Crown Cordaans Steel Orchestra
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“The history of this small Tobago conventional band is rooted in the development of the Western peninsula of the island. In fact, its name is what is known as a portmanteau – a combination of two or more words and their meanings. In this instance, Mr Thornhill advises me that the name Crown Cordaans represents the vibrant commercial districts of Crown Point, Canaan and Bon Accord. Sadly however, the band has been seemingly omitted from most of the meaningful fiscal development that is associated with these areas.
“Crown Cordaans is a relatively new band with an old soul. To appreciate the achievements of C&B Crown Cordaans it is important to reflect on the history of steel bands in the area. According to Mr Thornhill, Old Oak Starlift was the first steel band in the community. In the late 1960’s however, a faction of the band organised themselves into another group which was known as the BP Serenaders. It was in 1966 that Mr Thornhill (then twenty-four years old) experienced his first National panorama as a member of BP Serenaders. He recalls that both bands competed that year. Serenaders played “Melda” and the newly sponsored Radison Sounds Starlift offered their rendition of “More Wood in the Fire,” by calypsonian Sparrow.
“In 1968, BP Serenaders disbanded and Mr Thornhill joined Starlift where he was later elected as captain in 1970. He however had to migrate to Trinidad in 1972 during which Starlift too disbanded and the band Woodpeckers was formed. Unfortunately, history was determined to repeat itself and so between 1974 and 1975 Woodpeckers was also dissolved. It would be more than a decade later that Canaan/Bon Accord would again hear the sweet sound of steel.
“Through a number of community initiatives such as bar-b-ques and cook-outs and eventually, assistance from the NAR’s (National Alliance for Reconstruction) Self-Help Programme, the structure which exists today was built. It soon became home to another newly-formed entity called Ambassadors Steel Orchestra – the immediate predecessor to Crown Cordaans. However, Ambassadors suffered a familiar fate and between 1991 and 1993 Canaan/Bon Accord was again left without an active steel band.
“Nevertheless, Mr Thornhill remained persistent and valiant in his efforts to develop a thriving body of musicians in the area. Unlike some of their peers, accommodation was not an obstacle. It was the lack of leadership amongst his fellow pan men and women coupled with a lack of interest in the national instrument. Mr Thornhill fondly recalled placing a public notice near the Honey Comb Snackette inviting interested persons to attend a stakeholder meeting and later extending an invitation to the members of the area’s Police Youth Club (whose members never came.)
“In 2001/2 C&B Crown Cordaans was officially launched and thankfully, the band is still very active. Between 2002 and 2005 the band participated in three National Junior Panorama Competitions and in its later years, it matured into a small conventional band.
“In pursuit of a National Panorama title in the small band category, the orchestra has worked with a few of Tobago’s well-known arrangers including Mr Macmillian and Mr Delbert Henry.
“Given its significant youth base however, for 2014, the band opted to share the vision and passion of the young and extremely gifted Khari Codrington – of the renowned Codrington Pan Family. Their tune of choice was Machel Montano’s “Drop It.” In 2015, the partnership continued between Khari and the band, opting for Montano’s “Mr. Fete.” And for the third year running, the die was cast; Crown Cordaans, Khari and yes, the music of Montano—“She Coming” —which they did, once again, in 2016. And together they are again in 2017.
““His music is creative and represents things that the younger members can relate too. His style is a breath of fresh air. It is indeed a partnership that is ideal and timely and in his short time with us his influence has been tremendous,” says Mr Thornhill. “Khari has been able to instill a sense of pride in the instrument and confidence in the skills and knowledge of the players.””