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Pan Masters’ 10th Annual Steelband Jamboree

Maryland Steel Orchestras Serve Notice – “Come Strong – no Musical Patsies Here!”

A Case Study in Growth and Success of Maryland’s Steelband Movement

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 were Mosaic (Norfolk, VA), Pan Stars (Philadelphia, PA),  Pan Sonatas (Brooklyn, NY),  Pan Jammers (Washington, DC), Pan Majestic (Baltimore, MD), 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.

Pan Masters

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 literature.

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 of the 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 2008!  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 signature.

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 Mosaic Steel 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.

Philadelphia 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 their performance.

Pan Sonatas

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 Bertrand “Birch” Kelman.  And this goes not only for their stage side instruments utilized for gigs, but also their entire one hundred musician–strong panorama orchestra.

DC Pan Jammers 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 very impressive.

Pan Masters

The show’s producers, promoters and host, Pan Masters – closed out the event’s 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 music. 

Event Program

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’ Steelband Jamboree.

Contact Pan Masters at:
      web: www.panmansters.com  email: panmasters@hotmail.com  tel: 1 (301) 864-2610

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