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International Panorama 2009 - Montréal Style

Salah’s Steelband Academy wins international crown


F.I.S.M. (Festival International de Steelpan de Montréal)

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In Pictures



Montréal, Quebec, Canada - Panorama in Montreal is like that of no other place in the world.  As the main event of the two-day Montreal International Steelpan Festival, now in its ninth year, the competition brings a unique brand and style to a city already with an envious reputation for hosting some of the greatest music and arts festivals in the world.  Indeed, the operative word here is “international” as the show’s producers have expanded the traditional panorama concept of local partaking to an international perspective and participation.

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Again, the steelpan instrument moved front and center showcasing its star power, versatility and ability to bridge cultures and bring people together across musical genres, races, languages and backgrounds.  Never was this more abundantly demonstrated successfully than at this festival.  It is appropriate that the steelpan instrument - born, raised and nurtured on an island in the Caribbean would find itself on another island, Montreal, as the center of attraction thousands of miles north of its birthplace.


The competition consisted of two parts - the Adult International Steelpan Panorama Competition and the Junior (School) Panorama Competition.  Carded to perform at the Adult International Steelpan Panorama Competition were ‘Arima Golden Symphony’ of Trinidad, led by Terrance “B.J.” Marcelle; ‘Pan Coalition’ of Maine, USA (pictured) led by Carl & Nigel Chase and; ‘Salah’s Steelpan Academy’ of Montreal led by Salah Wilson.  The event began with the Junior (Schools) Panorama Competition featuring steelbands from Coronation School, St. Monica, Marymount Academy, Westmount Park, James Lyng and John Grant.

From as early as 12:00 noon people started to wander into the performance area both by design and curiosity, to examine and eventually listen to the multitude of the family of steelpan music instruments being off-loaded from the truck (pictured).  ‘Early birds’ were treated to their own unrestricted up-close and personal private concert as Maine’s Pan Coalition went through their repertoire as they warmed up for the competition.  The visual and sonic reality of steel orchestras performing live in downtown Montréal seemed surreal to many present.  There was simply a look of pleasant wonderment on their faces.  

Once the activities had begun, the hefty and zealous crowd continuously showered the participating steelbands with accolades and cheers.  For many in the audience this was the first time they had ever experienced a steelpan music competition.  Intrigue, amazement and joy mixed with a heavy dose of merriment were on the menu for the day.  To say that the hundreds of attendees thoroughly enjoyed themselves would be an understatement.  It was clear that we were witnessing the expansion and birth of another major Montreal music affair.

Any doubt of the international nature of the event ended as soon as the announcements about the performing artists were made.  There were two masters of ceremony - Ms. Alana Byer who spoke completely in French, and Mr. Egbert Gaye who spoke in English.  In addition the color brochure for the event (pictured) was written in both French and English.

The Junior Panorama - (EMSB Public school)
Special Connection
(pictured left) opened the show with an audience warm-up performance that was very well received by the crowd which had now swollen in numbers.  The Junior panorama competition then began with performances by orchestras from Westmount Park Elementary School, St. Monica Elementary School, Coronation Elementary School and Marymount Academy respectively.  Each group played two pieces.


La Compétition Panorama
La chanson de choix

  1. Westmount Park Elementary School
    a) Pink Panther - arranger: Miriyam Wilson
    b) Wanna Show You - arranger: Miriyam Wilson
  2. St. Monica Elementary School
    a) If I Were A Boy - arranger: Fatima Wilson
    b) This Feeling - arranger: Fatima Wilson
  3. Coronation Elementary School
    a) Africa - arranger: Miriyam Wilson
    b) Magic Drum - arranger: Miriyam Wilson
  4. Marymount Academy
    a) No Te Veo - arranger: Miriyam Wilson
    b) Slip Away - arranger: Miriyam Wilson

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Junior Competition:
Tune of Choice

  1. Coronation School: 237
  2. St. Monica School: 224
  3. Westmount Park: 215
  4. Marymount Academy: 209

Panorama Song

  1. Marymount Academy: 226
  2. Coronation School: 216
  3. St. Monica School: 206
  4. Westmount Park: 186

The Adult Competition
Each of the contestants performed a round of warm-up tunes that had the audience rocking.  Pan Coalition dropped a distinctive version of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy that drew an ovation.  They immediately let it be known that they were for real.  Not to be outdone and in honor of Michael Jackson, who passed away a couple of days prior - Salah’s Steelpan Academy opened with Billie Jean.  For the competition Pan Coalition performed Pan in ‘A’ Minor and Salah’s Steelpan Academy performed
First In The Line.

