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Halcyon Steel Orchestra Wins Antigua & Barbuda 2010 National Panorama Title

Victor “Babu” Samuel is winning arranger!

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St. John’s, Antigua & Barbuda - No one was happier last night when it was announced that Halcyon Steel Orchestra had won the Antigua & Barbuda 2010 National Panorama competition, than the Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, the Honorable Baldwin Spencer.  It is well known throughout the Caribbean that Prime Minister Spencer is an ardent supporter of the steelpan music genre and steelband performing arts.  Moreover, Halcyon (pictured below) is the band that will always be dear to him because of his close association with the music organization.

Members of Halcyon Steel OrchestraThe Prime Minister had been pleased immediately after the steel orchestra’s performance, and was confident that they had put on their best showing.  However, he also acknowledged that “of course, the other bands had played very well indeed.”  “I just felt - on this performance here tonight, Halcyon had the edge,” Prime Minister Spencer explained, “....I think we did enough to pull it off.”   And with his fervor for all pan musicians - having played pan himself - he spoke about the country’s steelpan art form and the panists in general.  “It’s a lot of hard work, and I don’t think the public fully appreciates the extent of the hard work that’s put in by these guys, long hours....”  He was also pleased with the audience turn out for the Panorama, pointing out that it was better than last year.   He went further to state that “Clearly, pan is definitely on the move” in Antigua & Barbuda, while noting the still-present need to have bands from the outlying areas as well, in addition to the well-represented St. John’s [capital] environs - participate in the competition.

Five steel orchestras participated in this year’s show - Ebonites, Gemonites, Halcyon, Harmonites and Hell’s Gate.  Halcyon performed “Rock Me” by calypsonian Short Shirt.  The tune was arranged by veteran arranger Victor “Babu” Samuel, who is himself no stranger to winner’s row.  He lead Halcyon to four consecutive championships as arranger for the years 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995.  Halcyon Steel Orchestra is the only band to ever achieve a four-peat in the country, and now has a grand total of eleven national championships.

Panorama champion 
										arrangers and Prime Minister - Pictured 
										left to right: Patrick 'Stone' Johnson, 
										Len 'Boogsie' Sharpe, the Honorable Prime 
										Minister Baldwin Spencer, and 2010 winning 
										Panorama arranger Victor 'Babu' Samuel
Panorama champion arrangers and Prime Minister:
Panorama champion arrangers and Prime Minister - Pictured left to right: Patrick “Stone” Johnson, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, the Honorable Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, and 2010 winning Panorama arranger Victor “Babu” Samuel

Mr. Samuel credited discipline, dedication, working to make the tune clean and “having a good balance” as the main factors of their win.  “It’s not about how large you are.  It’s about how balanced you are, and the tonal quality that you have, and the quality of the players that you have,” he explained.  “Babu” Samuel also declared:  “if I like the tune, and I have the players, I could make something out of it.”  Indeed that was case for this year’s 2010 panorama.  Incredibly, in terms of the time-frame to make it all come together, the veteran champion arranger said that he only had “three weeks, many restless nights, twisting and turning...” where he found himself literally “jumping out” out of his bed and straight to his pan [with inspiration] - hard work.

Ebonites opened the show with 90-plus musicians, and were pleased with the support of players from their sister band in Barbados, some of their pan colleagues from Dominica, as well as their former players who made the trek back home for the Panorama.

They were followed by Harmonites (also 90-plus players) who had at their helm, arranger Robin Margetson, formerly of Gemonites Steel Orchestra, and now also leading his own aggregation called Panache Steel Orchestra.  But as Harmonites’ vice-captain Simon Toulon looked at it, Robin was simply ‘returning home’ having spent three of his formative years with Harmonites from 1974 through 1976.

Ending at 10:12 p.m., the eight-minute performance of defending champions Hell’s Gate (100 players) - the orchestra taking up every available inch on stage  - was described by one commentator as a ‘textbook’ performance, and at the time was seen as ‘the band to beat.’  Back with 2009 winning arranger Khan Cordice, they would concede to the eventual 2010 champs, Halcyon.

Three-time national panorama champions Gemonites Steel Orchestra took the stage with 75 players, and despite having been faced with several challenges at the onset of the season, were very pleased with their representation for the night of competition.  No stranger to the championship, arranger Patrick “Stone” Johnson took the band, with many young players in their ranks - to third position.

Halcyon had one of the smaller configurations for the evening with just 75-plus players, but it was their performance and arrangement that ‘did it for them,’ not sheer size - as pointed out by arranger Victor “Babu” Samuel - and this despite getting off to what was probably the latest start of the pan season, a mere three weeks before competition.  Samuel was also instrumental in the band’s selection of “Rock Me” for Panorama 2010.

Among this year’s team of adjudicators were Nubia Williams and Mark Hosten.  The Antigua & Barbuda pan community were quite pleased as 2010 represents ten straight years of panorama competition.  Prior to 2000, there were periods of no panorama due to various challenges. 

Interestingly, the 2010 line-up featured solely former panorama championship bands - all five have been to winner’s row in the past.  And of the five arrangers, four are prior championship arrangers.

Shawn  Nicholas, the Antigua Commercial Bank Marketing and Public Relations Manager felt that the  event  flowed very well and was pleased with the turn out for the show.  The panorama started promptly at 8:00 p.m. with the playing of the national anthem, and had concluded with results - before 12:30 a.m.

The broadcast team from Antigua’s Observer Radio - inclusive of, but not limited  to:  Anika Kentish, Cleveroy Thomas and Sam Roberts - brought their A-game, coming in prepared in terms of both content, professionalism, intelligent discourse, and respect for their listening audience, complemented by thoughtfully pre-recorded interviews with management personnel of each of the five bands appearing that night.  Listeners were afforded some insight and background into the preparation and challenges which faced the steel orchestras coming into the Panorama 2010 competition.


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RESULTS for Antigua & Barbuda 2010 National Panorama







Rock Me / Short Shirt

Hell’s Gate


We Ain’t Leaving / Samoya Kirby



Tourist Leggo / Short Shirt



We Ain’t Leaving / Samoya Kirby



St. John Tung Mash Dung / Swallow

Antigua & Barbuda Panorama Champions

  • 1. Hell’s Gate (champions 1949, 1953, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1967, 1976, 1990, 1991, 2002, 2006, 2007 & 2009)

  • 2. Halcyon (champions 1975, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2008 & 2010)

  • 3. Harmonites (champions 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1985, 2001 & 2004)

  • 5. Gemonites (champions 1981, 2003 & 2005)

  • 6. Ebonites (champions 1977)

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