With a complement of 73 players Laborie Steel Orchestra dethroned the perennial champs and favorites, heavyweight Pantime Steel Orchestra when the former were judged the 2016 St. Lucia National Panorama champions. Laborie performed an Andrius Edwide-arrangement of Arthur Allain’s “Who I Am.” Andrius Edwide, who is only nineteen, captured the imagination of the audience and judges - two from Trinidad & Tobago, Damion Phillip and Stephanie Powers, and three St. Lucians who included Gordon ‘Gene’ Leon and Gregory Piper. The enthusiastic performance by Laborie Steel Orchestra is indicative of the spirit, hard work and commitment to excellence exhibited by the youths of the organization, according to band leader Ms. Quill Barthelmy. Hailing from the south of St. Lucia, the group is also known as the Laborie Steelpan Project and is celebrating its tenth year in existence. This is their first Panorama title.
Laborie Steel Orchestra performs during the 2016 Panorama - photo: Johnson Jkube James
About fifty members were core players, with the rest hailing from outside of the Laborie area. The band had been hard at work for about two months prior to Panorama, but things ramped up this last week with the arrival of Trinbagonian driller Marcus Ash to work with them. “We had been practicing real hard for these past seven days,” says Andrius Edwide. Rehearsals went up to eleven in the night, “....the neighbours would call police and so on, on us,” he explained. Their tenacity and toil were rewarded with a score of 256 points, the top spot and the trophy.
Left to right: Laborie Steel Orchestra’s drill master Marcus Ash, band leader Quill Barthelmy, arranger Andrius Richard Edwide and captain Joshua Mathurin -- photo: Johnson Jkube James
Awarded 248 points by judges for second place were defending champs Pantime Steel Orchestra which had been seeking its fourth consecutive title. Playing in first position out of five for the evening, the 75-musician-strong band returned once more with champion arranger Amrit Samaroo, and his interpretation of “Captain Sammy.”
Ardent pan lovers enjoyed the presentations of five bands this year, a reduction from the eight competitors in 2015. Returning to take the stage was second-runner up Pantastic Muzik Steel Orchestra with the lone female arranger Krystal Nestor, and Pan Ambassadors. Rounding out the five was West Coast Steel Orchestra participating in Panorama for the first time; it was led by steelband veteran Lucius Alexander and came musically armed with forty players on this night.
Students from the Camille Henry Memorial School opened the show with the national anthem. The Panorama which began later than the scheduled 8:00 p.m. start was held at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium (the venue was formerly known as the Beausejour Cricket Grounds; it was renamed in April 2016) for the tenth consecutive year. The legendary Len “Boogsie” Sharpe was the guest artist, performing at the end of the competitive phase while results were being tabulated.