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Date: 09.25.06             

Eight of Hearts Steelband Music Concert
Sweet Treats for your 'Steel Tooth'


Eight of Hearts in Pictures


Laventille, Trinidad - Laventille was in the spotlight when it unveiled the 'Eight of Hearts' Steelband music concert on Sunday September 24. This was the community's unique celebration in honor of Carifesta IX - with an offering of eight of the best steel orchestras in Trinidad and Tobago putting on star-studded performances on the grounds of the Laventille Community Complex.  When Steel Talks (WST) spoke with Sean Nero, Communications Director, Laventille Steelband Festival Foundation, who acknowledged that the show got of the ground a mere five minutes after the 7:00 PM scheduled start.

The line-up featured the stageside representations of some of the best known steel orchestras in Trinidad and Tobago, and indeed, the world.  Redemption Sound Setters hailing from the sister isle of Tobago, opened up the evening of performances, with arranger Winston Gordon (pictured right) directing them.   The southland was represented next with Skiffle Bunch's talented and world-traveled pan musicians delivering - like many of the orchestras for the evening - a diverse repertoire featuring R&B, soca, pop and in their case - classic selections.  Stevie Wonder's timeless Lately met with crowd approval; so too did a duet, All I Ask of You, with violinist Anselm Walters (pictured below).


Pan and culture connoisseurs were treated to their fill of pan music for just over six hours, before the show came to an end shortly after 1:00 AM.  But before the final curtain came down, the spotlight would fall additionally on the likes of Desperadoes, reigning national panorama champions Phase II Pan Groove, Renegades, Trinidad All Stars, Starlift and Exodus.


Starlift celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, which was a comeback period for them during the national panorama competition.  After Starlift alumnus and arranger Ray Holman returned to the band, they went on to place fourth in the finals, after not getting past preliminaries in 2005.  At the Eight of Hearts concert, for two of their selections the orchestra combined forces with other conventional instruments.  The St. Augustine Chamber Orchestra (pictured left) and bassist Michael Boothman joined Starlift on stage during their performance.


Exodus Steel Orchestra had just returned from Europe about twenty-four hours earlier, and showed no signs of jet lag as their pannists put on performance after performance designed to capture the crowd.  Drummers, limbo dancers (pictured below) and a female vocalist (who is also a pan player in the band) (pictured right)  were part of the complete show package presented by Exodus.  On hand to witness the event were band manager Ainsworth Mohammed, and resident arranger Pelham Goddard.


Limbo dancers accompanying Exodus on stage

Ainsworth Mohammed, above, (in black pants), with
Pelham Goddard at center

Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra won the coveted 'People's Choice' award for the 2006 panorama season, and took second place in the competition.  At the concert, the stageside's execution (pictured left) of their 2006 panorama selection Soca Warriors, was as passionate as their panorama night performance.  Versatility is one of the strong points of All Stars' steel orchestra, evident in the effortless way they incorporated eighteen-year old R&B singing  sensation Rhianna's smash Unfaithful in their repertoire.


With an almost limitless supply of music to choose from over the years, Desperadoes Steel Orchestra included Picture on My Wall and Ordinary People, both arranged for them by the late master musician Clive Bradley, in their Eight of Hearts concert repertoire.  For those in the crowd who were heard saying - half-wistfully, half-grudgingly - that Desperadoes did not deliver signature tunes like Don't Leave Me This Way and this year's So Sick, they had to keep in mind that there was a finite time for each band to perform.  At right is the band's Assistant Manager, Anthony McQuilkin.

Desperadoes on stage

(Desperadoes supporters and guitar player relaxing
after the band played, (above))

Not to be outdone, Renegades had the audience under their spell when they took the stage.  A special selection which went down extremely well with the crowd was their tune of choice for the 2006 Pan In The 21st Century competition - Lionel Richie's All Night Long - which got them second place honors.  On Sunday's show, local R&B group sensation H2O Phlo (pictured left) joined Renegades for a vocal and steel treat.

Phase II had the honor of closing the show, a position which they took full advantage of.  The musicians here, like the majority who took part in the concert, enjoyed themselves as they got off to a very funky start, and proceeded to slam home one tune after another.  Like All Stars before them, Phase II playing their 2006 panorama selection - This One's For U, Bradley - which gave them the championship, was like going back to that night at the Savannah, even with a significantly reduced orchestra (from one hundred twenty - to about thirty!!).  And like the other bands before them, the interplay between players on stage was a sight to behold.  Two of Phase II's bass players, and one tenor player in particular (pictured right and below-left, respectively), mesmerized onlookers as they themselves became lost in the music.


Phase II bass player on stage

President Maxwell Richards at the Eight of Hearts concert

The President of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Professor Maxwell Richards, who is also the patron of the  Laventille Steelband Festival Foundation (the organization which produced the Eight of Hearts concert)  was on hand for part of the show, and took his leave just after Desperadoes' performance.  One of the two emcees for the night - veteran radio personality Phillip Simmons - thanked the President for his patronage and support as he exited the event.   His Excellency was additionally applauded by the crowd when Simmons went on to say that the President never turned down an invitation to visit the Laventille community whenever he was invited.


All in all, and as far as WST could discern, the event appeared to be very well put together, and began within five minutes of the scheduled time.  A crowd of a few hundred was on hand, and really came in after eight.  This may have been due in part to some discrepancy about the starting time of the concert.  Carifesta programs (and some on-air advertisements) advertised an 8:00 PM beginning, while at least one print media outlet, like the press release, had a 7:00 PM showtime.  Nevertheless, things at the event itself apparently ran like clockwork, from the average onlooker's perspective.  There was no gap between band appearances, as two stages were in use.  One orchestra set up behind drawn curtains while another performed.  And even though musicians themselves removed a number of their frontline and middle pans, the organizers should be applauded for having dedicated staff on hand to take care of the larger instruments, both when bands were setting up, and finished playing.  No dropping of steelpan instruments here by 'don't give a damn' personnel, as occurred when Madison Square Garden union workers were responsible for removing instruments after band performances at the June 2005 World Steelband Music Festival in New York.  The Laventille Steelband Festival Foundation, responsible for the successful production of a show of this [Eight of Hearts] magnitude, must be commended for a professional and courteous presentation for patrons and invited dignitaries alike.  WST takes this opportunity to thank the steelband musicians and band managements in general for their accessibility during and after their stage appearances.

For those who could not get enough of steelpan music, the Eight of Hearts concert was the place to be to stem that thirst, albeit temporarily.  But for those who missed out, Carifesta IX features several steel orchestras from Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean during the September 22-October 2 event, along with Pan Trinbago's 'Panyard Sensations' which runs until September 30, 2006.


Eight of Hearts in Pictures

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