Gros Islet, St. Lucia, W.I. - Who said “13” was an unlucky number? If you ask Pantime Steel Orchestra of St. Lucia, the 2013 National Steelband Panorama champs, you’ll get a resounding “Hell, No!!” It is a very lucky number for them, and so, several times over! How and why?
Well, founded in 2001, this is the music organization’s thirteenth year of existence, and – the orchestra participated in the Panorama competition for the thirteenth year running, and finally, after twelve years of competing and having to settle for second place on several occasions – Pantime copped the championship on this, their thirteenth try! And they achieved this in, (drum roll please), the year -- 2013. And – with a tune of choice specifically penned for them – “It’s Pantime.” It turned out indeed, to be ‘their’ time! And let’s not forget that the organization’s junior arm, Pantime’s 35-member-strong junior orchestra set the precedent, romping home with the win in the country’s Junior National Panorama back on April 28, after coming in last of eight in 2012!
Pantime Steel Orchestra
On this night dressed in pastel colored tops and black pants, Pantime’s music presentation really woke up the audience, causing people first to lean forward as the band played, and then garnering them an awesome crowd response at the end of their performance (complete with fireworks). It brought everyone to their feet; their showcase was described then by many as the best for the night up to that point.
Pantime Steel Orchestra’s winning performance of “It’s Pantime” for the 2013 St. Lucia National Steelband Panorama on July 12
Under the blazing lights of Beausejour Cricket Grounds (venue for the Panorama since 2007) in Gros Islet just north of the capital Castries, the stage was set. The stars appear to have been aligned perfectly in Pantime’s favor, with victory firmly in their grasp at last. Pantime Steel Orchestra’s accomplished and longtime arranger Amrit Samaroo was with the band once more, putting his sterling stamp of competence on “It’s Pantime,” their test piece. It definitely turned out to be a “Pantastic Friday” (the official theme of this year’s Panorama competition) for both Pantime and Samaroo, after several years of dogged determination. The band started practicing on May 17 according to band manager and founder Cecil “Tortee” Philgence. “After all the hard work, the sleepless nights, the stress, and everything – when a band performs like that, it just makes you feel real good!” declared an exhilarated “Tortee” after their performance. In addition to their 2013 championship trophy, Pantime Steel Orchestra took home EC $32,500.00.
Harmonites Steel Orchestra
Their victory meant dashed hopes of a three-peat for defending champs appearing second in the line-up, Babonneau Steel Orchestra, who had to be content with 2nd place and EC $25,500.00. Babonneau had hoped to match the achievement of the only other steel orchestra in the history of the country’s national Panorama to win three consecutive competitions, Diamond Steel (2000-2002), who, incidentally, did not compete this year. North Stars Steel Orchestra who last tasted victory in 2007, were judged 3rd in the 2013 event and their prize purse was EC $22,000.00. Each of the five bands competing in the large steel orchestra category also received EC $15,000.00 in appearance fees. The large category carried a stipulation of 35 to approximately 80 musicians to be eligible for that classification. Five more steel orchestras also vied for the title in the small band category which allowed between 15 and 34 players. Categorization was not always the order of the day in St. Lucia’s National Panorama; this ‘partitioning’ into large and small first began there in 2011.
It was a beautiful night for Pan in St. Lucia, and the national anthem heralded the official start at 8:30; however it would be another twenty minutes before Survivors Steel Orchestra, the first of the five bands competing in the small steel orchestra category, got into “Carnal Knowledge,” their Panorama tune for 2013. A minute of silence was observed after the band played, for late panman Marcus Joseph aka “Black Jesus” who passed away earlier this year in March.
Blue T-shirts and black trousers were the attire of band number two Phoenix Rising Steel Orchestra, as they unveiled “Doh Watch Me” for the judges’ consideration. In a climate where the steelband culture worldwide usually boasts a marked complement of females within the ranks of orchestras, interestingly the make-up of this group on stage was mainly male in orientation. Though still small, the crowd on hand taking in the Panorama had grown a bit by this time.
