As the appetizer, guests were greeted with the sweet sounds of steelpan music played by Hameed “The Pan Piper” Shaq outside the gate of Fort York National Historical Site last Saturday afternoon.
Once inside the walls that enclose Canada’s largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings, they were treated to a main course provided by some of the finest pan outfits in the community.
Fort York National Historic Site, which is maintained by the City of Toronto, collaborated with Pan Arts Network, the Trinidad & Tobago consulate and Canadian Federation of Steelpan to stage a five-hour free outdoor festival.
“When we look at all the bands in Toronto and the amount of events we have during the summer, there is only one big gathering and that’s the Pan Alive event,” said Wendy Jones, one of the organizers. “What we have done is created a free-spirited event where people can just come out to a park and relax. When we were looking for a name, New Generation came up and it seemed appropriate because we have something new and fresh that will be annual.”
Jones said next year’s event will be held over two days.
Participating bands included Gemini Pan Groove, Afro Pan, St. Jamestown Youth Centre Steel Orchestra, Symphonyx Steel Orchestra, Malvern Praise on Pan, Silhouettes Steel Orchestra, Pan Fantasy and the Farmers Rhythm section.
Pan Fantasy players, Brianna Bryan and Sojourner San Vicente, were excited to be part of the new event.
“I love playing pan anywhere,” said Bryan, who joined Pan Fantasy a decade ago after playing for Jesse Ketchum outfit for 10 years. “This is a great atmosphere.”
San Vicente has been a Pan Fantasy member for 13 years.
“There are so may beautiful new things you learn from playing an instrument,” said the McMaster University second-year kinesiology student. “I am happy to come out here and share it with audiences.”
Two-time Calypso Monarch Panman Pat (Pat McNeilly) introduced interested steelpan newcomers to playing the instrument around their necks.
“I brought pans for people to play and all they have to do is put it around their necks and I will provide them with free lessons,” said McNeilly.
Councillor Michael Thompson, the chair of the city’s economic development committee, said the festival is for everyone.
“It presents some of Toronto’s best steelpan groups along with the next generation of artists,” he said.
Guests included Trinidad & Tobago consul general Dr. Vidya Gyan Tota-Maharaj, Canadian Federation of Steelpan chair Ken Bhagan and Christabelle Crichlow, the wife of veteran steelpan educator, Julius Sylvester (Tommy) Crichlow. Itah Sadu was the Master of Ceremony.
By RON FANFAIR