BY SEAN NERO /Trinidad Guardian
Prime Minister Patrick Manning has put the steelband fraternity on alert that the emergence of the Genesis pan (G-pan) will have serious implications on future Panorama competitions.
He said he anticipated that orchestras competing in the Carnival event would no longer be required to retain their present sizes since instruments in the G-pan family offered greater musical volume.
Pan Trinbago is responsible for producing Panorama, which is funded by the State. A large conventional orchestra taking part in the competition has a ceiling of 120 pannists, 90 for medium, and 60 for small bands.
In Manning’s view, the need for a large complement of pannists would soon be a thing of the past.
Speaking at Saturday’s launch of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) at Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain, the Prime Minister predicted smaller orchestras would soon occupy the Panorama stage.
It’s the second time in less than a year that Manning addressed the future of the Panorama competition while outlining the Government’s achievement in discovering the G-pan.
He first tackled the issue during the launch of the G-pan at the JFK Quadrangle at University of the West Indies, St Augustine, on July 14, when he said Panorama orchestras would have less need for an assortment of bass pans since the new G-bass pan covered all musical ranges.
“One of the advantages of the new pan is that of the top three pans—the tenor, double seconds and the guitar—the volume you get from these pans is 50 per cent more than what you get from traditional pans; and the volume you get from the new bass, which is the real innovation, is about 75 per cent more.
“What this means is an orchestra that comprises only G-pans would be configured very differently from an orchestra with the traditional type.
“In the case of the NSSO, the overall orchestra of 36 players and percussionist would take it to a maximum of about 40.
“Initially, we anticipated a NSSO of about 60 to 70 players. We now have a NSSO with a maximum of 40 players. Innovation has brought that about.”
Manning said he believed the G-pan would change the face of Panorama despite its unresolved production obstacles.
“We unveiled the G-pan on July 14, 2007. The research took longer than expected and, more than that, the production facilities of necessity that must go with it took us and continues to take us a little longer than we expected.
“They present a challenge that was over and above what we had anticipated, but is not an insurmountable challenge.”
Manning told the Queen’s Hall gathering, which included President George Maxwell Richards and Mrs Ramjohn-Richards, that his Government’s decision to scrap the T&T National Steel Orchestra was necessary because the system under which it operated was flawed and “simply not sustainable.”
He said the musical outfit, which was constituted under the Basdeo Panday administration, was viewed with suspicion by the steelband fraternity.
“We began an approach that would have stood a better chance of survival. We began an approach, for one, that was more sustainable, and came to the conclusion that perhaps a symphony orchestra, different from all other orchestras in T&T, might be the way to go,” he recalled.
Manning said the Government spent $9.9 million to continue research that was ongoing for some time at the pan research lab at UWI, St Augustine, headed by Brian Copeland.
According to Manning, the main criteria for the Genesis project was the creation of a soprano pan with a wider musical range that did not suffer from the disabilities experienced by the present soprano pan.
“It did not take us long to realise we were onto something. In fact, that research began to progress at such a pace that we took the decision to delay the formation of the NSSO, allowing the research to produce new instruments and to take the pan one major step forward,” Manning said.
“If we were able to develop these instruments, it would be the first orchestra in the country and in the world to be equipped completely with whatever pans we developed.”