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CASYM wins Panorama 2006
(Arddin Herbert leads CASYM to winners' row and the sound system sucks again)


100 CASYM Steelpan Musicians Take The Stage To Give Winning Panorama Performance

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 day.

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.

Sonatas take 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 remaining bands 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. 

Pantonic takes 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 extremely annoying.

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