Adjudicators on hand for both the junior and adult panoramas were Clyde “Lightning” George, Penny Lewis and Hameed Shaqq “The Pan Piper” (pictured).

The only sour note to the whole event was the absence of Arima Golden Symphony from Trinidad (no fault of the show’s producers).  Their absence was inexcusable from our perspective.  Those responsible in Arima Golden Symphony need to get their act together or enter a different profession.  You are either a professional and good to go, or you are part of the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

Beyond that one hic-up, everything was copasetic. The show went on with great performances and the crowd was extremely pleased.

La Compétition Panorama
La chanson de choix

Tune of Choice:

  1. Pan Coalition (Maine, USA)
    - Arranger: Nigel Chase
  2. Arima Golden Symphony (Trinidad) ~No Show~
    - Theme from Flashdance - arranger: Terrance “B.J.” Marcelle
  3. Salah’s Steelpan Academy (Montreal)
    - I’m Coming Out - arranger: Salah Wilson

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Panorama Song:

  1. Pan Coalition (Maine, USA)
    - Pan in ‘A’ Minor - arranger: Nigel Chase
  2. Arima Golden Symphony (Trinidad) ~No Show~
    - Blue Crescendo - arranger: Terrance “B.J.” Marcelle
  3. Salah’s Steelpan Academy (Montreal)
    - First In The Line - arranger: Salah Wilson

Tune of Choice

  1. Salah’s Steelpan Academy: 253
  2. Pan Coalition: 228

Panorama Song

  1. Salah’s Steelpan Academy: 275
  2. Pan Coalition: 242

In addition to the panorama competitions, the audience was treated to a command performance by Vancouver based father-and-son steelpan performing standouts Kenrick and Kenneth Headley (pictured below left), and also that of ‘the Pan Piper’ from Toronto, Hameed Shaqq.  Special guests the West Can Folk Performers, a cultural and folk dance troupe (pictured below right), engaged the audience with definitive and message-oriented performances from their energetic members.


There were steelband accessories of all types on sale: sticks, instructional books in steelband music playing and theory, CDs, T-Shirts, souvenirs and more - all available for those attending the festival.  From those who chose to replenish their steelband materials, to others who were simply quite curious about seeing up close the ‘sticks’ that were responsible in part for the sweet music heard on the pans - they came around the stalls set up close by.  Alongside choices of food and drink, the steelband music event was replete.

The event was held at the Place Émilie-Gamelin [park] (known informally as Berri Square), in downtown Montreal.  Named after Roman Catholic nun Émilie Gamelin, it was created to mark the city’s 350th anniversary.  The artistic background and ambiance, sculptures and direct openness to the downtown area created the most distinctive, open and welcoming panorama When Steel Talks has ever attended.  Émilie-Gamelin is conveniently located adjacent to the transportation hubs of Berri UQAM Metro Station and Station centrale d’autobus, as well as UQAM and the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec.  Eateries and other shopping lures are equally close in proximity.

Indeed the Émilie-Gamelin environment and surroundings contributed greatly to the multicultural aspect of the event.  Tourists and Montréalans out enjoying the great weather freely answered the almost mystical call and attraction of the steelband music being played as it echoed among the city structures.  It was indeed a ‘pied-piper’ moment watching the people being inexorably ‘drawn’ into the area.

According to the president of the International Steelpan Festival - Salah Wilson - they have already turned the focus on 2010 when they expect what will be the 10th Montreal International Steelpan Festival, to be a grander affair.

Contact festival organizer Salah Wilson: salah@steelpanplus.com

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In Pictures

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