Halcyon Steel Orchestra on stage - Panorama 2016
St. John’s, Antigua & Barbuda, W.I. - Currently celebrating forty-five years in existence, Halcyon Steel Orchestra added to that milestone with another glorious one - that of 2016 Panorama champions, clinching the title for the thirteenth time in its history, much to the ecstasy of the band’s management, arranger Devon Bachelor, its musicians and supporters. The steelband’s battle for steel supremacy was rewarded after the judges had a chance to hear and see eight steel orchestras put their best musical notes forward in hours of great steelband music. Visitors to Antigua & Barbuda would no doubt be familiar with the stage side of Halcyon as the ‘resident’ band for the last thirty-five years at the Shirley Heights Lookout.
It is the first-ever Panorama title for Devon Bachelor who has been part of Halcyon’s musical fabric for a few years, including during the last Moods Of Pan festival. He triumphed there too as the winning arranger in the November 2015 Moods Of Pan 25-A-Side competition. The band decided, with the support of long-standing arranger Victor “Babu” Samuel, that Bachelor would for the first time step up to the fore as arranger for Panorama.
This ‘man of the hour’ (and all through to the next Panorama!) found himself feeling totally surreal, with his first Panorama victory as arranger of a major steel orchestra of almost one hundred musicians at his command. “I’m speechless, I can’t find the words....This is so great; I don’t have the words.” Devon Bachelor was able at least to articulate that much, and a bit more, after his and Halcyon’s triumph.
“This one is a sweet one!” The very proud and emotional declaration came from Darrel Dublin, part of Halcyon’s management. How so? Halcyon’s tune of choice that won the band the Panorama title—Home for the 60th (aka 60 Years)—was that of his brother ‘Calypso Gary’ (Gary Bridges). “I’m so happy for him!! I’m so happy for myself, I’m happy for Halcyon Steel Orchestra, I’m happy for the fans!” The song recognizes and honors sixty years of Carnival celebration and culture in the twin-island nation.
Former Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda Dr. Baldwin Spencer, himself a panman and an integral part of the Halcyon Steel Orchestra organization for many years—especially in a managerial/business capacity—was particularly delighted. He shared his feelings while the band’s members were in a state of euphoria on stage, posing for pictures with their trophy. “Great performance, by Halcyon Steel Orchestra. I expected them to pull it off; they did....The competition was very stiff. It was a great performance by all the bands. All of them have to be commended, complimented. Apart from the fact that Halcyon came out the winner, overall, steelband, the Pan, was the winner tonight” stated a very pleased former PM Spencer.
Young Gavin Francis, an educator, and the arranger for West Side Symphony Steel Orchestra which nabbed second-place honors, was glad that despite challenges in preparing for this year’s competition, the group had once more returned to the Panorama stage for the third year running, after a ten-year absence which lasted from 2004-2013. Appearing in position five for the night, the group of sixty musicians fielded mainly students from the Antigua Girls High School, which has an ongoing collaboration with West Side Symphony.
The passionate and skilled presentation by Francis’ determined players got the job done - that of delivering West Side its highest placing to date in Panorama. The arranger’s faith in his players’ dexterity and commitment was additionally justified, as Francis himself took out a personal loan from Antigua’s Caribbean Development Bank, simply to facilitate the band’s preparation to even make it to the Panorama. And though the band’s second prize is not enough to pay off that loan, Gavin Francis is ecstatic about West Side’s accomplishment. “The band has come so far over the last few years; it’s just really a great feeling. We feel like we’ve won!....We had a good position, we had the music to be ‘up there.’ I knew we could have made the top three, and I’m really glad we came this close.”
Update - 8.4.2016: Although the radio announcers articulated during the Panorama broadcast that his name would have been on the Caribbean Development Bank loan (listen at 7:26 in this audio), arranger Gavin Francis has since posted that (1) the loan was taken out by West Side Symphony, and (2) with the band’s second prize winnings “the band will be able to meet its financial commitments.”
Young Halcyon Steel Orchestra player holds trophy with Antigua-Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, at right
A very large crowd was on hand at ‘Carnival City’ in St. John’s, Antigua, for the annual Panorama on July 29, growing rapidly through the evening; Hells Gate Steel Orchestra delivered the opening musical salvo around 9:40 p.m. with their first-rate performance of the Khan Cordice-arrangement of Sound of Steel, co-written by Cordice. As defending champions Hells Gate could not hold on to its crown however, and was relegated to third position by the judges.
Formed a few years ago, the youngest band in the country, Original Steel Orchestra gave a credible and liberated account of themselves with the funky King Short Shirt classic Rock and Prance arranged by Robert Simmons. Gemonites Steel Orchestra appeared in position two around 10:15 p.m., with the band’s players heralded by a fanfare of drums as they moved into place behind their instruments for a quick melodic sound check before launching into a Johnny Gonsalves-arrangement of Pan Revolution.
Harmonites Steel Orchestra International was the second of two bands which opted for Home for the 60th (aka 60 Years) as tune of choice, with arranger Aubrey “Lacu” Samuel’s imprint on the piece. East Vibes Steel Orchestra with sixty-two players was led by veteran Curtis “CC” Cochrane (originally from Halcyon Steel) who now devotes himself to his set of youngsters, and worked with Mighty Swallow’s international soca anthem Subway Jam for this year’s competition. And just after 1:30 a.m. the 2014 Panorama champs Ebonites Steel Orchestra set about making their musical mark in an effort to reclaim the title.
Overall, Antigua & Barbuda’s 2016 Panorama was the most consistent in quality performances from participating bands to date, outside of the annual Trinidad & Tobago event earlier this year. There were almost no disparate or glaring differences in the playing abilities of the orchestras on this night.
Lusty applause and loud cheers followed each steel orchestra’s performance, all part of the eight-band roster stepping up after several weeks of practice for their time in the annual spotlight which is the national Panorama. Pan music fans in attendance expressed their enthusiasm to the joyful sounds of pan in Carnival City (Antigua’s Recreation Grounds), where the Panorama attracted one of the largest crowds in recent years. And while the adults gorged themselves with all the pan music to be had, there was also fun for the children who were attracted to the onsite merry-go-round, having ‘play’ more than Pan, on the brain.
Results were announced a little after 2:00 a.m. Only the top three positions were announced, with no accompanying scores. The placings of the remaining five steel orchestras were not released.
Antigua & Barbuda 2016 Panorama RESULTS
# of Players
|Arranger & Tuner
( #7 )
|Home for the 60th
( #5 )
Westside Symphony Steel Orchestra
(Carl “De Panman” Richards)
( #1 )
Hells Gate Steel Orchestra
|Sound of Steel
(Set on De Entertainer)
Other competing bands in alphabetical order - no results given
|( #3 )
East Vibes Steel Orchestra
Curtis “CC” Cochrane
|( #8 )
|Ebonites Steel Orchestra
(Glenroy “Byke” Joseph)
Dayne “Wadeka” Gomes
|( #2 )
(Carl “De Panman” Richards)
Bertram “Birch” Kelman
|( #4 )
Steel Orchestra International
|Home for the 60th
Aubrey “Lacu” Samuel
|( #6 )
Original Steel Orchestra
|Rock and Prance
(King Short Shirt)
Leave a comment in the WST forum