NAPARIMA Combined Steel Orchestra is ready to successfully defend its 2019 School’s Junior Panorama title.
The students from Naparima Girls’ High School and Naparima College played their hearts out for the judges at Tuesday’s preliminary round at the CAL Skiffle Pan Theatre, Coffee Street, San Fernando.
Present to cheer them on was former culture minister Joan Yuille-Williams – a former Naps Girl herself, along with principals of both schools – Carolyn Bally-Gosine and Dr Michael Dowlat.
“It’s a pleasure to be here to support my alma mater. I was here last year and I am back again and I will be in the Savannah on January 26 for the finals cheering them on.”
Although the finalists have not yet been selected, the former minister is confident the players will be among the top ten.
“I think they did extremely well,” she said after hearing their performance of Shaquille Vincent and Desiree Seecharan’s arrangement of Aaron Duncan’s Back to Basics.
“When you see the size of the pupils and the age of the pupils, I think they produced an excellent show and I hope they do well up to the finals.”
Yuille-Williams said she heard a few of the other schools play, “And I think the standard of the pan this year is quite good, especially for the time they had to practise. I am amazed and highly satisfied.”
Bruce Roberts of the Ministry of Education’s multicultural unit, said quite a few schools have withdrawn from the competition because of the short period of time to rehearse.
While many of the big bands and even the school steelbands are without sponsors, Naps Combined has attracted two sponsors. Unipet is back as the main sponsor for the third consecutive year, along with Barcay Ltd which has come on board for the first time.
Unipet hosted an appreciation function for players on Sunday evening. Chairman, Dr Afraz Ali, said although some of its service stations were closed as they awaited a proper fuel agreement with government, sponsorship was never in jeopardy. Ali and CEO Dexter Riley pledged continuing support. Riley said the company was committed to young people and pan.
Ali, who has children playing in the band, hailed the discipline, dedication and passion of the players, their teachers, parents and the arrangers.
He observed that since November they have been at the panyard and have kept the focus.
“Unipet has faced and overcome many obstacles, because 'impossible' is not a word in our dictionary. Nothing is impossible for us, and we don’t use the work luck, because only through hard work and discipline you can achieve and remain at the top.”
Riley agreed, saying the company was happy and honoured to be part of the experience.
LED pan sticks were given to the players, "so they can light up the stage on their road to success," Riley said.
Barcay directors, Shaun and Melissa Manocha, said Naparima College asked for their help to offset a shortfall and, as southerners and pan lovers, they were happy to assist.
“Our company believes in giving back to society and charity especially when it comes to children who are our future leaders.”
Bally-Gosine said it was very expensive to compete in Panorama. She said without the sponsors and San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello, who has for the third consecutive year made available CAL Skiffle's pans and panyard the players.
Bally-Gosine said the pan has now added another dimension and diversified their curriculum.