Steelpan Musicians Take The Stage To Give Winning Panorama
New York - It was a great day for the
steelpan instrument, its music and culture as thousands descended on
the Brooklyn Museum's grounds to attend the annual New York
steelband music competition hosted by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA). Normally held on the Saturday
evening before Labor Day, this year's event was held on Sunday as a
result of its cancellation due to the inclement weather the previous
CASYM Steel Orchestra took top honors this year. Their clear-cut
victory was achieved with "Tribute to Bradley" their tune of choice.
CASYM's sizzling performance thrilled the audience and left no doubt
that they were indeed this year's panorama champions. They
scored 467 points out of a possible 500.
This year's event was particularly special as it was dedicated to the
late great master musician/arranger/composer Clive Bradley who
passed away last November. The performing steel orchestras
presented a tremendous tribute to the late steelband arranging genius.
Seven out of the twelve performers chose a musical piece dedicated
to Clive Bradley as their tune of choice. The regard and
respect for the late arranger was quite evident as pictures and
paintings of Mr. Bradley adorned the steelpan racks and players
uniforms in many cases. Mr. Bradley would have been very
proud - the town that he owned, New York, honored him big time.
second place honors with 85 players on stage
Normally band leaders spend their energies strategizing on how to
out-perform their competition. However, this year,
the focus became finding ways to minimize the negative effects of
the sound system on their performance. The sound system was
again brutal on the audience and the sonic perception of the bands.
It became very obvious quite early that something was very
wrong, as the first three bands' performances were tortured by the
sound system. Unfortunately, things got even worst.
Pantonic, the defending champions took the stage at position number
six with 100 players. Their performance came through the speakers as
an extremely loud, garbled, undistinguishable and distorted mess.
Luckily for Pantonic the judges were able to hear a mixture of the
orchestra direct from the stage because of its massive size, but
unfortunately still colored by the huge speakers close to the
adjudication table. And so it was at the point, after hearing
the Pantonic performance through the sound system, that the
started to send requests to the engineer in an effort to minimize
the effects of the system on their performance.
No one was left untouched by the sound system - some steel
orchestras fared better than others, depending on their size and
what they attempted to get the audio engineer to do.
And yes - the judges do hear the sound system - not as much as the
bulk of the audience, but enough to impact on what they are hearing
and probably the adjudication process.
The long-standing myth that the judges at WIADCA do not hear the
panorama bands through the speakers is just that - a myth. One
possible remedy for this situation is the game plan which was in
effect in 2001 at the USSA panorama at Jefferson field - the
speakers must be positioned at a certain distance behind the
judges. The bottom line, though, is the engineer did not
have a clue about what he was doing - or didn't care.
It was again a travesty to listen to how beautiful the bands and the
steelpans sounded when they were warming up in the car park, and to
then have the sound engineer wreak havoc on the audience's audio
sensibilities. Total and complete disrespect. No one
will ever fall in love with the sound of pan based on their
experience at the museum with the sound system.
third place honors with 100 players on stage
This year, responsibility for the bad sound experience rests
squarely on the shoulders of the participating steel orchestras.
The audio engineers and the promoters did nothing different than
they have done [or not] in the past. The sound has been awful
every year in the past (except 2001 at
Jefferson Field when the steelbands ruled) and it was again
awful in 2006. And there is nothing to suggest in the
30-something plus-year pattern of the panorama show's history, that
2007 will be any better. However, the management of the
performing steelpan musicians did have a choice. A choice to
show proper respect to the art form, the culture and the massive
investment in time, finances, personal sacrifice by themselves, and
their organization members, to put into place, whatever pre-planning
and mechanisms that were necessary for the most perfect presentation
possible, of their respective 10-minutes of performing glory on
stage. And most importantly, a choice to show proper respect
to their audience who come to the competition by the thousands - by
simply requesting that the system be turned off.
In a conversation with one of the judges shortly after the
competition about the disappointment in the sound - the judge said
that they simply could not understand why the bands insisted on
using the sound system. The mere fact that four paragraphs
have been spent here discussing the ills of the sound system rather
than the great performances all the orchestras, especially CASYM, is
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Steelpan In New York
News Desk of When Steel Talks
-From The Opinion Desk of When Steel Talks
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