Maryland - When Steel Talks
(WST) caught an early Amtrak train out of New York’s Penn Station
this past Memorial Day Weekend - destination Washington - in anticipation of a great day of
Steelband music. Memorial Day is a major holiday
in the USA and is considered to be the unofficial beginning
to the Summer season. It is that time of the year when
pan is well, alive and blooming in the DC area.
Pan Masters’ annual Steelband Jamboree was the main
attraction. By invitation only, performing at this
affair is quickly becoming a notable opportunity for
performing steel orchestras to make their name recognizable
among the highly–regarded and ranked steel orchestra
fraternity. Seven steel
orchestras representing the Maryland area and neighboring states
performed at this, the 10th annual Pan Masters Jamboree. Participating
Mosaic (Norfolk, VA),
Pan Stars (Philadelphia, PA),
Pan Sonatas (Brooklyn,
Pan Jammers (Washington, DC),
Positive Vibrations (Mitchellville, MD) and hosts
Pan Masters (North Brentwood, MD).
When Steel Talks’ early arrival provided us with a rare
and unique look into the behind–the–scenes workings of the
show day preparations. This event is indeed truly a
labor of love, commitment and vision by the members,
supporters and sponsors. It’s success is clearly not a
result of mere luck and chance. Literally, everyone
from ‘captain to cook’ – all of the members of Pan Masters
(PM) could be seen ‘getting their hands dirty’ – involved
in seeing to all that was needed to be done before the
gates opened. When you see the president and the other
band executives working as hard as we saw them, you come away
with nothing but respect for their efforts, commitment and
moreover and most importantly, an understanding of what drives
the continued success of the event.
In spite of the many obstacles and
challenges the “Jamboree,” now in it’s tenth consecutive year,
has improved in every outing. This is in no small part due
to the professionalism and leadership of Pan Masters which
filters down to all the members and participants. This
year expectations were high both in terms of the show’s
production and the music performance of the participating
orchestras. The event was slated to begin at
3:00 pm and almost immediately at the top of the hour fans
started to flow into the North Brentwood grounds on Rhode
Island Avenue located a short distance from Pan
Masters’ panyard. There was again a large turnout that
grew steadily into the late evening. The early
arrivals were greeted with perfect weather and a beautiful
and glowing mid–afternoon sun. Patrons were also
provided with an attractive professional–looking catalog with all
the performers’ information and bands’ history. We
were very pleased with the details afforded in this
Mosaic Steel Orchestra
Pan Masters’ production crew provided four seated
tented areas to shade the audience from the elements.
These areas were gated–off this year as to discourage late–arriving and zealous fans from standing
directly in front of the
bands, and thereby blocking the views of seated patrons.
This worked with great success as even the late, large
evening crowds for the most part were not able to obstruct
the view of the seated audience, yet still
contributed in their way – fostering an electrically–charged and festive atmosphere as they danced and sang to
performances of their favorite bands from the packed side
lines. In addition, a special elevated tower was built
in an effort to provide unrestricted and unobtrusive views
performances for the media. This greatly enhanced our
ability to capture and report on the event.
Philly Pan Stars
In the past, the New York orchestras would
come to the event and pretty much dominate every aspect of the
show: musical performance, selections, arrangements,
showmanship and instrument tonal qualities. The other
bands were simply ‘also ran’ in general. Not so in
This year’s show was of a very high musical quality from the
first band to the last – indeed, a continued process
and progress we have seen and experienced over the years.
All the bands displayed a variety of musical selections with
each clearly espousing and delivering its own unique musical
Once the show stared rolling it was nonstop music from beginning to end. Pan Masters’
production crew employed a three–stage set up area to
facilitate continuous action with no lulls. While one
group was performing, another was always setup and in the
wings waiting to perform. The master of ceremony kept
the show flowing by providing much appreciated historical
and current facts and information on the performers.
First up was the young
Orchestra led by Dr. Anthony Hailey; they played a varied set
that showcased the group’s musical versatility. It included a version of Chick Corea’s
“Spain,” “The Fifth of Beethoven” and Wyclef Jean’s “Two
Wrongs,” among other selections.
Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra
Next up was Positive Vibrations Youth
Steel Orchestra who quickly affirmed why they are one of the
top young steel orchestras in the region. From
gospel to soul to classics to swing to soca - Positive
Vibrations displayed a versatility and talent level that
captured the attention of the audience. They received a
rousing ovation for their rendition of the gospel piece “Oh
Happy Day.” They were equally as comfortable with Bob
Marley as they were with Stevie Wonder or Alicia Keys as
they mesmerized the audience with their version of the
latter’s hit song “No One.”
Michael George ‘The One–Man Band,’ a Pan
Masters staple – provided an interesting break for the curious
seekers who have never seen him perform his wonders.
George has been a regular at Pan Masters’ annual jamborees.
Pan Majestic Youth Academy
The recently–formed (January 2008)
Pan Majestic Youth Academy made
their debut Jamboree performance. The new
orchestra did not waste this opportunity. They dropped a
series of top soca jams that had the crowd nodding in
approval and singing. From “I’m a Bachelor” to the ever–popular
“Cold Sweat,” the group never lost the
attention of the audience. Pan Majestic may be new on
the steelpan music scene but they are clearly here to stay.
Maryland has a new orchestra to be reckoned with.
Pan Stars presented one of the most interesting sets of the
evening by displaying their ability to go retro and ‘back–in–time’ to monster hits as
“Drunk and Disorderly,” “Say Say” and “La La” while still showing their versatility
by playing hip-hop hits like Mary J Blige’s
“Dance For Me.” The audience really appreciated Pan Stars’ set as
they could be heard lustily singing in accompaniment with the band throughout
Next up on the card was New York’s
Pan Sonatas, the 2007 Panorama champions.
It only took a few minutes for everyone to see and hear why
Sonatas is one of the top steel orchestras in North America.
Indeed, many can argue that they are the best. From their opening salvo
of David Rudder’s “The Ganges Meets the Nile,” to
Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Mister
Magic,” to Destra Garcia’s “Celebration Time” – Sonatas
continued to raise the bar for the evening’s performances.
Sonatas capped their performance with a full musical
rendition of their winning Yohan Popwell–panorama arrangement
of “Pan Lamentation.” They received a strong ovation from
the appreciative audience. It must be noted that
Sonatas’ instruments are phenomenal, and are undeniably in
the upper echelons of superbly-crafted and sounding musical
instruments in the world - all manufactured and tuned by
champion steelpan instrument craftsman
Kelman. And this goes not only for their stage
side instruments utilized for gigs, but also their entire
one hundred musician–strong panorama orchestra.
followed with a series of deep and thought–provoking,
musically–moving pieces, opening their set with Chuck Mangione’s
“Feel so Good.” Their version of Bob
Marley’s “Is This Love” received rousing applause. DC
Pan Jammers maintained the night’s high–level performances as
they moved through classics from Stevie Wonder, the Isley
Brothers, featuring beautiful arrangements that highlighted their
skill set and musical sensitivity. Pan Jammers were
producers, promoters and host,
Pan Masters – closed out the
performances in splendid fashion. They looked great,
sounded great and performed great, as they put on a near flawless presentation.
On this night Pan Masters were taking no prisoners.
Their presentation was made up of strong songs with great arrangements that captured the
spirit of the crowd,
moving them to shout, sing and dance. From Cindi Lauper’s
classic “Time After Time” to the late Maestro’s “Fiery,” Pan Masters held the crowd in the palm of their
hands. It was now late evening, and the side lines had
swelled to twelve rows deep with very, very happy steelpan
music fans who were just treated to great performances.
Pan Masters put the final punctuation on a great day of
Pan Masters made
a serious musical statement on this night - they
were the home team, this was their turf and they let everyone
in the house know it. Pan Masters and the Maryland bands
let it be known they are
no longer interested in playing second fiddle to their big
cousins up north. Whenever you come to Maryland to
perform, be sure to bring your ‘A’ game.
The Pan Masters Steelband Jamboree has steadily grown over the
years in both popularity, recognition and expectations.
The 2008 version will be remembered as one of the best.
Pan Masters is indeed a great treasure to the Maryland
community and the greater steelband music community.
If you are a sponsor of community and youth development, this
is where you want to see you products and services. If
you are a believer in musical excellence, this is where you want
your group to perform. On a Sunday afternoon on Memorial Day Weekend in
the USA, there
is only one place for great pan music - Pan Masters’
Contact Pan Masters at:
firstname.lastname@example.org tel: 1 (301) 864-2610
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