Center Stage in Cruz Bay Pan-o-Rama: The Joseph Gomez Elementary School Panbusters, above, under the direction of Liston “Matey” Sewer of East End, St. John, had center stage at Frank Powell Park for the St. John Festival’s Pan-O-Rama at sunset on Saturday, June 6. The young performers enthralled the crowd of visitors and residents.
CRUZ BAY — The vibrant and melodic sound of the steel pan rang throughout the waterfront Franklin Powell Sr. Park as Pan-O-Rama opened the 2015 St. John Fesrtival celebration on Saturday, June 6.
As the sun set over Cruz Bay, attendees were swept up by the sweet notes from 11 steel pan bands including the St. Thomas Allstars Band, the Wess Stars, Pan in Motion, the Ulla Muller Panatics, the Sibilly Sun Rays, the Bertha C. Boschulte Burning Blazers, the Rising Stars and the native St. John Love City Pan Dragons
Chairwoman of the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization Leona Smith was pleased with the attendance of the 2015 Festival Panorama.
“We had a very good turnout for the start of Festival,” Smith said. “We had a well-deserving crowd as well; everyone is dancing to the beat of the drum. Many of them come to St. John to enjoy themselves, then leave with a beautiful tune in their head.”
Early on in the program the contestants for the upcoming Festival Princess Selection Pageant and the Ms. St. John Festival Selection Pageant were brought forward to introduce themselves, invite the crowd to attend the pageants and to encourage attendees to enjoy the food and music.
Partakers were regaled by the competing collection of youth steel bands from St. Thomas and St. John. These bands not only provide wonderful entertainment, but also continue a tradition of giving structure and guidance to the youth among their ranks.
“This band began back in 1981 as a juvenile delinquency prevention program” explained Director of the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra Adelia Henneman. “We give them a nice atmosphere to showcase their talent”.
The Rising Stars Steel Orchestra has members that range between the ages of 10 to 17.
“We help keep kids on the right track” explained music instructor Sean Steele. “We do what we can to make sure these kids are on a path to graduating, pursuing higher learning and avoiding trouble”.
“Studies have been conducted that show that students who study music, oftentimes do well in school,” explained President of the Wess Stars Organization Maurice Donavan Jr.
The Wess Stars are 35 members strong and mostly comprises of residents from the Kirwan Terrace community on St. Thomas.
The band is currently raising money so that they can take part in a Trinidadian pan fest in August.
“Our group is community based and not funded by the government,” said Donavan Jr. “We are supported by volunteers and some private businesses.”
“We think of ourselves as an unofficial afterschool program, and we are open to people outside of the community,” he explained.
As sweltering sun began to set, the beloved St. John Love City Pan Dragons came forward to play.
The Love City Pan Dragons are a common but always welcome sight at the cultural events on St. John.
Though their numbers have fluctuated, they remain and strong as ever.
The group recently announced that they are now accepting adult members; diverging from their usual age range of 9 to 17.
“We are still very much about the youth, but by allowing adults to join, we hope to inspire the youth to work by the adults’ example,” explained band stalwart Elaine Penn. “We always strive to expand the band and become better.”
“The kids are ready, the adults are ready,” Penn said. “We are all ready to show what we can do. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the band progresses in a year” posed Penn.
A number of bands have made themselves open to adults.
“Our membership is generally ages 18 and up, but those who are younger can join if they come with a parent,” said St. Thomas Allstars Steel Band Inc. President Gerda D. Sebastien.
“We are proud to be a part of Virgin Islands culture. We love what we do!” Sebastien added.
“I certainly hope the band grows with a new cadre of people after Panorama” declared Sebastien. Those interested in joining the St. Thomas Allstars Steel Band can call the number 340-642-2498.
The Festival Panorama marks the beginning of St. John Festival.
The next event is the St. John Festival Princess Selection Pageant on June 14, at 6 p.m. in the Winston Wells Ball Field.
“I want to wish everyone a safe and happy festival,” concluded Festival Chair Smith.