By Oscar Wailoo
Pan Arts Network (P.A.N) presented its 18th-annual steelband showcase Snowflakes on Steel last Saturday night, paying tribute to two people who have been steadfast in promoting and developing steel pan music in Toronto and Canada.
The Pan Pioneer Award went to Layne Clarke, while Eulinice Clarke received the Woman in Pan Award.
Over the 18 years, Snowflakes on Steel has moved away from a display of as many steelbands as there are in the community. While it was an interesting showcase of the talents and efforts to make steelpan music pervasive and accessible in Toronto, the product was varied and spotty at best.
Now Snowflakes has settled on excellence, distilled through a select group of bands: Gemini Pan Grove, Panatics, Pan Fantasy and Afropan that together highlight all the best elements of pan music. On Saturday the show struck just the right notes and the audience responded accordingly.
Wendy Jones, who leads Pan Fantasy (Pan Alive Champions for the last three years), together with Earl LaPierre Jr. of Afro Pan Steel Orchestra – the mainstays behind P.A.N. – was rightfully proud of Saturday night’s performances. Jones attributes the show’s success and longevity to “the community and all the members of Pan Arts Network because of the ongoing support of the community. The tickets sales were great this year.”
This year’s format was intended to have pan music played in all genres. Jones said that they wanted to show both pan excellence and how well it can work with vocals if done correctly. And Thando Hyman’s stirring rendition of Bridge over Troubled Water accompanied by Pan Fantasy was proof enough for her that they got it right. The audience agreed wholeheartedly.
There were also a number of grand moments that earned appropriate and moving responses from the audience: Panatics’ rendering of Dvořák’s Goin’ Home saw the room fall silent to this moving piece; the jazzy version of the old ballad Blue Skies, the unique drumming style of Beyond Sound Empijah, and Janice William’s vocal rendition of I Believe I Can Fly backed by vocal ensemble and accompanied by pianist Eddie Bullen and Afro Pan Steel Orchestra brought the house down.
This gave the evening of pan a flavor that lingered on the palate of an audience that milled about the foyer late into the evening.
Snowflakes may settle on ordinary steel when the temperature drops; but with a warm Caribbean culture etched on every steelpan, the flakes fall on the pan at the risk of instant evaporation to meet a glorious end in song.
Photos by Peter Tang
For more images visit TangCanada.com