WE TODAY join with the national community in mourning the death of Ken “Professor” Philmore, 58, one of the outstanding pannists of our time.
Philmore’s love affair with the national instrument began when he was only four years old. He got his introduction to pan through his cousins Ferdi and Barry Brathwaite. In 1974, at age of 15, he joined Hatters Steel Orchestra in south Trinidad with the intention of developing his skills as a player. Pannists there dubbed him “professor” because of his heavily-rimmed spectacles.
Though he began as a self-taught artist, Philmore went on to perform with some of the most iconic musicians in the world. The list includes Tito Puente, Ella Fitzgerald, Tina Turner, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Sarah Vaughn, Maria Carey, Freddie Jackson, George Benson, and Bob James.
Philmore’s incredible career was such that he also performed at places such as Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theatre in New York and the Royal Albert Hall in London. He was regarded as one of the top steel-pan soloists in the world.
This outstanding son of the soil was privileged to be the first Trinidadian artist to be featured at BET Jazz Central. He lectured at universities worldwide and inspired thousands of imitators.
Philmore impressed with his arrangements for Fonclaire Steel Orchestra and Phase II Pan Groove. So much so that in 1989 he was honoured by Pan Trinbago as the most outstanding music arranger, while in New York he received a special award for his contribution to music by mayor Ed Koch. He captured six New York Panorama titles with BWIA Sonatas Steel Orchestra.
“He was responsible for some of the most memorable Panorama music ever composed,” said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley this week. Philmore’s hits include Pan By Storm, Pan Ecstasy and Pan in the Party.
The circumstances of Philmore’s death, which came after a car accident on Republic Day, should be subject to a thorough inquiry. Philmore was driving his Toyota Hilux north along the Solomon Hochoy Highway when he picked up a skid near Claxton Bay at around 8.45 am. It should be determined whether the cause of this sequence of events was preventable.
Meanwhile, we express condolences to Philmore’s family and loved ones and the members of the international pan fraternity, and indeed the TT diaspora all over the world, that have been plunged into grief. But despite the international reach of his career, his funeral will, perhaps fittingly, take place tomorrow in San Fernando. Mayor Junia Regrello described Philmore as an inspiration.
“He represented San Fernando with pride,” Regrello said.
All can take comfort in the fact that the “Professor’s” luminous rendition of Pan in A Minor on the 1987 album Pan Assembly is among his many gems destined to live on.