For Pan Fantasy Steel Orchestra, choosing between Machel Montano’s “The Fog” and Superblue’s “Fantastic Friday” wasn’t easy.
“We started with ‘The Fog’ and while the chorus sounded good and we liked it because it’s a party song, the arranger was not feeling the music,” said band leader, Wendy Jones.
Al Foster, who has been the band’s arranger for the past decade, made the switch.
“We like Superblue’s music and, just last January, we did a Blue Boy medley for our Snowflakes on Steel concert and we added ‘Fantastic Friday’ at the end of the medley,” said Jones. “It went down well with our group and the audience.”
Pan Fantasy’s rendition of “Fantastic Friday” also resonated with the judges at last Friday night’s Ontario Steelpan Association (OSA) Pan Alive competition at Lamport Stadium. The band successfully defended its title, narrowly edging Afropan, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Jones said Pan Fantasy – which was inducted into the Pan Alive Hall of Fame last year for a third time – was ready for the challengers.
“The band was well rehearsed, we were very comfortable with our song and the music was accommodating, clear and well presented,” she said. “That was our recipe for success.”
Leading up to the competition, the band practiced nightly during the month of July.
“The practice sessions lasted about five hours and they were very intense,” said Jones. “This is a very demanding competition and you have to be on top of your game.”
Pan Fantasy won a $1,500 cash prize while Afropan’s reward was $1,000. Pan Masters and Golden Harps, which tied for third, shared $500.
This is the first year that cash prizes were awarded in the Pan Alive contest since Share sponsored the event a few years ago. Each of the bands contributed $250, which went to the prize money.
Panatics was fourth, followed by Salah Steelpan Academy, Silhouettes, Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra, New Dimension, the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton, St. Jamestown Youth Centre, JK Vibrations and Metrotones.
Points were awarded for arrangement and general performance – 40 for each category – and tone and rhythm.
During last Friday’s event, the OSA paid tribute to its former treasurer, Megan Thomas, who died two weeks ago at age 49. The wife of OSA chair, Delano Thomas, was a pan player and founding member of Symphonyx Steel Orchestra.