Pan on a Higher Note

The centrepiece of a concert of mainly classical music that night was Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 in B Flat Minor with accomplished pianist Sean Sutherland as soloist. He played this very long work like a professional concert pianist, without music, which is a feat of memory one doesn’t expect from a pianist who, one gathers from the programme notes, is not a professional in that for the last three years he has been lecturing in electrical engineering and computer science in UWI. It was indeed a real treat to attend a live performance of this piano concerto, ably supported by the Steel Symphony.

The Tchaikovsky concerto ended the first part of the programme. After the interval the Cascade Festival Ballet danced two exerts from “Les Sylphides” to the music of Chopin’s “Prelude Op 28 No 7” and the “Grande Valse Brillante Op 18.” Photographs of the dancers show, I hope, the eerie beauty and grace of this haunting classic ballet.

Equally impressive was the performance of the Susan Mohip Dance Company with principal dancer, Rana Mohip, dancing to the music of Jit Samaroo’s “Saaj Sameelan” and “Ustsav Ki Awaz” (Festival of Voices) arranged by Amrit Samaroo. Here, again, one hopes the photographs give some idea of the beauty, grace and excellence of this performance of Indian dance.

The National Steel Symphony gave the support both classical ballet and Indian dances (with the addition of the tabla) needed.

We travelled from India to Latin America for the next selection played by the National Steel.

The first number was the ever-popular “Guantanamera” by Jose?to Fern?ndez. In the second number, “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Dorham, arranged by Neil Simon, the National Steel showed off their paces in a jam session with conductor Jessel Murray as, so to speak, the ringmaster, as one or another pannist played variations on the theme. Third and last of the Latin contribution to the evening’s concert was “Tico-Tico No Fuba” by Zequinha de Abreu, arranged for the National Steel by Amrit Samaroo – a very lively piece from another era, but nonetheless pleasing for all that.

Vocalist Kizzie Ruiz joined the orchestra for a solo, “At Last!” by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren; being a fan of Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Elina Garan?a and other opera singers of that ilk, one makes no comment on the singer’s rendition, a la popular US style, of that ballad.

On the other hand one greatly enjoyed Chris Herbert’ straightforward singing of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ballad “Love Changes Everything.” Kizzie and Chris then sang a duet, “The Prayer” by David Foster and Carol Bayer Sager.

The concert ended with “Trini” by Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc, arranged by Amrit Samaroo. Pan On A Higher Note was a great musical treat for fans of popular classical music, good (and classic) Latin American music, and popular ballads, local and international.

Our thanks to the National Steel — and admiration for their fortitude in remaining standing throughout the concerto when strings, woodwinds, brass remain seated and even timpani players get to sit down from time to time in regular classic orchestras.

This was a most enjoyable evening of “Pan On A Higher Note” — one hopes this is but the first of a series of classical music performances from the National Steel Symphony Orchestra, with director/conductor Jessel Murray.


"Pan on a Higher Note"

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