BP Renegades is top junior pan side

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

bp Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra plays The Four Seasons – Summer by Antonio Vivaldi in the Junior Steelpan Ensemble 19 years and under final at the TT Music Festival, Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain, on Tuesday. Renegades placed first in the category with 90 points. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

ST Mary’s College initially looked unassailable after they kicked off the under-19 junior steelband ensemble class on February 27 at the Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, but top spot ultimately went to an earth-shattering bp Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra.

Ems Ensemble placed second and St Mary’s third. Sterling performances came from all ensembles.

St Mary’s played a rendition called Pirates of the Caribbean Medley by Klaud Badelt so vividly that it told a story of the drama and adventuring of the freebooters of yore. Indeed, their rendition made listeners feel they were following a scene-by-scene portrayal similar to the namesake movie of Capt Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) fame.

The lighter pans portrayed the gaiety and carefree swagger of a buccaneer, with a devil-may-care disdain. Then the piece evoked a mood of moving ocean waves. You could almost see a sailing ship skimming smoothly over the open sea.

But then the bass drums thundered, alerting to impending dangers ahead.

Then the tenor pans returned to the bold chanciness of the loveable rogues sauntering off to their next adventure.

All this, from 14 teenage boys using discarded old oil drums! Magic!

Next up, Mannette Academy of Music Ensemble gave a lively rendition of Can-Can by Jacques Offenbach. The six boys and six girls beat very cleanly, in a pacey piece with lots of variety within.

The 12 boys and girls of Trinity All Generations Steel then played The Planets by Gustav Holst. It included several lines that had once been extracted to form a favourite Anglican hymn, I Vow to Thee My Country.

Providence Girls’ (PGCS) Steel Ensemble offered the contemporary Thinking Out Loud, by pop star Ed Sheeran. Due to the late addition of a pan, the judge asked them to start again, but during the performance at times a pan sounded somewhat off.

Providence otherwise was very soft and sweet, and very harmonious indeed, although needing a little tightening up.

BP Renegades truly lived up to their moniker of being an orchestra. They played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Summer. While starting soft and very melodious, they then erupted into a thunderous wonderfulness. They captured all the elements of a great portrayal. They played at an impactful volume. They blended all parts of an orchestra. They skillfully mastered many intricacies in the piece, including played polished scales. Amid their breakneck pace they included many dynamics and expressions.

It was musical wizardry, truly world-class.

Ems Ensemble rendered Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely. With just four players, one initially wondered whether the arrangement was a tad too ambitious, offering tunes within tunes. At first it sounded a bit chaotic. However by the end, everything was blending beautifully, with a very harmonious rendition by the quartet.

Five Rivers Pan Ensemble did such justice to Mical Teja’s road march winner, DNA, that listeners might have wondered whether the song was actually written intentionally for pan, like the songs of the late Aldwyn “Lord Kitchener” Roberts. The pannists made listeners feel Teja’s introspection, “Look where we are,” followed by his outburst of jubilant exuberance, “I feel I could run in town again!”.

St James Secondary School gave a competent rendition of Ella Andall’s The Journey.

Adjudicator Nubia Williams gave 75 marks out of 100 to Five Rivers. She said they were “overall good,” but had to watch their tempo, balance, volume, and drops and accents. “When you play loudly, the notes distort,” she alerted.

Williams also gave 75 marks to St James. She liked their tempo plus their balance in terms of both the selection of pans in the ensemble and their orchestration and layering.

“Watch your timing and cohesion,” she advised. She praised their “nice, clean ending.”

Williams gave Providence 98 marks, saying they must check instruments beforehand and, while playing, try not to hit the rims of the pans. “Careful with your pulse.”

Their tune had good balance and was nicely arranged, she said. However, she said their rendition of Sheeran required flavour and meaningfulness, reminding, “This is a love song.”

Williams awarded Trinity 80 marks, praising their “tone, timing and tuning.” Yet she urged them to be more intentional. They had a “good blend and good balance,” Williams said, but called for more contrast, mood and colour.

Williams gave Mannette’s 75 marks, questioning an increase in speed as the song progressed.

“Some notes were played too loudly and got distorted.” Overall Mannette’s had given a “good interpretation and good balance,” Williams said.

She awarded St Mary’s 81 marks for a good tune, with effective dynamics and a nice balance. However she felt something was touching one of the bass pans.

Williams gave Ems Ensemble 85 points, saying the feel of the song had carried through to all instruments.

She gave bp Renegades 90 marks, saying players had shown a good understanding of the piece. Williams appreciated their good tempo, good dynamics, good sound and good toning. She said bp and Ems will advance to the final.

Newsday spoke to the head of the St Mary’s ensemble, Joshua Price, the school’s head prefect. He said they had practised day and night, but they felt their performance could have been better, although reckoning it had satisfied the judge.

“We made a little slip-up but we always focused on each other, to keep each other in line.

“We balanced each other’s notes, the front line with the background, and we kept it tight.” He said through adversity there was success.

“In the end we came together and made music that was nice.”