April 25, 2005 — The ring of steel pans could be heard high in the hills surrounding the Lionel Roberts Stadium as 13 schools and community groups took part in the Steel Pan Jamboree Sunday.
The crowd of music fans was small but the performers bubbled nonetheless, seemingly content to entertain each other as they took turns performing calypso, classical, gospel and soca selections throughout the five-hour event.
"We did what we promised. We started promptly at 5 p.m. and we were asked to end at 10 p.m.
We ended at 10:10 pm, with one band playing an extra song," Eduardo Corneiro, chairman of the Carnival Steelband Jamboree Committee, said.
Stage crews stayed busy all night as a succession of bands took up positions behind their pans to render their musical offerings. After the first set of bands rotated through, crew members hustled gleaming guitars, tenors, seconds, double-seconds and big steel basses onto waiting trucks and then hustled new instruments into place on the stage.
"We had 13 bands, two stage changes, two bands on trolleys," Corneiro said. "No Pan Around the Neck this year," he said, adding the band had opted out for "logistical reasons."
The Pan Around the Neck crew has traditionally closed the jamboree by leading the crowd around the field in a steel band tramp. He also said there was a last minute cancellation by one of the perennial bands, Montessori School.
A small collection of fans assembled in the middle of the stadium field to cheer the performers. Another modest gathering peppered the bleachers. It's been that way since the Carnival Committee decided four years ago to charge admission for the steel pan fete. This year organizers changed the policy and once again opened the doors, free to the public. But the word didn't get around in time to bring back the hundreds of spectators who used to take in this once-popular Carnival showcase.
Corniero said he and his fellow committee members have been thinking about what they will do to lure back the crowds. Some are suggesting the showcase be turned into a competition. In a few days, he said, the committee will meet and think things over before they start planning for next year.
The jamboree is for one band a family event. Phoenix Sounds is a unique combination of adult and child musicians.
Most bands in the jamboree have either all adult or all child members. Darrin Lawrence, Phoenix Sound leader, says his adult musicians are the parents of the children in the band.
So, there's no problem getting the kids to show up for rehearsal, someone asked.
"No," he said.
And Lawrence, was himself part of a family act at the jamboree. His father, Samuel Lawrence, is also a conductor. The elder Lawrence led three bands onto the stage this year — the Love City Pan Dragons, the Angels of Steel from Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School, and the Pan Panthers from the University of the Virgin Islands Family Life Center.
"I love it, because I'm born with the pans. I was born with that in me," Samuel Lawrence said.
Keeping up a very busy schedule, he said it took about a month to get the three bands ready. This year, he said two of the bands also performed an original piece he composed and arranged called "Pan on Mars."
By ten-thirty it was all over except for the packing. Glen Elskoe, arranger for the Ivanna Eudora Kean Devil Rays and his operations manager, Leslie Smith, parked their chairs against the wall of the stage, and began thinking about what comes next.
For some, but not all of the bands, Steelband Jamboree is the highlight of the year, but a few days from now they will hit the road as part of either the Carnival Children's Parade, the Adult Parade, or both.
"Mr. Elskoe does the music. I do all the rest," said Smith. "This year the trolleys had to get repaired. The trolleys are 20 years old, they needed some major repairs."
Meanwhile Elskoe laid out his plans for the next few days, which include taking his students through rehearsals on a host of new songs. "This week we will work on songs for the road, a Jam Band, maybe two or three songs from each of the bands. By Wednesday," he said. "We should be set for the road."
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