On the evening before the 182nd anniversary of our people’s emancipation, The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts presented a free show, Pan on a Higher Note – Journey of the Ancestors at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in the Sundar Popo Auditorium at 6PM. The National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO), conducted by Jessel Murray – now former conductor of the NSSO, opened last night’s event with Frühlingsstimmen – Voices of Spring (Johann Strauss II, 1883), a piece which has become one of the most popular transcriptions of its genre for the steelband in Trinidad and Tobago.
Continuing the first Act, the NSSO performed Overture to Die Fledermaus – The Bat (Johann Strauss II, 1874). Afterwards, Turon Nicholas, soprano, then joined the NSSO in performing Deep River (arr. H.T. Burleigh) and Ride Up in The Chariot (arr. Betty Jackson King). Her beautiful voice filled the auditorium, silenced her audience and had everyone tuned into her frequency. She had the undivided attention of everyone in the hall.
Presentation College Senior Choir joined the NSSO afterwards on stage, and sang alongside the sweet sound of the steel orchestra to Albert Ketèlbey’s In a Monastery Garden (1915). The choir consisting of not more than twenty students, on that night, sang lustily. You could tell that each student was proud to represent their school on the SAPA stage.
Jikele Mawani – Retreat Song (attributed to Miriam Makeba) and Pata, Pata (Dorothy Masuka) were then sung by Turon Nicholas, and Anikha Ballah, soprano, who joined in on stage as a backing vocalist. They were both accompanied by one of the orchestra’s members who played a pair of African Drums beside Nicholas.
The NSSO then closed the first Act with In a Persian Market (Albert Ketèlbey, 1920), and following protocols, there was a fifteen minute intermission shortly after.
The super talented, Larry Lee Luck, graced the SAPA stage with this impressive level of skill and composure on the guitar. Lee Luck played, Malagueña by Ernesto Lecuona (1895 -1963) before being joined on stage by Nalini Akal, a local flamenco dancer and dance instructor.
Akal improvised dance to the Flamenco Guitar Themes as played by Lee Luck. Akal left the stage shortly to change into a another dress and when she eventually danced back onto the stage, Lee Luck who had been playing during her costume change continued by playing Concierto de Aranguez by Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999). The two had great chemistry and the crowd even clapped along with Akal as she danced fluently and in sync with the artistic, musical styling of Lee Luck.
The NSSO came back onto the stage and began to play Prokofiev Suite (by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). They were then accompanied by Metamorphosis Dance Company while they played Dance of the Young Girls with Lillies from Romeo & Juliet, Masks from Romeo & Juliet and March, Op. 99 no. 1. Metamorphosis is a local dance company that teaches their students the art of ballet. The dancers from Metamorphosis showed exactly what can be produced through the right amount of hard work, practice and dedication. They were very impressive, made little to no mistakes and like a ballerina should, they all maintained smiles on their faces throughout their performance.
Last on the night’s programme was a Tribute to the late Jit Samaroo (1950-2016). The NSSO played songs written and composed by Samaroo. Pan Parranda, Ustsav Ki Awaz (1995) and Pan in A Minor (arr. Jit Samaroo, edited by Amrit Samaroo). To say that the crowd loved this ending to an eventful night out is an understatement. The NSSO, and Jessel Murray were given a standing ovation at the end of the concert.