Sion Hill Steel Orchestra and Arranger Seion Gomez Recapture Vincy Panorama Title in 2016

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Kingstown, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, W.I. - For the 2016 St. Vincent and The Grenadines Panorama competition, the number of participating steel orchestras declined another year; only five bands – Starlift, South East, Symphonix, Sion Hill and Elite (in that order) graced the stage for this year’s show.  In 2014 there were eight, and last year, seven.  Nevertheless there was much great music to be had for the “steelband lover in you” on this Carnival Thursday night as Steel [Panorama] and Glitter [Mas Bands], (the name of the overall event), took place at Carnival City, Victoria Park in Kingstown.

Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra during their winning 2016 performance
Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra

The eventual 2016 champs Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra, clad in white—the nattily-attired gentlemen in their suits with hats in some cases, and ladies complementing the presentation in one-piece off-shoulder jumpers—took to the stage in the penultimate position not too long after 10:30 p.m.  The seventy musicians sang along as they delivered their high-energy interpretation of 1985’s Tone – given another lease on life when arranged by Trinidad & Tobago native Seion Gomez who has worked with the band for several years – to the delight of the crowd that had swelled in front of the stage. Sion Hill had previously made history in 2014 when they won their sixth consecutive championship.

The first band on stage for the night, title defenders Starlift Steel Orchestra, merited second place honors in the ears and eyes of the judges, while doing great justice to arranger Duvone Stewart’s vision of Small Pin taken from the 1999 album ‘Give It Up.’  Also hailing from Trinidad & Tobago, this is his second year working with the Vincy band.

“Retro” ruled the music roost in 2016 with all five Panorama selections selected from yester-year; second-placed Starlift opted for the most ‘recent’ of the batch—from 1999—Small Pin sung by son-of-the-soil “Becket.” And talking about ruling the roost, so too did that veteran calypsonian, as four of the five orchestras made music on steel with his repertoire. Additionally, another Alston “Becket” Cyrus-oldie, 1994’s Pom-Pom Jam (aka In Ah Pum Pum) had been written in tribute to all his country’s steel orchestras, and pan players the world over.

There were two orchestras which have their beginnings in Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ Pan Against Crime initiative:  South East boasting a complement of seventy players, bringing to life I Want Soca as arranged by Barry Mannette (the third of three Trinidad & Tobago arrangers), claiming third spot in the process – and the smallest band for the night with forty panists on stage, Symphonix. But they were determined as the other bands to make their musical mark and gave the title their best shot with a Jomoro Francis-arrangement of Pom-Pom Jam. The band was relegated to fifth position when the final tally was in.

Elite Steel Orchestra closed off the “steel” session of 2016’s “Steel and Glitter” and placed fourth overall for their efforts. With fifty-five players throwing their hat in the ring in the hopes of taking home the championship, Elite was also the only band to go with a non-Becket tune in the competition. Working with arranger Isidore York and sporting light blue shirts and white pants, the make-up of the band was youthful as they went back to the eighties—1988 to be precise—for Back Off by Touch, delighting both judges and audience alike with their exuberant performance. They sounded their final notes shortly after 11:00 p.m.  Results were announced about 1:02 a.m., after the end of the Mas band competition segment. No ‘scores’ were given.

2016 Panorama Results - St. Vincent & The Grenadines

Band Selection/
Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra Tone (1985)
(Alston “Becket” Cyrus)
Seion Gomez
Seion Gomez
Starlift Steel Orchestra Small Pin (1999)
(Alston “Becket” Cyrus)
Duvone Stewart
Duvone Stewart
South East Steel Orchestra I Want Soca
(Alston “Becket” Cyrus)
Barry Mannette
Barry Mannette
Elite Steel Orchestra Back Off
Isidore York
Symphonix Steel Orchestra Pom-Pom Jam
(Alston “Becket” Cyrus)
Jomoro Francis
Performance highlights
Winning Sion Hill Euphonium Steel Orchestra
performing at ‘Steel and Glitter’ 2016

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