By Klysha Best
If the late calypsonian Merchant were alive today, he would see that his 1985 song ‘Pan in Danger’, could not hold water anymore, as the future of pan is definitely in good hands, as was evident during the finals of the 2023 National Schools Panorama competition, which took place on Sunday, January 22, 2023.
The primary schools’ portion of the competition was regained by Guaico Presbyterian Primary, but the school that won the hearts and people’s choice was St Gabriel’s Girls’ RC School from San Fernando.
The beautiful, spirited and highly energised girls played the well suited ‘Happy Place’ by Lyrikal and tied for third place with Success Laventille RC Steel Orchestra who played ‘Famalay.’
Speaking with Catholic News, principal Carlene Voisin said the student body was overjoyed and the players were thankful and excited.
She said: “The entire process from practice to stage was a good lesson for them and a good experience in understanding dedication and hard work – the formula to achieve success.”
The pan ensemble, which went by the name ‘St Gabrielites’, consisted of 34 students and Voisin pointed out that for many of the girls, this would have been their first-time playing pan.
The Gabrielites first entered the junior pan competition in 2017, placing 4th in their debut.
However, they did not participate in the years following, and Voisin said their aim was to enter in 2020 –2021, but then the pandemic hit.
She said: “We have a developmental programme that would have started just before Covid. But, we lost so much time and experienced players in that space of time and had to start from scratch.”
“At St Gabriel’s Girls’ RC, we have clubs for most of the performing arts – drama, dance, art and pan. However, the interest in the pan is overwhelming and our room capacity is small,” said Voisin.
“For the Junior Panorama, we partnered with NLCB Fonclaire Steel Orchestra. Although we have pans, courtesy the Pan in the Schools programme, we did have need for their superb equipment and facilities,” Voisin said.
“Our arranger also came courtesy the band, a young Upper 6 student from Holy Faith Convent, Couva named Chasez Webb and the managing director of Fonclaire is also the pan tutor at our school – Mr Darren Shepherd,” Voisin added.
The principal gave kudos to the parents of the participating students, who gave time and energy to enable their success. Voisin said: “We started practising at the end of November and then took the whole week of Christmas vacation. We did not do any practice until January.”
“During that time, we had a group of parents who were at the panyard religiously, parents who assisted with transport, costuming, you name it. The concept of the performance was mapped out by myself, along with the arranger and the team at Fonclaire,” said Voisin.
“We wanted to return to that place of happiness following all the hurdles of the last few years and created the concept that Covid was an illusion.”
Voisin said she couldn’t be happier with her girls and she said their eyes are already on the top trophy, having improved from 4th to 3rd in just their second entry into the competition.