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Sandra, Exodus Rescue 'Champs'


By Terry Joseph

It was a tribute in the absence of its chief celebrant and this country's numero uno pan fan, President Arthur NR Robinson (who is in The Hague for the inauguration of the International Criminal Court), but Saturday's Champs in Concert show proceeded all the same.

With ritual punctuality and in the end, keeping to its perennial promise of completion before midnight, the show paraded 21 acts before a Queen's Park Savannah Grand Stand audience that rarely exuded enough energy to trigger even the most sensitive applause meter, except for few performances, most notably those by Singing Sandra and the Exodus Steel Orchestra.

If playing only to the Grand Stand is Pan Trinbago's admission that its annual production is losing mass appeal, the organisation needs now to look beyond the obvious and further examine content and production values.

Predictably, the audience comprised a mix of elderly persons, astute couples lured by the cost-effective deal, locals and returning residents, and ubiquitous Culture Minister Pennelope Beckles.

For the most part, the show was boring and not for lack of interesting components.

Saturday's show meanwhile offered an increase in value for money-albeit dubious-with an additional senior king and queen (as a result of initial dollar-negotiation difficulties with the reigning monarchs), then all winners of a three-way tie in the Junior Calypso monarch category and the two joint champs of Junior Panorama. After Keisha Codrington played the national anthem and the observance of a one-minute silence in respect of Andre Tanker's passing, the junior pan champs opened, first Success Stars Pan Sounds with the Ben Jackson/Kareem Brown arrangement of "Trini to the Bone", then BPTT Renegades Youth interpeting Amrit Samaroo's work on Boogsie Sharpe's "Music in We Blood".

The three young calypso monarchs then rendered their works, Olatunji Harewood,'s treatise on "Donkey Power", third-time winner Karene Asche's "Vision 20/20" and nine year old Sheyinene Hazell capturing hearts with her performance of "We Can't Sing Along Anymore".

The first of three mas capsules followed, with Junior Queen Cyani de Frens parading as The Wings of Destiny, her male counterpart Shawn Derek in as D' Spirit of the Eagle Dance and Rosalind Gabriel's winning band, Melting Pot affording the audience some delight.

The pan insert at this time slowed proceedings as T&TEC Power Stars, winners of the Sydney Gollop trophy put in a less than lively rendition of Brian "Bean" Griffith's "Panorama".

Then there was The Mighty Sparrow, a surprise to even the chosen few lucky enough to have programmes, he belting out in swift segue "Jean & Dinah", "The Lizard", "Obeah Wedding" and "Drunk and Disorderly", before the reigning national calypso monarch and calypso queen Singing Sandra came onstage, eliciting stout applause by her mere arrival.

Sandra sparked some energy into the hitherto moribund audience, rendering the two songs that earned her this year's titles: "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and delivering a particularly vigorous choreography for "Ancient Rhythms".

Now it was time for the King and Queen of Carnival, Alana Ward as "Fire in D Sky" and Curtis Eustance dancing the costume "The Sky is D Limit", both from winning large band of the year, Legends' presentation of Bedazzled.

Next up was The Original de Fosto Himself, first being honoured for his contribution to Panorama music, then doing "Pandora", his song selected by most of the winning bands in this year's multi-tiered contest.

Exodus then assumed the entertainment portfolio as winner of a special 40th anniversary competition staged at Dimanche Gras and champion of the national panorama contest, treating an enthusiastic audience to the songs that won them those titles "Tourist Leggo" and "Pandora" (respectively). And indeed, a major exodus followed, with road march monarch Fay Ann Lyons yet to do her winning song "Display".

That, then, was Champs in Concert, an event not lacking in performing talent but one that needs to adjust its presentation before next year's edition, lest it play to even less than the Grand Stand's capacity.

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