Pan pioneer Curtis Pierre died on Sunday, aged 84. His daughter Giselle said he died peacefully at his Glencoe home.
His granddaughter Quelita, in a Facebook post, invited family and friends to take part in the “nine nights” being held at 17 Carlos Street, Woodbrook.
Giselle told Newsday her father had emergency diverticulitis surgery last month, spent five days in hospital and was taken home to recuperate.
However, said Giselle, “He started getting depressed. He stopped eating and only wanted boosts, soups and juices. He didn’t want to live a life depending on people. He practically gave up.”
She added that though two nurses took excellent care of him at home, he lost the will to live two days before he died of a heart attack.
Brought up on Henry Street and in Belmont, Port of Spain, Pierre was educated at Belmont Boys’ Intermediate School and then St Mary’s College.
It was a teacher, Jervais Girod, at St Mary’s College, who later became a priest, who gave Pierre his first pan and helped him learn about pan music, along with the Moyau family of Sackville Street.
Pierre formed the Melody Makers in 1950, but changed the name to Dixieland when he became the leader, at a time when playing in a steelband was not considered socially acceptable.
After Dixieland first went on the road in 1951, he took over the captaincy of the band from from Ernest Ferreira two years later.
That year he was also chosen to represent TT in the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) II on a visit to Miami. Among its members were Art de Coteau (bass), Coleman Rocke from Esso steelband, Martin Tate and Block Bonaparte (tenor pan). Pierre played the cello pan.
Pierre led Dixieland to a clean sweep of wins at the Trinidad Music Festival, beating bands like Invaders, Casablanca, Renegades and North Stars in 1960. Dixieland went on to cut its first album the following year for a tour of Europe, Africa, and the USA.
By this time the acceptance of steelbands and their players encouraged more middle-class young people to get more involved in the pan movement, even though there were still strenuous objections from their relatives and friends.
After leaving Dixieland in 1974, Pierre got involved in the administration of the steelband movement, as well as serving as a judge at Panorama for several years.
In the 70s too, Giselle said her father, together with Andrew Cromwell, “revolutionised pan in churches. They took pan to churches around the country and that was how folk mass started.”
Pierre also worked closely with the late prime minister Dr Eric Williams for the promotion and general improvement of pan, and later taught students at his own Pan Academy from 1993.
At the funeral, after Lawford Dupres delivers the eulogy, Mico Skair, an original member of Dixieland, will perform with Pan Vibes and the Goretti Singers to deliver Hear O Lord and Sing Out My Soul, two numbers that were on the Sing Out My Soul album made by the Goretti Singers, featuring Dixieland and released in the 70s.
Another ace pannist, Ray Holman, is expected to play Ave Maria, and Denyse Plummer will sing the recessional, How Great Thou Art.
Pierre, the son of the late Cyril and Thelma Pierre, leaves to mourn his wife Joy, former wife Edith, children Curtis Jr, Giselle, Marisela and Denis, stepchildren Jillian and Sean eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was the brother of Terry, Joy Chang, Janet Jardine, Ian, Sheila Gittens and Carol-Ann.
His funeral will be held at St Theresa’s RC Church, Woodbrook on September 13, at 9 am, followed by a private cremation at the St James Crematorium.