By 9:38 p.m., small steel orchestra defending champs Harmonites appeared in third position expounding “Pan Passion.” That musical characteristic was clearly evident as they played their way into the history books of St. Lucia’s Panorama, becoming the first small steel orchestra to clinch three titles (2011-2013) in a row. An off-shoot of big band Babonneau Steel Orchestra and hailing from the same area, Harmonites made their first Panorama appearance in 2008. Working along with Harmonites for the first time, and contributing the band’s winning arrangement of “Pan Passion” was Cheo Cato, of Pamberi Steel Orchestra fame [Trinidad & Tobago]. With Harmonites’ performance, he was “quite happy,” saying that the band “worked really hard.” The group had a significant youth membership, the youngest being nine and the oldest around twenty-eight. “I’m a music teacher, so working with youngsters is not new to me,” explained Cato. “It’s another experience – just a different country, and it was really nice working with them.” First prize honors brought Harmonites the trophy for the third time, and a prized dollar amount of EC $19,000.00. Like their large band counterparts, the five small steel orchestras were also paid appearance fees, each in the amount of EC $6,000.00.
As fate would have it, following Harmonites were Pan Ambassadors and St. Lucy steel orchestras, positioned in ‘play order’ how they would go on to place in the competition category by the time results were announced - second and third. They claimed prizes of EC $13,500.00 and EC $10,500.00 respectively.
Pan Ambassadors were clad in all black, with most players sporting face masks as they took their turn to impress judges with their interpretation of “Beh-Leh-Lesh.” Colorful face masks also added a bit of sparkle to the blue shirt-blue jeans ensemble of St. Lucy Steel Orchestra members, as they served up 2010’s “Koté Kadou” for Panorama 2013 as arranged by Hausan “Zorro” Griffith. “Zorro” has worked with the group since their 2011 inception with just eleven players at the time, securing thirty-five in time for their 2012 showing, and appearing just as well-rounded for Panorama 2013.
The small steel orchestra category ended at 10:35 p.m. A well-received dance sequence by a group of young men known as “Untitled 51” held the attention of the crowd next, as they awaited the start of competition in the large band category, all the while as the viewing stands at the Beausejour Cricket Ground continued to fill up.
Five judges - St. Lucia’s own Emerson Nurse, Gregory Piper and Gordon ‘Gene’ Leon, along with Trinbagonian counterparts Curtis Edwards and Kendall Lewis - considered the steel orchestras appearing before them, taking into account the performances as they fulfilled the following criteria out of an initial total possible score of one hundred: Arrangement (40) comprising Introduction, Re-harmonization, Melodic development and Motivic development - each 10 points. Under General Performance and for an overall score of 35, bands were judged under Interpretation, Dynamics and Balance – each 10 points, and in Creativity, 5.
Tone (blending of the steelpan instruments) could fetch 10
points at most, and Consistency and Application of rhythm
section each accounted for 5 more under Rhythm criteria (10). In competition where
even half point could make a difference between “win or lose,” attention paid to
Presentation (5) would be reviewed via bands’ Dress - 2.5, and
Carnival spirit – 2.5 points, respectively.
After a short break, and beginning at 11:05 p.m. - in the large category was in fact the smallest band in this segment, Beaufort-based Assumption Knights Youth In Action - AKYIA, wearing bright Hawaiian or island-style shirts in overall blue. The group, named after its church, fielded members and their young relatives as players, while experiencing their third year at Panorama with arranger Hanan Gabriel. They began their tune of choice literally two weeks before competition night.
Before the evening ended - Babonneau, Emerald, Pantime and finally North Stars steel orchestras (by 1:05 a.m.) would cap off another great season of Pan in St. Lucia. Results were announced at 1:28 a.m., followed by the attendant euphoria evident from winners and supporters alike.
In recent years St. Lucia’s steelband community has been experiencing turbulence. Much to the dismay of the fraternity—after what was seen and proclaimed back then, as unlimited potential and promise at the conclusion of the country’s 2008 Panorama season—a two-year boycott followed that event. This year a new administration led by Vernetta Paul took over the reins of leadership, with the promise of restoring the relevant community interest and elevating the steelband art form and culture, and Panorama product, to new heights.
|LARGE BAND CATEGORY|
|1st||279||Pantime Steel Orchestra||It’s Pantime|
|2nd||271||Babonneau Steel Orchestra||Pan Instruction||
|3rd||249||North Stars Steel Orchestra||Freedom|
Remaining competitors listed in alphabetical order
|Assumption Youth Knights in Action||Lucian Bacchanal||Hanan Gabriel|
|Emerald Steel Orchestra||Pan In De Mas|
|SMALL BAND CATEGORY|
|1st||248||Harmonites Steel Orchestra||Pan Passion|
|3rd||198||St. Lucy’s Steel Orchestra||“Koté Kadou”||Hausan “Zorro” Griffith|
Remaining competitors listed in alphabetical order
|Phoenix Rising Steel Orchestra||Doh Watch Me|
|Survivors Steel Orchestra||Carnal Knowledge|
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