January 26, 2002
Archives Steelpan Origins
By Terry Joseph
Enthusiasm for Sunday’s pan play-off at the Queen’s Park Savannah is being reflected in unprecedented requests for advance tickets, according to Pan Trinbago.
“This is extraordinary. The tickets came in from Canada only this week,” pan president Patrick Arnold said yesterday, “but people have been calling from ever since, for tickets to the Savannah Party.”
And people were asking about the format too, thinking perhaps that the panyard judging of the preliminary round had scuttled the Savannah Party.
“It is not for want of effort on our part to sensitise the pan population to the new format,” Arnold said. “We have been preaching up and down the place that Sunday January 27 is on and we expect to be able to present a much improved product this year.
“The panyard judging should really be seen as a process of elimination by which only the top ten bands in each of the three zones and Trinidad and two from the Tobago region will arrive at the Savannah.
“But because the Sunday event had always been called preliminaries, it has been difficult to erase that concept from the minds of regular Panorama patrons. What we have attempted to do is address the problems that the traditional format threw up and replace its difficult patches with a smoother show featuring bands of higher quality.
“The ‘bring your cooler’, dancing with your rhythm section in the North Stand and several other staple aspects of the day as we knew it have been retained,” Arnold said. “What is going to add value to the event is our plan to reduce delays caused by the changing of bands onstage, rigid enforcement of the seating arrangements in the special reserve areas and of course, bringing only top quality bands to the arena.
“We expect to deliver a show that begins punctually and runs through the evening smoothly and this is not just promotional chat. We have put a number of systems in place to enhance the value of the Panorama product and will be monitoring them for effectiveness as the event proceeds.
“I am not in a position to say there will be no glitches, because we are dealing with thousands of performers and tens of thousands of patrons in an environment that is particularly conducive to people doing precisley what they wish to.
“By way of precaution, what we have done is design support systems to back up some of those areas most prone to breakdowns, so our expectation of a first-class Panorama Savannah Party is based on these plans,” Arnold said.
The 33 bands billed to play on Sunday at the Savannah will be vying for places in the Carnival Saturday night final at the same venue, the winner of that joust taking home a prize valued in excess of $300,000.
This is a far cry from the petty sums at stake at the inaugural contest in 1963, which was won by Tony Williams’ St James North Stars Steel Orchestra for its rendition of Sparrow’s “Dan is the Man in the Van”, earning the band the princely sum of $1,000.
Called The Best Road March Steelband Contest at the time, the total number of steel orchestras entering what has evolved into Panorama was 24, three of which declined at last minute. The final was contested on Carnival Sunday night and results withheld until Ash Wednesday for fear of hostilities triggered by discontent losers.
This weekend, however, we will see not just a much more sophisticated version of that contest but the distillate of some 100 bands that entered round one of competition. The announcement of which bands have made it to the Savannah Party will come today, as the northern region conventional orchestras were scheduled to complete preliminary adjudication only last night.
What is likely to be no different from the inaugural edition is the sights and smells of Panorama. The first influx of returning residents and Carnival visitors making their presence felt and the food and drink preparations synonomous with this annual large-scale picnic.
Defending champions Exodus Steel Orchestra will perform as a matter of courtesy, not being required to come to the Savannah until final night on February 8, but mindful of the threat from other bands who, according to calypso singing musician David “Happy” Williams, are coming to cop “The Prize”.
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