Defending Panorama champs Pan Time Steel Orchestra appeared in the penultimate spot in this year’s competition, and tasted the bitter-sweet success of a three-peat as 2015 Panorama champs, without the physical presence of one of their stalwart supporters, in the person of the wife of band manager Cecil ‘Tortee’ Philgence.
The orchestra, founded in 2001, was Panorama champion in 2013 and 2014, making the grade on each occasion with long-time arranger Amrit Samaroo.
Aiming for three titles in a row and succeeding, PanTime paid homage to the beloved wife of their band manager who passed away, and delivered Aunty Pam as their tune of choice, composed and arranged by Samaroo.
With adrenaline and emotion unleashed, the seventy-five strong orchestra dressed in all white skillfully played its heart out in its determined quest to hold on to its championship title, in honor of the late Aunty Pam, undoubtedly smiling down on them expectantly from the heavens above.
About two months of practice had brought what was the largest steel orchestra for the night – to that point. The number of players on stage had been reduced by five, from 2015’s maximum allowance of eighty. More than one hundred musicians had initially vied to ‘make the cut’ of the seventy-five-player limit.
With a performance that went from strength to strength, as the PanTime Steel Orchestra played on – arranger Amrit Samaroo showed he has more than fulfilled his promise as a composer, musician and arranger to be reckoned with at the championship level – be it on his home turf of Trinidad and Tobago, within the Caribbean, or in North America.
Babonneau Steel Orchestra, a champion steel orchestra in its own right, had to settle for second place the third year in a row; they were last at the top in 2012. This year they went into musical battle with arranger Alison Marquis’ interpretation of L’Argent amassing 255 points, five less than eventual champs PanTime.
Babonneau was a serious contender for the title, and the challenger PanTime would have been most concerned about – what with the absence of tested champion veteran steel orchestras North Stars and Diamond Steel, not factors in 2015 Panorama circles.
Returning to the judges’ chairs from last year were St. Lucia’s Gregory Piper, Gordon ‘Gene’ Leon and Emerson Nurse, along with Trinidad & Tobago’s Reynold Huggins. Joining the 2015 line-up and also from Trinidad & Tobago was Joslynne Sealey. St. Lucia’s own Irma Bushell was chief judge.
Racking up a score of 237 and coming in third position was Pantastick Musik, returning once more with band leader and the only female arranger in the competition, Krystal Nestor. Military Jam by Jaunty was the tune arranged by Nestor. It was the band’s second appearance in Panorama, with their 2014 entry being in the small band category.
The categorization of Small and Large bands which had been in effect since 2011, was not in play in 2015. Interestingly, the band which triumphed in the “Small Band” category since its inception in 2011—Harmonites Junior Steel Orchestra—had decided to make the leap into the large band category, had the categorization still been in existence.
Playing Who I Am, Harmonites took the stage in eighth position, and unexpectedly placed in that exact position – eighth, with 172 points. It may have been due in part that with the varying sizes of the steel orchestras in the competition, Harmonites took the stage with the smallest contingent of just thirty-one players.
They closed off the presentations around 11:50 p.m. on Friday July 17 at the Panorama’s now-customary venue (it’s been nine years) at the Beausejour Cricket Grounds in Gros Ilet, St. Lucia. After a brief break at the end of the competitive phase, results were announced and proceedings wrapped up by 12:22 a.m.