By Tashia Antoine
Freezing temperatures did not scare pan lovers away from celebrating an evening of tributes, awards and Caribbean music at the SnowFlakes on Steel concert put on by the PAN Arts Network at the P.C. Ho Theatre on Saturday.
With all the new sweet soca tunes coming out for Carnival 2019, this could have been a concert full of new songs. Instead, for its 22nd anniversary, SnowFlakes On Steel remembered some of the most inspiring musical legends who passed away in 2018 in its “Tribute To The Greats.”
The first on its list was The Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin who passed away on August 26 last at her home in Detroit, after a battle with advanced pancreatic cancer. Then on September 30 last, a tragic car accident in South Trinidad claimed the life of ace pannist, composer and arranger, Ken “Professor” Philmore. Tragedy struck again on October 23 last with the death of the calypso and soca legend, The Mighty Shadow who had suffered a stroke. The mourning continued with the sudden passing of The Original De Fosto who died from a heart attack just weeks after performing at Shadow’s funeral.
The tribute started out with a bang. An explosion of praise, worship and sweet steelpan by Toronto’s premiere church-based steelband, Worship In Steel captured the audience immediately. A beautiful rendition of Aretha Franklin’s, “Son Of A Preacher Man” with vocals by Betty Lewis left the crowd breathless.
Panatics Steelband Network based at Flemingdon Park kept the tempo going with a stellar tribute to The Mighty Shadow with “Dingolay” and “Yuh Lookin For Horn”. The band pleasantly surprised the audience with a hair-raising tribute to the late Michael Jackson with a five-song medley of the icons greatest hits, including “Thriller” and “Human Nature”.
Gemini Pan Groove had an eclectic mix of tributes including, “Little Sunflower” by the great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, “Autumn Leaves” by Eric Clapton and “I Say A Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin. The band had the most distinctive sound with solos by Bruce Skerritt on a unique instrument called a melodica and outstanding vocals by Faith Amore. Their presentation was not entirely perfect but they had some great moments.
Souls Of Steel Orchestra wowed the crowd with a fresh groovy melodic journey in a four song set. Headed by the youngest pan arranger Andre Rouse, it showcased the versatility of the group as bona fide musicians with various members playing the saxophone and African drums. A solo by pannist Robbie Charles had the audience on the edge of their seats as he made the pan SING! This highly skilled multicultural group was well-choreographed and stole the show.
Pan Fantasy was a major highlight of the night. Their presentation included a roller-coaster of genres from Marc Anthony’s “You Sang To Me”, to Morgan Heritage’s, “I’ll Be Down By The River” to another powerful Mighty Shadow Medley and had the audience tapping their feet with their victory-title rendition of “Hulk” by Blaxx.
Other highlights of the evening included several captivating performances by the award-winning Dance Caribe Performing Company along with heart-warming speeches and recognition for pan players and community members for their contributions to the culture.
The 2019 Woman In Pan Awards were presented to Barbara Toney and Malaika Gonzalez.
The 2019 Pan Pioneer Awards went to Ivor Picou and Anthony Pierre.
The student bursary sponsored by Carib Brewery was given to Seneca student, Alex Kanhai.
Roland Harrigin received The Lifetime Award amd Bruce Skerritt was presented with The Lifetime Community Award.
If there were any other awards to be given out that night, the comedic host Itah Sadu (who was fantastic) would have surely deserved one.
On all counts, this was a world-class production that deserves to be showcased on the grandest of stages.