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Published on May 9th, 2015 | by Jenny Gilberg


North-East Steelbands’ Festival Season

The spring is always a productive time for northern steel bands, with regional music festivals to enter, such as the Ryton, Tynedale and Wansbeck music festivals as well as regional rounds of Music For Youth competition. These competitive festivals are open to groups and soloists from all sorts of musical genres, from choirs, jazz bands, orchestras, pipes and drums, ceilidh, brass, woodwind, stringed instruments, but over the last few years steel bands have been making a strong impact.

This year, bands from Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland enjoyed success at all of the regional festivals, coming away with an impressive array of trophies and titles. The Wansbeck Music Festival in particular has embraced pan, creating an entire steel pan class with the addition of soloist categories, small ensembles (2-4 players) and steel bands.

Wansbeck Music Festival

This year’s Wansbeck Music Festival saw the largest steel pan class to date with 130 pannists taking part; it really was a great night of music making. 11 steel bands, 14 ensembles and 4 soloists battled for the sought after No1 spots.

Entries came from: Bedlington Station First School, Chantry Middle School (Morpeth), Newminster Middle School (Morpeth), Northumberland Church of England Academy (Ashington), North Tyneside Steel Band and KEVI Steel (King Edward VI School, Morpeth).

Tutor Jenny Gilberg was proud of all her bands and her pupils who performed as soloists and in ensembles, “It was very encouraging to see so many pannists push themselves and have a go playing in a small ensemble or as a soloist.

Judges were impressed with the high level of musicianship and also the range of music being played on steel pan from jazz/swing, soca, Caribbean, pop, R’n’B and theme music to classical pieces. Traditionally a classical music competition, the judges were particularly impressed with the classical pieces performed, which included: Dance of the Little Swans (Tchaikovsky), Canon in D (Pachelbel), The Flower Duet (Delibes), The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Handel) and Fur Elise (Beethoven). Other highlights included: the theme tunes from Wallis and Gromit and Super Mario Brothers, Lambada, Brazil, Dollar, Ghost, Green Onions, Old Lady Walk a Mile and a Half, Hold Yuh, Happiest Man Alive, to name a few.

The results were as follows:

Steel Band Category

Under 11 Band – Bedlington Station Frist School

Under 13 Band – NTSB Training Band

Under 16 Band – KEVI Steel

Under 18 Band – NTSB Performance Band

Steel Ensemble (2-4 piece) Category

Under 13 Ensemble – Claire Simpson, Tamsin Reed

Under 16 Ensemble – NCEA Academy (Abbie Thompson-Clark, Emily Robinson,                 Mya Waldock, Ebony Wootton)

Under 18 Ensemble – KEVI (Fiona Matthewson, Karla Kern, