Anthony Prospect

Anthony Prospect
Anthony Prospect
1923 - 2000
The more predictable memories of Guillermo Antonio Prospect will conjure up the magical conductor who transformed the image of the Police Band.

Until his intervention, the band largely confined itself to the performance of military marches, deviating only for sporadic Sunday evening public concerts, or when required for high-level state functions. From early in 1964, the new bandmaster changed all that.

But where Mr Prospect shook his baton to even greater and more lasting effect, was in the service of indigenous music, most notably the calypso art form and the steelband movement. In fact, outside of the police band, Mr Prospect’s baton was evidently more of a magic wand.
Fondly known as Anthony (the English version of his middle name).Mr Prospect came to wide public attention, when he was appointed bandmaster of the Police Service Orchestra, a responsibility that, for the first time, was being entrusted to a local musician.

The diminutive Mr Prospect (and he was always referred to with full handle) was soon to make an indelible mark on the history of indigenous music, even as he dutifully attended to the dominant military component of the Police Band’s repertoire.

In 1964, conducting the normally staid orchestra, he bravely pioneered the fusion of calypso music and military rhythms, premiering the revolutionary concept at a most unlikely forum. After a prolonged drum roll, Mr Prospect lifted his baton, raised eyebrows and simultaneously lowered spectator inhibitions, by selecting Kitchener’s "Mama, Dis is Mas" and rearranging it for use in the march off at the Independence Day Parade at the Queen’s Park Savannah.

"Mama, Dis is Mas" was the same calypso that had captured that year’s road march title and also gave the North Stars Steel Orchestra its second consecutive Panorama victory. Spectators, who lined the streets from the savannah to the St James Police Training School, were therefore able to participate on the sidelines of the parade and in a way that had not been hitherto possible; when European military marches were used exclusively. Up to today, the style has been maintained by all bands participating in the annual parade.

Mr Prospect LRSM, ARCM, LTCL, A Mus., LCM; used the integrity of his substantive position to forge respect for calypso as a legitimate music and would later extend his reach to embrace the steelband movement, in a way that inspired a new level of respect for pan.

Since 1951, he had been appointed an adjudicator at the prestigious biennial Music Festival and was thereafter considered the ultimate authority in pan matters at that level. In 1963, he became the first local musician to graduate from the Royal Military School of Music at Knellar, where he won the trophy for Best Conductor and majored as an ethnomusicologist, with emphasis on the steelband and folk music.

As early as 1964, he formed the first police steelband and for the 1966 edition of the music festival, he composed the first test piece for pan, "Intermezzo in E Flat".

In the following year, he was immortalised in calypso by The Mighty Sparrow, in a celebrated piece titled "The Governor’s Ball", but which became more widely known for its chorus tag-line: "Shake Your Baton Like Mr Prospect". Sparrow had managed to tie in a risque motif in the tribute to Mr Prospect and those who had not known him before, took every opportunity thereafter to see Mr Prospect actually shake his baton.

He was appointed musical director and arranger of the Casablanca Steel Orchestra in 1972 and three years later, wrote another widely revered test-piece for the steelband, "Maracas Bay", a song still in the repertoire of the Samaroo Jets Steel Orchestra. While associated with what was the oldest steelband in continuous existence, Mr Prospect created the first pan theatre and wrote the first full-length movie score (for the film The Right and the Wrong), which included pan music.

In 1978 he produced a long-playing album for the Renegades Steel Orchestra, after touring South America with the band and was selected in 1981 to function as musical director and conductor to the Witco Desperadoes Steel Orchestra for their famous English tour. Inbetween (1980), he helped Casablanca earn a standing ovation for the band’s rendition of the "Zampa Overture" at the inaugural Steelband Music Festival, at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain. But the band could only cop second place.

Perhaps the highlight of his career as a hands-on arranger and conductor for the steel orchestra, came with Casablanca’s victory at the music festival in 1982, when the band’s rendition of Tchaikowsky’s "1812 Overture" earned such acclaim, that it led to tours of London, New York and Switzerland.

"I think it would be fair to say that he Trinidadianised official state functions with a wave of his baton in a way that no one else did," said Pat Bishop, a senior musician widely acknowledged as pan’s First Lady. "It was really quite significant, because up until then we would have been listening to the work of European composers for the march off; although such music had little to do with us.

"His initiative made the state occasions indigenous," Bishop said, "but he did not stop there. He was one of the first to actually write down music for pan, having composed ‘Maracas Bay’ specifically for those instruments and since he had a device that was able to print music, he was also a serious pioneer in that field.

"Mr Prospect’s association with the steelband was just not as an arranger of complex festival pieces. He also did songs for Panorama and in fact, just about anything that he put his hands to, worked and worked well. He didn’t always win but, in a broader sense, he never could lose. Of course everyone would remember him for transcription of the full 17 minutes of Tchaikowsky’s ‘1812 Overture’.

"Indeed, we had never heard anything like that before and there is a good chance that we may never hear anything like it again," Bishop said. "He used the sponsorship of the band to good advantage, at a time when sponsors simply used to fling money at steelbands and hope that the players would behave. The success of Casablanca under his musical direction, showed that a sponsored band also had a responsibility to deliver quality performances.

"His work therefore was pivotal in a number of respects. We can now look back and see that Mr Prospect understood the wider implications and would work to pull a performance out of the most unpromising material or circumstances, utilising a sense of theatre in the execution," Bishop said.

Mr Prospect retired as police bandmaster in 1982, at the rank of Superintendent and was replaced by George Scott. During the 1990s, Mr Prospect functioned as steelband consultant to the Inter-Cultural Music Institute (CIMI), a project mounted jointly by the University of the West Indies and the United National Development Programme, to do music notation for the steelband from major pan events, including Panorama and the Music Festival.

He was of major assistance to steelband development in North America too, becoming first choice as chief adjudicator at Panorama competitions for the various Carnivals held there. Up to last October, he functioned in this capacity at the Miami Carnival. When we spoke, he looked his normal well-groomed and sprightly self and said that he was "feeling okay and holding on". Mr Prospect died on Wednesday at a hospital in Miami, Florida. He was 77.