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CYP's Mann Center Odyssey - In Pictures

Date: 07.27.06

Caribbean Youth Panoramics:
 The Odyssey

 

Philadelphia - The odyssey had lasted almost twenty-four hours to the minute.  It had been 3:45 on Tuesday afternoon when the large luxury bus pulled away from the curbside spot it had occupied while instruments were loaded, and musicians boarded, for the journey to Philadelphia.  And it was just about ten minutes shy of 3:45 on Wednesday afternoon, when the driver safely brought his charges, Caribbean Youth Panoramics (CYP) steel orchestra (right) and When Steel Talks press personnel, back to the Clarkson Avenue address in Brooklyn, New York which served as CYP's practice space for 2005.


 

By 5:45 PM, the bus was pulling up in front of the Comfort Inn, which would host the musicians for the night.  The establishment added a nice touch by way of welcome, with an acknowledgement of the steel orchestra's presence (above).  CYP was slated to perform at 11:25 AM the next morning at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts' Young People's Concert Series.  The group had been invited to and did, perform previously in 2003; this time around, the event organizers had decided to relieve any pressure of traveling from Brooklyn to Philadelphia then going immediately on stage to perform, by bringing in the orchestra the evening before.  The next morning, after breakfast and re-packing the instruments (above) on the bus (they had been removed for the night due to company policy) - it was off to the Mann Center.

Shortly after setting up their instruments on stage, CYP retired to their dressing rooms below for a quick round of refreshments thoughtfully provided by the event organizers, and to change for their upcoming concert appearance.  In 2003 at the Mann Center, the group had performed before a record-breaking audience of 7,000.  This time around (right), when the youngsters filed into the arena-type setting, there certainly appeared to be more, with the balcony section filled to capacity, and with a slight spill over into the lawn seating area.

The Young People's Concert Series at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts has been around for a number of years, but it was only with the arrival of Education and Outreach Director Rhoda Blount about eight years ago, that the program realized its full potential.  Though the concerts were being presented to youthful audiences, they had been missing the mark, focusing on classical musical fare.  Blount noticed children 'napping in the audience' and knew it was time for a change.  A seasoned performer herself, she shrewdly pinpointed the problem immediately, and set about introducing a 'children's concert' as part of the program.  Hers was a vision of performances by youths, for youths.   Since then there has been no turning back.  Now instead of bored and fidgety youngsters, there are wildly cheering and engaged young people, who could very well turn out to be the future cultural icons of their generation, due in part to their exposure to varied art forms featuring performers from around the world, at the Mann Center's Young People's Concert series.  Young people can literally "travel the world without leaving Philadelphia!"

For 2006, there are five youth-oriented concerts, all one hour in duration.  Blount has also been practical, factoring the attention span of her youthful audience into consideration!  All the performances are free, and highlight diverse music genres, culture and art forms.  The annual concert series draws thousands of young people from summer recreational programs and day camps throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.  Mann Center CEO and president Peter B. Lane says that at the end of the 2006 series, more than 36,000 youth would have been in attendance.  

And so it was that at precisely 11:00 AM Rhoda Blount took the stage (right) for the third of the five 2006 concerts, accompanied by a very precocious young lady whose task it was to welcome all to the event, but - pausing just before doing so to say - that she was all of "three and a quarter years old!" That was Mya, who executed her supportive role very well.
 

This particular concert focused on and was entitled Caribbean Rhythms.  In the spotlight first was the Zen One Dance Collective (ZODC) (left), founded and led by Ron Wood aka Zen One; he is also the group's artistic director.  ZODC is a theater-based hip Hop Company that combines dance, martial arts and music, based on the famed Brazilian Capoeira art form.  Wood himself is a professional Hip Hop Dancer/Choreographer and Professor in Capoeira and part-time music producer.  During ZODC's incredible and entertaining performance, Wood espoused to his youthful audience, the need to stay active and exercise to maintain good health.  The ZODC performers demonstrated several basic moves, showing the youngsters that even though the art form itself appeared very complex, with dedication and practice, it could be mastered, was fantastic exercise and discipline, and mostly - it was fun!

Then it was the turn of the Caribbean Youth Panoramics Steel Orchestra.  Taking his cue from their 2003 audience's fascination with the steelpan instruments, and their incredulity at the concept that actual music notes were emanating from steel drums, the band's leader Joseph 'Franklyn' Gerald introduced the young audience to the main voices of instruments in his stageside orchestra - bass, guitars, double seconds and tenors.  The instruments representing each voice 'rolled' on cue when referred to by Gerald.  In their forty-minute set, CYP performed four selections, two of which were taken from Robert Greenidge's last CD; they were the title track - From The Heart - and If I Never See You Again.  Also included were the latin-flavored Brazil and one classical piece - Skaters' Waltz.

It was midday when the concert ended, and while the musicians moved their instruments off stage, and loaded them directly back on the bus for the return journey, the band's tenor section relocated to an area outside the theater for a mini presentation and close-up demonstration for curious and fascinated youngsters and adults alike.  Mann Center's Peter Lane and Rhoda Blount mingled with excited children at the same time that others fired off various questions to CYP's leader Joseph Gerald (left).  He addressed them all, including one query relating to 'what draws some people to the instrument - other than those already familiar with it.'  At that point he drew on a perfect example within the band.  Pointing out one of their tenor players, Gerald explained that he had two siblings - a brother and sister - who all came up through the ranks of CYP.  Their mother had seen the orchestra on a gig and subsequently brought her three children into the band.  And the rest was history.

Many  of the younger children, some just about able to reach the instruments, began tinkering with the pans (right), shyly at first, then became a bit more emboldened, as CYP's musicians gave them quick pointers and a feel for the pans.  Adults who accompanied the children seized the opportunity to organize impromptu photo ops with the stars of the moment, CYP's players.

Like before, the Mann Center event organizers hosted the musicians at a small reception after their performance, and also presented them with individually-prepared bags as additional tokens of their appreciation.  Rhoda Blount, as always was very hands-on, and took care of her artists in an exemplary and thoughtful manner.  She ensured that they were not taken for granted, and treated with them with respect.  Peter Lane was present as well, and articulated his pleasure that the group was able to rejoin them for the concert series.  He thanked them for their contribution and extended an invitation to return to the Mann Center again in the future.

Finally it was back to the bus for the return journey.  By 1:25 PM the bus departed from the Mann Center.  After a comfortable ride back to Brooklyn, New York, through which most of the travelers slept, it was about 3:35 PM when the driver pulled up once more on Clarkson Avenue.  For 2006, CYP had completed another well-received performance at the Mann Center's Young People's Concert Series in Philadelphia.  And now their attention would shift to their next area of immediate focus: practice sessions for their upcoming participation in the premier steelband music competition in North America - the New York Steelband Music Panorama taking place on September 2, 2006.

C. Phillips, Basement Press Corp
.
2006 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved
 

Contact Caribbean Youth Panoramics at : 718-272-0695

More on Caribbean Youth Panoramics click here

CYP's Mann Center Odyssey - In Pictures


 

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