Panorama Gold

T&T Defence Force Steel Orchestra

2020 Tune of choice: Boots |  arranger:  Duvone Stewart

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The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra (TTDFSO) is the first (and thus far) only marching military steel orchestra in the world.

Following a brief attempt in the 1960s, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra was reformed on 2nd June 1995 under the guidance of the former Chief of Defence Staff, (at the time) Brigadier Carlton A. Alfonso, on the initiative of Sergeant Cecil James (retired). The first leader of the Steel Orchestra was Sergeant Cecil James, who along with the band’s first Arranger Warrant Officer Class 1 Earl Wright (deceased), participated in the National Pan Ramajay Competition in July of that year, placing fifth out of ten finalists.

In 1996 the Orchestra entered the ‘Pan Is Beautiful’ Music Festival as a conventional band and won the prize for the best calypso and placing third overall. The rest of the year was spent doing charity engagements both for service personnel and civilians.

The year 1997 started off very successfully for the Orchestra, with a first attempt at the National Panorama Competition for traditional Steel Orchestras, they placed first playing “Mirror Mirror”, a tune composed by Calypsonian “Crazy” and arranged by Eddie Quarless, a renowned musical arranger. In June of that year the Orchestra was invited by the 33rd Regiment French Forces in the Antilles to perform at their Anniversary Celebrations in Martinique, this was the first in what became an annual event for the Orchestra, having returned to Martinique in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Between the years 1996 and 1999 the band participated in the St. Peter’s Day competition in the Traditional Band category where a gospel song is required to be arranged and performed in calypso rhythm, the Orchestra achieved a Beaver-trick playing ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’ How great thou art and ‘Blessed Assurance’ respectively, all songs arranged by Robert Tobitt, then a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra.

The Orchestra was invited to perform at the internationally acclaimed Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1997. The Orchestra became the only Marching Military Steel Orchestra in the world, performing nightly for an audience of over ten thousand for a period of twenty-five consecutive nights. The outcome was an outstanding success. The band also became the first steel orchestra to lead an armed contingent of troops on a ceremonial parade, when on its return from Scotland it made its first appearance on the annual Independence Day Anniversary Parade. More success came in 1998 when the Orchestra having entered the Music Festival for a second time as a conventional band, emerged joint winners.

In November 1999 the Orchestra was invited to perform at the Anzac Military Tattoo in Sydney Australia, where it rendered another creditable performance. In the year 2000, the Orchestra placed First in the Traditional bands category, when it rendered “The Road”, arranged by Robert Tobitt.

‘A Tribute to Aldwin Roberts’ The Lord Kitchener, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most outstanding Calypsonians. A sure sign that the Orchestra is indeed a force to be reckoned with.

The Steel Orchestra performed in Antigua in November 2003 at the Moods of Pan Festival. This performance saw the Orchestra returning to Antigua to take part in their annual Independence Day celebrations on 2nd November.

The Orchestra placed 3rd at the Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama Competition in February 2004. In June of that year, the Orchestra participated at the 33rd Regiment Forces in the Antilles, another great success for the members. In June 2005 the Band performed at the World Steel Band Music Festival which was held in Madison Square Garden, New York, placing 3rd.

In July 2005 the Orchestra returned to the Internationally acclaimed Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The outcome was another outstanding success. In November 2005, the Band performed in Malta at the Commonwealth Resounds, where the citizens of Malta gave a standing ovation for every performance of the TTDF Steel Orchestra. In April 2006, the Orchestra played in Washington DC at the request of the Delaware National Guard. The T & T Military Attaché to Washington, Lt Col Phillip Spencer, coordinated the visit. In appreciation of the Band’s performances, the members were awarded the status of honorary citizens of the City of Baltimore.

The Orchestra placed 3rd at the Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama Steel Band competition in February 2006. In June 2006 the Orchestra formed part of a national contingent to perform at the World Cup 2006 in Germany. The members played in Nuremburg, Kaiserslautern and Dortmund, performances that left all spectators spellbound.

In October 2006, the Orchestra performed at the 25th Anniversary of Independence of Antigua.  In 2007, the TTDFSO performed at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland and in 2008 they went to the 2008 Royal Nova Scotia Military Tattoo followed by the Basil International Tattoo in Switzerland. The following year the Band’s performances were celebrated at the Quebec City International Tattoo of Military Bands.

In May 2009, the Orchestra performed in England at the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo at which Her Majesty the Queen was present. In August 2009, they performed at the Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands. Then in January 2010 the Orchestra performed at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo held in Sydney Australia. In May 2010 they stole the show at the Holland and Luxemburg International Tattoo. The Panorama Competition in 2011 saw the Orchestra placing 2nd in the grand finals of the Traditional Band category performing “Battle Zone”.

For the 2012 Panorama Competition, the Orchestra placed 3rd in the grand finals in the Traditional Band category, performing their tune of choice “Band from Space”. At the 2013 Competition, the Orchestra placed 2nd in the grand finals in the Traditional Band category performing “Iron Man”. That same year, the Orchestra was invited to perform at the Jamaica Military tattoo, where they were honoured as the Best and Most Disciplined Foreign Band.

In April 2013 the Orchestra participated at the Siparia Fest Steel Band competition performing in three categories; Calypso, Gospel and Pan on the Move. The Orchestra placed 2nd with their calypso of choice “Ah Going And Party Tonight” arranged by Sheldon Peters and the Ross Twins and placed 3rd with “Amazing Grace” in the gospel tune of choice and the band also emerged 3rd out of 17 bands as the best playing Band on the Move. In July of 2014, the Steel Orchestra returned to Edinburgh, Scotland to perform in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, winning the coveted Pooley Broadsword which is awarded to the best performing contingent; the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra.



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