For years the Naparima Girls’ High School and Naparima College have established themselves as two of the premier schools, excelling in the field of academics, sports, music, drama, dance and other disciplines.
Now they are bent on charting a new course. For 2018, the two Presbyterian schools have combined their musical talents to create a historic foray into the Junior Panorama competition with the Naparima Combined Steel Orchestra.
They are seeking to bring home pan glory, not only to their schools, but San Fernando as well.
To achieve this, the schools have enlisted the help of past student Desiree Seecharan and her partner Shaquille Vincent, to arrange and lead them into the finals scheduled to take place at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain on February 4.
Preliminary judging of participating primary and secondary schools ended last Friday. Twelve schools from each category will be selected to compete in the Savannah finals. The combined team performed Falling by Kees Dieffenthaler, before the judges at the Skiffle Steel Orchestra panyard, San Fernando last Wednesday.
The brainchild behind Naparima Combined is musicologist and recently retired Naps Girls’ music teacher, Bernadette Roberts. Speaking about the historic pan venture, Roberts, who has managed an excellent music programme both at the school and privately, said she has been toying with the idea of entering her school into the National Panorama for years.
Several challenges delayed this realisation, but as the old saying goes, nothing happens before its time.
“I wanted to do this for the past three years because we had some very good girls who came up through the ranks. CSEC girls who were interested in the pan and some sixth formers who are leaving this year. They really wanted to have this experience before they leave school, so we decided to go with it. We did not have the numbers, but the boys at the college were also interested and so we decided to team up,” Roberts told Newsday.
Roberts approached her principal Carolyn Bally-Gosine, who was receptive to the idea as it provided another platform for her students to shine.
“I asked how much it was going to cost because we did not have sponsors. But we went ahead. Rehearsals started in November. Mrs Roberts was able to procure the services of Shaquille and Desiree to arrange and direct and Skiffle Steel Orchestra offered us their pans, panyard and sound system,” Bally-Gosine said.
“I think this is a worthwhile venture, for our young people to channel their energy in a positive way towards nation building rather than destructive behaviour and crime. I think this venture is one that would keep us on the map and even take us to greater heights.”
Blown away by their performance before the judges, Bally-Gosine said they certainly proved a readiness for the finals. On the band’s future, she said, “We don’t want this to be a one-off venture. We would be glad to continue this new trend we would have set. As schools known for our academic performance, we want to show that they have been able to diversify even further.”
San Fernando Mayor and manager of Skiffle, Junia Regrello, said he was impressed by what he saw. “To see young people coming from well-established educational institutions like Naparima Girls and Naparima College, committed to the cause and doing this, I think this augurs well for the future of the artform.”
He said he was able to observe the students labouring on the pan through the Christmas vacation, on a daily basis from 9 am to 3 pm. “This speaks volume for their commitment and passion for what they are doing and I wish them well.”
Seecharan and Vincent, who also made their debut as arrangers for a secondary school, said they were overwhelmed by the orchestra’s performance.
“The first part is over. We pray for the best as we await the results and then on to the finals,” Vincent said.