Brooklyn, New York, USA - CASYM (Caribbean American Sports & Cultural Youth Movement, Inc.) hosted more than three hours of great entertainment for the season under the leadership of long-time arranger Arddin Herbert, with their third Annual Christmas “Carols & Classics” Concert at the Brooklyn Museum, in Brooklyn, New York. For those who were savvy enough to put the weekend event in their calendar, they came out winners all the way. As one attendee was overheard commenting after the show “I didn’t intend to come. I was not coming at all. But I am so glad I made the effort! It was fantastic!” The lady in question was merely giving voice to what surely must have been on the lips and in the minds of others who took in the concert.
CASYM Steel Orchestra is better known to the steelband world as one of the most visual and traveled bands around. They are also the 2006 New York Panorama champions. But, many of those youngsters who grew up as musicians in CASYM, are now music teachers and educational instructors in their own right - in addition to remaining active with the orchestra. And they are giving back to and retain linkages with the parent body - CASYM Inc. Their music program can be found in several schools within Brooklyn, and the orchestra itself has a ‘nursery’ of upcoming steel pannists. These young CASYMites, in Classes I (pictured) and II starred in “Carols & Classics” alongside their accomplished and bigger CASYM steel orchestra ‘brothers and sisters.’
The concert opened with the US anthem featuring CASYM veterans (pictured) Curtis Lynch on drums, band captain Travis Roberts on double seconds, and Anthony Lewis on six-bass. Founder William Jones addressed the audience next, thanking them for supporting the concert series for yet another year, and asking for their continued assistance, especially given the orchestra’s current travails. He mentioned the resiliency of CASYM as an organization, pointing to the present crisis of the orchestra after being thrown out of their ‘gratis’ practice space of more than twenty years on church property, by a Brooklyn Roman Catholic Church after a change in administration and the arrival of a new priest on the scene.
Akia Extavour delivered one of the two spoken word items for the evening. CASYM’s Class I delighted parents and other audience members with their Christmas selections. The young Parang Soca dancers (pictured) were eye-catching in their seasonal red attire when they took the stage. That the adults were thrilled was an understatement - judging from the number of cameras and camcorders that appeared - with their respective offspring in the spotlight. There was one more dance number for the evening featuring Kara Neptune.
‘Santa,’ who was a hit at last year’s concert, returned and again did a superb job as master of ceremonies for the show. No, that did not leave Santa (pictured) any time to give out presents. He was far too taken up being a hilarious and tasteful MC for the duration of the evening, having the audience in stitches at every turn. Christmas will never be the same, though, for some of the boys and girls who came up to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. His witty comments to their ‘wants’ provoked side-splitting laughter from the audience. One could only imagine what the children thought. Santa was particularly proud to introduce one young man, Jaeden, as the next ‘President of the United States of America’ - it was his wish, after all...
Presentations of clocks in the image and mold of steelpans to congresswoman-elect Yvette Clarke, a long-time supporter of the steelpan artform in Brooklyn and in particular of CASYM, and to her mother, former New York councilmember Dr. Una Clarke (pictured), were made by William Jones. After their remarks of thanks, the ladies were both fabulously serenaded by Samuel Clarke (no relation); he performed one additional selection before intermission.
It was then the turn of CASYM Class II on stage, and like their predecessors - Class I - they stole the hearts of the crowd. When a young Kyle Frederick (pictured) left his guitar pans and donned a black jacket and red hat, and took center stage with his band mates backing him, the crowd swooned as he charmingly delivered a steelpan-customized version of the classic Christmas calypso ditty Listen Mama, dedicated to William Jones. A very nice touch by CASYM was to have various youngsters of Classes I and II not only introduce the selections to be played, but also share with their eager audience who they were, and more importantly, how long they had been playing the instrument.
CASYM’s stageside steel orchestra (pictured) was the closing act, initially attired in formal wear. Under the baton of resident arranger Arddin Herbert, they launched into an arresting and dramatic classical performance of Prelude to Carmen. At the end, the audience responded to the orchestra with repeated rounds of applause. Another well-received selection was Just The Two Of Us with solos by Natalie, and Mustapha Alexander who engaged in a ‘call and response’ exhibition of steelpan talent. And the audience again unhesitatingly and resoundingly showed their appreciation. CASYM also included combinations of vocals and steel in their repertoire, both with the full band, and also featuring a duet between Arddin Herbert on double seconds and one vocalist singing One Moment In Time.
Playing a few selections from their CD D’Blueprint, CASYM also made sure that the audience was in the holiday mood. Their closing number was probably what many were awaiting since they took the stage - the group’s winning panorama arrangement of This One’s For U, Bradley.
The concert proudly showcased the fruits of CASYM’s work within the community and their interaction with its young people throughout the year, as well as their own well-maintained standards. For 2006 the musical organization gave another great annual Christmas Concert for New Yorkers to enjoy.
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