From the blog


I decided, instead of waiting to get home, I would write my final about Panorama from Trinidad.  I’m sitting at the gate at Piarco reflecting on everything that happened in the last month.

This was overall a great experience.  I got to explore a new city, new country, and new culture with some good friends – and even make some new friends!

I feel that the most important thing I can write about is the family that is Silver Stars Steel Orchestra.  Even if the group never wins another Panorama (who am I kidding?… they will), Edwin Pouchet’s legacy is strong.  His family (the band, and his literally famiy) is one of the most woderful groups of people I’ve been blessed to work with.  His wife and daughters are caring and fun people that will carry the band into the future.  They do behind-the-scenes work that will probably never get its own applause, they are the face of the band to the crowd that limes in the panyard every night, and they work very hard to keep the ensemble living and breathing as a group.
Edwin Pouchet was a great arranger.  He helped bring Silver Stars to TWO Panorama championships and created great arrangements their Stageside Steelband.  This year’s Panorama arrangement of “Edwin’s Legacy” (done in Edwin’s Memory by Liam Teague) was about his legacy as a panman and arranger, but this band and his family are equally important pieces of his legacy.  I’m humbled and honored to be asked to play in this year’s ensemble and join my place in Edwin’s Legacy.  Liam used motifs from the 2015 Calypso and themes from many of Edwin’s arrangments. The piece represents years of work to create a superior level perfoming ensemble and MANY arrangements done by the late Mr. Pouchet.  I think the arrangement also really represents the future of Silver Stars.  The ability to look to the past for guidance (as Liam’s arrangement does) and the ability to see the future (as the Pouchets did when they asked Liam to arrange for the band).

For those of you keeping score… We got THIRD PLACE!  While a gold medal would have really taken this trip over the top, making it to the podium is a great sign for future years.  Not only did we move up from our placement in Semi-Finals, the band moved up from last year’s Finals position!  And that is a move in the right direction!  In my last post, I mentioned Exodus and Renegades as bands that I have some serious respect for… and they tied us for third position!  Next year is going to be very competetive!  The victor this year was Trinidad All-Stars Steel Orchestra (Mia Gormandy was very happy to see that result), and second place went to Phase II.

The Finals performance experience had many differences from Semi-Finals.  We met at the panyard, moved pans and racks to our rehearsal area in the street near the Savannah, we rehearsed and moved to the stage.  That much was the same.  This time, UTT Professor Josh Watkins and I were responsible for moving timpani for the 4-measure roll Liam added at the end of the arrangement.  For finals, the perfomance costume upgraded from jeans and a jersey to a full costume… glittery vest and tie included.  The crowd was great while we rehearsed, everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the tune!  The event photographers kept taking photos of us moving the timpani – I guess that was the most unique bit of schlepping to happen all day.  On that thought, it’s worth noting that over 1200 instruments were moved for the large-band category finals alone.  On the drag (the road leading to the stage) I ran into another American pannist, Tracy Thornton.  It was great catching up with him and talking shop while we were on-deck.

We performed in a great position: 6th out of 10.  We followed All-Stars and hit the stage right around midnight.  The energy was incredibly high, but we performed with much more control than Semis.  Afterwards I ran into a few more friends in the Savannah and finally headed back to the panyard to watch the rest of the bands on TV and wait for Results… you’ve already heard how that ended up.

We stayed in the panyard until 5 or 6am, I bought a few rounds in celebration and we hung out and took a well-deserved rest.  We finally left the yard when our roommate Mia had to leave for her early morning flight back stateside.

At the apartment Tyler, Todd, Danielle and I decided to stay up and commentate on the sun rise before getting some sleep.  Tyler had to leave for the airport mere hours later!  I barely slept (Todd snored a little), but we got called to head back to the beautiful Maracas Beach for an NIU Alumni hangout!  Catching up with Mia, Barry, Abe, Josanne, and Yuko was the perfect relaxing end to Panorama season.

I’ll write about my experiences with Carnival when I get home (or maybe on my layover).  Thanks for checking on my page and reading this long post!

— mike

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