Gemonites Steel Orchestra
Tune of choice: “Pan Revolution” | arranger: Johnny Gonsalves
The story of Gemonites Steel Orchestra lends credence to the concept that a combination of “perspiration and aspirations is the formula for success”.
Strong ties - forged at Princess Margaret School (PMS) - solidified, in 1978, when the school’s PMS Serenaders, became the Gemonites, a band made up of graduates and others. The group would, from these humble beginnings, go on to become a well- respected cultural institution.
Gemonites first entered the Panorama in 1978 placing fourth, and followed this with a respectable third-place tie in 1979. When the competition resumed in 1981, after a one-year absence, Gemonites won the coveted title of national Panorama champions with an infectious Paul Campbell-arrangement of Swallow’s ‘Twenty-five Years of Mas’. By this time, Gemonites had become a household name, entertaining tourists in the various hotels, as well as locals.
In 1982, Gemonites made its first tour to Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda, and shortly thereafter, was selected to represent Antigua at the 1982 world’s fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. A follow-up tour of 1998. Tennessee materialized in 1984.
Panorama was revived in 1985, and Gemonites continued to participate, though perennially coming in third. In 1988, Panorama was abandoned, and, in 1989, there was a boycott.
Over the period 1990 to 1995, Gemonites again competed in Panorama and often found itself just short of the prestigious title, with several second and third positions.
When panorama was discontinued in 1996, Gemonites beat all competitors to capture the first ever National Bomb Competition title and followed this up with consecutive second places, in 1997 and 1998.
Panorama returned in 2001 and Gemonites declared its intent by claiming third place, improving to second in 2002, and finally, in its Silver Anniversary year, capturing the elusive championship in 2003, twenty-two years after their first victory.
The two most important projects into which Gemonites has invested time and financial resources are its School of Pan and annual Moods of Pan. The Gemonites School of Pan was launched in 1998, and has provided free musical theory and practice to aspiring panists, of all ages. The membership and popularity of the band has doubled as a result of this ambitious project.
Meanwhile, when Gemonites’ ‘Moods of Pan’ was introduced, in 1999, as a solitary concert, it made an astonishing impact on Antiguan pan-lovers, starved for top quality steel band entertainment. In 2000, ‘Moods’ was transformed into a three-day festival, and in 2002 a fourth day was added. Under the ‘Moods’ tent, some of the region’s best entertainers have consistently brought much pleasure to Antigua audiences - including Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe, Ken ‘Professor’ Philmore, Andy Narell, Liam Teague, Robert Greenidge, Arturo Tappin, Samaroo Jets, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra, Lord Relator, De Original Defosto, Sprangalang and Errol Fabian.
‘Moods of Pan’ is poised to blossom into a national pan & musical festival and is expected to attract a sizeable following of pan lovers, regionally and internationally. Among those responsible for the development of this wonderful product are a number of enthusiastic, dedicated and committed corporate citizens, who have provided major sponsorship. These include: Observer Radio, Jolly Beach Resort, AT&T Wireless, BWIA, ABIB, LIAT, The Antigua and Barbuda Teachers Cooperative Credit Union, Original Printery, Virgin Atlantic and more.
Look out for ‘Moods of Pan’.
It’s going to be Bigger and Better!
Gemonites’ contact information:
P.O. Box 3064, Dickenson Bay Street,
St John’s Antigua, W.I.
Source: In Tune With Pan magazine, publication of the Cultural Development Division - Ministry of Education, Human Development & Culture, Antigua & Barbuda, W.I. 2008
- 2016 - Johnny Gonsalves
- 2015 - Johnny Gonsalves
- 2014 - Johnny Gonsalves
- 2013 - Patrick "Stone" Johnson