Celebrating a Quarter-Century of Snowflakes and Steel: A Tribute to 25 Years of Memories

Just what the doctor ordered when it’s cold outside

By Wilma Cayonne

Last Saturday, pan lovers came out joyfully to celebrate the 25th anniversary of not only the Pan Arts Network but also the annual “Snowflakes on Steel” concert at the PC Ho Chinese Cultural Centre in Scarborough.

Co-founders Wendy Jones and Earl La Pierre Jr warmly welcomed the audience back after an absence of almost three years. The duties of MC were left in the capable hands of Itah Sadu adding her usual flair and comedic asides. Due to the pandemic and space issues, some of the long-standing bands were not able to participate, most notably Afropan. A plea has gone out to #FindAfropanAHome since their space at Jefferson Ave is no longer available. 

Trevor Redhead receives award from Earl Pa Pierre Left

Special Tribute Awards were presented to: Andrew Jackson, Carl Otway and Trevor Redhead for their contributions in many different ways to the pan community. The Special Community Tribute was given to Andrew Lewis who was one of the first to build racks and stands for Pan Fantasy.  In place of the Pioneer Awards, this year awards were presented to Community Steelbands – Afropan Steelband, Pan Fantasy Steelband, Panatics Steelband Network and Gemini Pan Groove. Greetings from Jamaal Myers Councillor for Scarborough North, the Trinidad and Tobago Consulate, and the High Commissioner in Ottawa, were shared with the audience. 

Participating bands this year included Panatics Steelband Network, Gemini Pan Groove, New Dimension Steel Orchestra and Pan Fantasy Steelband. Each band brought a different flavor to the evening. 

Arrangers Gareth Burgess & Andrew Jackson from Panatics delivered a hauntingly beautiful piece from “Carmen” along with “Bam Bam”, “For Once in my Life”, medley from Rihanna and “Toco Band”. 

New Dimension Orchestra

Elton Jones from Gemini Pan Groove, made up of older adults, delivered classic standards to the audience –  two Latin pieces – “Eres Tu” and “Meditation” were the standout pieces for me. Kudos to the percussion section here. 

New Dimension Steel Orchestra was small in numbers but mighty in sound. Arrangers Denise Als, Richard Cornelius and Thadel Wilson entertained the audience with pieces like “Anytime Anyplace”, “Jelly”, “Down Deh”, “Gerudo Valley” and “Lift Me Up”. 

Closing the evening, were the reigning champions Pan Fantasy Steelband led by bandleader, Wendy Jones, and arranger Al Foster. Their numbers included some throwback music from Barry White – “Let the Music Play”, Rick James’s “Give It to Me”, and The Temptations’ and “Lady Soul”. Their Reggae piece “No, No, No, No” brought many audience members to their feet, dancing in the aisles. Their closing piece combined three well-known calypsos – “Meh Lover”, “Black Man Feelin’ To Party” and “Lorraine”.

The inimitable MC Itah Sadu

They were accompanied by Martin Scott-Pascall and members of his Dance Caribe Performing Company who thrilled the audience.  Saxophonists ‘Skel ‘Michael Redhead and John Anderson accompanied the band on their numbers. 

Guest performers for the evening were Earl La Pierre Jr and his young brother Olujimi, who flew up to Toronto after a 7-year absence to participate in this special anniversary show; each bringing their own brand to the audience.  

It was a wonderful evening of fabulous music, meeting up with old friends that we haven’t seen in a while and a chance to partake in the cultural contribution of Trinidad and Tobago – the steelpan. 

If you missed the show, hopefully there will be videos posted on YouTube shortly thanks to Anthony Berot who captured the evening on film. Next year, be there – you do not want to miss it again!