Skiffle leads the bunch they go into the final turn

October 20, 2000
By Terry Joseph

TOMORROW night’s grand final of the World Steelband Music Festival suddenly offers an enhanced level of excitement, with new standings in the orchestra category showing a dramatic change from that which obtained at the end of the preliminary round.

After this week’s semi-final which, like the first tier was split over two nights, the TCL Group Skiffle Bunch has run ahead of the competition, leading its nearest threat, the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Steel Orchestra by some 20 points.

Panch 2000, the Swiss band that created an early stir at the preliminaries, trouncing the 16 other orchestras and leading second-placed Exodus by a massive 18-point distance, has now fallen back to fourth place.

In the reshuffle, Exodus, playing Pelham Goddard’s arrangement of Andre Tanker’s “Steelband Times” and Tchaikovsky’s “Capricio Italian” (under the baton of Desmond Waithe), slipped to seventh of the eight bands vying for the title of Best Steel Orchestra in the World and a US$22,500 cash prize.

The controversial test-piece, “Dawn of the New Millennium” by Rudy Wells, originally programmed for performance at the preliminary and semi-final stages was eliminated from the second level by consensus. Its omission did more than reduce audience weariness that came about at the prelims, both nights of which stretched to 3 a.m.

The absence of the test-piece also reduced stress occasioned by the composition itself, which had been described in unflattering terms by visiting and local musicians alike. Bands whose major strengths came from execution of the test-piece, were, however, reverted to level ground.

Consequent repositioning showed up from the first night of the semis, when Invaders upset group leader Exodus, with a splendid performance of Dvorak’s “Carnival Overture” and Len “Boogsie” Sharpe’s arrangement of Kitchener’s “Toco Band”.

Working under the musical direction of Prof Jeannine Remy, the Woodbrook band delivered a distinctly superior performance to that which it offered at last week’s preliminaries; coming closer to its dream of winning the championship for its founder Ellie Mannette, who arrives home today after a 33-year absence.

Skiffle Bunch played a similar trick on its semi-final grouping on Wednesday night, coming away with the stunning lead for its rendition of Ken “Professor” Philmore’s “Pan By Storm” and Boogsie’s “Rain Forest”, under the vigorous direction of Ben Jackson.

But among Wednesday night’s performers, Northern Illinois University Steel Orchestra’s interpretation of Robert Chappel’s “Wood and Steel” again brought the small audience to its legs. Their inclusion of the Ugandan Amadinda (an instrument based on the African xylophone) and a rhythm section that incorporated jimbe drum and congas in an intricate interlude, continues to mesmerise.

So, as we come to the crunch, four foreign orchestras are in tomorrow night’s eight-band final, which takes place at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain.

Along with Panch and NIU, England’s Ebony, whose interpretation of Franz von Suppe’s “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna” and Annise Hadeed’s arrangement of Hollis Wright’s “Celebrating with Steel” earned the band rich applause at both stages of the contest and Sweden’s Steel Pan Lovers are carrying the foreign flags.

Ari Vitanen’s arrangements and conducting of Kitchener’s “Pan in A Minor” and Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia” and the execution of those works by Steel Pan Lovers has been a hit with the festival’s audiences. The smallest band in the final, Steel Pan Lovers hopes to take a leap upward from the cellar position, when tomorrow night’s scores are tallied.

The Defence Force Orchestra, under the baton of Deryck Nurse, is also one to watch. Their interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No 4 – The Finale” seems to want for nothing. The work on Kitchener’s “Penny – Queen of the Universe” appears equally complete.

It therefore boils down to the care with which each band delivers its work tomorrow night and how the judges, American Dr Eugene Novotney, Trinidadian Dr Ann Marion Osborne and Englishman Richard Murphy assess those efforts.


Protest holds up single-pan result

TOBAGO’S Dem Boys, the first of five single-pan bands to perform at the final for that category, has launched a protest over the conduct of the event and threatened legal action if the festival committee released results. According to festival logistics coordinator, Vernon Morancie, Dem Boys is claiming that none of the published rules demanded that they produce scores of their work for the judges and were therefore at an adjudication disadvantage, when the band was heard.

Morancie said, however, that the supply of a lead score for the calypso of choice and a full score for the classical selection was normal for competitions like the music festival.

“They are claiming that because the rules did not say they have to supply scoresheets, that they should not be at a disadvantage for not bringing theirs,” Morancie said, adding that he found the basis of their protest curious, since the band had called him earlier in the day, enquiring about the very matter.

“How come all the other bands brought their scores?” Morancie asked. “Dem Boys brought their scores for the 1998 festival and that is leading some people to believe that this protest is strange.

“They have threatened to take legal action if the scores are released before the matter is addressed,” he said. “We are simply being precautionary at this time.”


Ensembles, minor categories play final tonight

ACTION in the current World Steelband Music Festival shifts to the Queen’s Park Savannah tonight, as the ensembles and small categories of the event have their final playoffs.

Among the groups that will show for the first time tonight is the Florida Memorial University (FMU) representatives, under the musical direction of Trinidadian Dr Dawn Batson, who are entered in all four categories being heard and whose troupe comprises locals currently studying at the university.

Also making their festival 2000 debut in the ensemble category will be Tipica, St Lucia’s Piton Diamond Steel Orchestra, Deltones and Jamaica Humming Birds Steel Orchestra. Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars has entered a quartet, as has Point Fortin New Creation and Panoridim. They will meet competition from similarly comprised groups out of England’s Ebony Steel Orchestra, Exodus, Parry’s Pan School and FMU.

By the end of the evening, 13 soloists, seven quartets, four duets and eight ensembles will have performed for the judges.

Showtime is 8 p.m.


Terry-J at I-Level

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