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The World

Published on July 3rd, 2016 | by Peter Ray Blood Trinidad Guardian Newspapers

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Did St Mary’s have first school pan side?

Silver Stars conductor Donnell Thomas known for his theatricality had patrons at Pan with the Saints intrigued by his costume for the band’s performance of music from Phantom of the Opera.

What a weekend that was. It actually began on Thursday evening with the special screening of Star Trek Into Darkness at Digicel IMAX, followed by the Johnny Walker Blue event, hosted by Bryden’s at Prime Restaurant. Pre-committed to Raf Robertson’s Majesty concert at Queen’s Hall on Friday evening, I regrettably was unable to attend the pan jam by Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars Duke Street panyard in Port-of-Spain. When I attended Queen’s Royal College back in the ‘60s, a standard joke was that the priests at rival St Mary’s College said special prayers each time Saints beat Royalians in an Intercol football match. Well, apparently some special prayers were offered, and answered, last Sunday when St Mary’s College Past Students’ Union held its first ever Pan With The Saints production at the College, located on Pembroke Street, Port-of-Spain. Torrential rain fell the entire day but miraculously ceased just before the 5 pm start of the event, with the weather staying perfect throughout the show’s three-hour duration, so much so a semblance of a rising full moon could be seen at night.

A surprising revelation was made early in the proceedings by St Mary’s Dean Enrico Rajah, one which sent pan archivists and Pan Trinbago officials searching their memories for verification.
Rajah said he had been informed the previous Thursday, by St Mary’s alumnae Ernest Ferreira, that St Mary’s College had a school steelband in 1947. Rajah added that students of St Mary’s and St Joseph’s Convent also produced a Carnival band in 1951. Rajah said the well-beaten belief that Catholic priests outlawed the playing of the national instrument by students is a myth, and that students were neither given detention or suspended for playing pan. But, a few St Mary’s alumni, who attended the College in the ‘50s, said that they were disciplined for playing in steelbands.

One alumnae said when students played in steelbands on Carnival days, they had to exit their band on approaching the college on Frederick Street and take a detour along adjoining streets to avoid been seen, and rejoin the band beneath Park Street, en route to Marine Square (Independence Square). Astounded Pan Trinbago officials in attendance say they will do a thorough investigation into Perreira’s claim as this can be one of the most significant revelations made about the history of pan. In the mid-’40s, pan was well on its way to being perfected as a legitimate instrument, its metamorphosis being pioneered by technicians like Neville Jules and Ellie Mannette. In the wake of World War II, after 1945, based on Stephen Stuempfle’s book (The Steelband Movement), emerging steelbands, taking names from war movies, and their locations, included Casablanca (based near La Cou Harpe); Destination Tokyo (John John); Cross of Lorraine (Hell Yard); Night Invaders (formerly Oval Boys, Woodbrook); Desperadoes (Laventille Hill); Sun Valley (St James); Bataan (San Fernando); Hill 60 (Gonzales); and, Pearl Harbour (San Fernando).

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