast have been seen in over 150 countries on six continents and our YouTube channel (youtube.com/niusomofficial) in as nearly 1,000 videos and almost one million video views."
Go to www.niu.edu/music and click on the screen for Web casts.