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More about St. Lucia’s 2008
Panorama Steel Orchestras

 

Harmonites - Arranger - H. ‘Zorro’ Griffith, captain - Bernard Stephen

The band is ten years old and primarily a community band with young players culled from the area of Babonneau, and functions with the close involvement of parents.  With a tutorial/practice schedule on Saturday mornings from ten to twelve, year-round the band is generally seventeen members strong and has a performance circuit of hotels and general events in St. Lucia, and for institutions such as the Tourist Board.  They have twice traveled to Martinique, and have also performed in St. Lucia’s prestigious jazz festival.  For their first panorama appearance, the young people’s enthusiasm was boundless.  They pushed themselves within the short time span of four weeks before the panorama.  When practiced ended at 2:00 AM, they would plead to be allowed to run “one more.”  Originally Harmonites was not at all considering competing in the 2008 panorama; instead their sights had been firmly set on 2009, but with encouragement from people who thought they should make some sort of statement and appear in the 2008 competition, plans were made to this end.  Because of the short runway, a relatively simple music piece was selected as their tune choice.  For the panorama, some older retired pan players were prevailed upon and encouraged to once more take up their pan sticks, rounding out the final panorama compliment of about twenty-six players. 
 

Emerald - Arranger and tuner - Guy Innocent

The orchestra has been in existence for fifteen years, and started out with students from secondary schools on the island.  Arranger Guy Innocent was a teacher at three schools, and had taught the students for about five years.  After they graduated, he decided to continue the musical relationship in the form of a band called Emerald Steel, based on the colors of the three schools the students had attended.  For the 2008 panorama there were about thirty-six to forty players and Innocent said it was extremely ‘difficult’ to field even that number, as some players stayed with the orchestra, while others moved on.  In the past Emerald has competed with as many as fifty-five panists.  This year nine players from Trinidad were brought to St. Lucia to bolster the panorama complement.  The competition allows for a maximum of fifteen “outside” players to be included.  Every year for panorama, Emerald is composed primarily of students from the various schools where the arranger teaches, and the age of the musicians ranges from fifteen through eighteen.  Innocent does double-duty as the orchestra’s tuner, but acknowledged that it was difficult to attract the interest of the younger generation in that aspect of the steelpan artform.  As Innocent soldiers on, he has an equally committed sponsor in  Busta, who pledge to continue their support of the orchestra as long as possible.
 

Pantime -  Arranger - Amrit Samaroo

The band’s first panorama was in 2001 when they appeared with twenty-eight players.  Seven years later Pantime took the stage with no less than seventy-three musicians.  But founder/band leader Cecil ‘Tortee’ Philgence noted that it is no easy task, as only three of the seventy-plus strong panorama side come from Gros Islet where the band is based.  During the panorama season, Philgence travels all over the island to drop players home late at night after practice.  Still, it remains a labor of love.  The band leader deals with it, philosophically shrugs and moves on, saying “I guess it is the tradition of the people in Gros Islet, they don’t really like steelband; they see it as something they’ve never been part of...  but I guess we’re only seven years [old]; but sooner or later they [players from Gros Islet] will come in.”  Pantime returned to the panorama arena in 2008, once more with Trinidadian arranger Amrit Samaroo, and performed Pan Baby with music composed by Samaroo.
 

Babonneau  -  Arranger - Allison Marquis

The panorama representation of the band is currently down to forty-six members after the breaking away of a small number of players to form the group Harmonites, who had their first panorama appearance in this year’s competition.  Marquis believes this has made Babonneau stronger.  “It made us leaner and meaner” Marquis declared after the band’s performance.  But he also voiced sincere hope that Harmonites too, goes from strength to strength, so “there will be two forces from Babonneau [to be reckoned with]” come panorama time when they come up against the other bands.  In the meantime, Babonneau’s faithful and stalwart supporter is Courts, who have been on board since 2000.  Marquis thought the performance of his band for the 2008 panorama was ‘fabulous’ and was very proud of his players. 
 

Diamond Steel - Arranger - Aimran Simmonds

By, of, and for the people - this is a band named by their fans when they were first deciding on a name.  “Diamond Steel” sounded good, and they do not think they have gone wrong with that choice.  “...in fact it has brought us lots of luck and fortune as well” says arranger Aimran Simmonds, touching on the saying “Diamonds are Forever.”  The band went on to win several panoramas, and in fact when they entered their first panorama back in 1971 they emerged victorious.  This is indeed a band of “firsts.”   They were the first steelband to play in a church in St. Lucia, the first to record and the first to produce a CD.  Diamond Steel has been a popular staple at Dominica’s Creole festival for the last four years, and has also participated in pan festivals in Barbados.  The band’s management is quite pleased with its achievements to date, including their hat trick in 2000, 2001, 2002, part of an overall stash of what is now eleven national panorama titles.  During the year, Simmonds also performs as part of a six-piece band called Panergy on cruise ship lines such as Royal Caribbean and Princess.

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