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Junia's senior moment

By Terry Joseph
July 01, 2005

As we grow older, the chance or frequency of lapses often increases, such episodes insensitively labelled by observers as "senior moments," implying sporadic slippage is merely a precursor to presumed inevitability of totally losing touch with reality in the winter of our years.

Against that backdrop, we may generously surmise it was indeed a senior moment that last week caused TCL Group Skiffle Bunch manager, Junia Regrello, to publicly carp about placing second at the recently concluded World Steelband Music Festival.

After first deciding to accord that unsavoury development the level of attention it really deserves, it somehow seemed irresponsible to leave the distinguished jurists defenseless; protocol and sheer decorum having denied them any facility for response. In any event, Mr Regrello's rant invites discussion, if only to contrast the view that behaviour modification among contemporary pannists had long discarded petulance.

At source, he implied judges were either incompetent or deliberately cheated in favour of Sagicor Exodus, relegating Skiffle Bunch with malice aforethought, stooping to patently unprofessional conduct. He gave no details of a possible motive for the alleged conspiracy but slammed the eminent panel regardless and in singularly unbecoming fashion.

The three-member jury comprised UWI's Head of Music, Dr Ann-Marion Osborn and two Americans, Professor Larry Snider and Dr Eugene Novotney, both pioneers of steelband programmes at university music faculties where they currently lecture. Along with Mrs Merle Albino-de Coteau, the alternate, who was not called to duty; all have considerable experience in judging steelband music festivals.

This is not to say justice, even where determined by such an august panel, cannot miscarry but Mr Regrello's descent into coinage comparable to calypsonian Maestro's: "They cheat! They cheat! We want to see the score-sheet," is hardly what we expect of a modern steelband leader, if there is any truth to talk about panyards being places where our youth can learn discipline, production and tolerance along with performance art.

Worse, Mr Regrello is not only a steelband leader but one who has been blessed with the still rare elevation of such persons to senior rank in a number of governmental bodies, both at the level of City and State, being an Alderman of the San Fernando Corporation and until recently a vice president at the Tourism and Industrial Development Company (TIDCO).

Consequently, his comments on any issue can never be seen as exclusively between Skiffle Bunch and its target, as their implications might also impugn colleagues with whom he shares public responsibilities and, by extension, the image of organisations they direct. In the instant case, he might also have compromised professional relationships between the judges and his band's co-arranger and frontline player, Liam Teague, a respected member of the music faculty at Northern Illinois University.

Among Mr Regrello's wafer-thin attempts at justifying his tantrum, is the fact that Skiffle Bunch was the only steelband to elicit a standing ovation from the audience at Madison Square Garden, which would probably constitute a valid argument were it a contest of skills unrelated to musicianship. The festival rules did not offer bonus points for enthusiastic reception and if it did, he should be suitably embarrassed if his band won a music competition on so fickle a basis.

Mr Regrello must by now know judges are deliberately positioned to avoid distraction. What he might still not believe is that the audience did not rise to its legs primarily in appreciation of the band's performance but was clearly responding to the histrionics of its conductor, Ben Jackson, who turned his back on the orchestra, leapt from the podium to the floor, scampered up the centre aisle with arms flailing and from that unorthodox position, summoned the closing crescendo.

Had Mr Jackson done a couple of cartwheels during his thoroughly distracting dash into the house or given a fire-eating display upon completion, the applause would have been significantly louder and even more sustained but again, according to the agreed process, gimmicks would not have accrued a single additional point for Skiffle Bunch.

It would be useful to discover how Mr Regrello's current and former colleagues outside the steelband community feel about his response to the outcome of the event, widely considered an exponential leap for pan and an evidently viable export product now enjoying bids from other cities (in and outside the US) to host the 2007 edition.

If they or their counterparts at the San Fernando City Corporation and the Board of the TCL Group are magnanimous, they too will view his tirade as merely an isolated senior moment but, as earlier indicated, sage counsel suggests we closely monitor the frequency of such lapses.

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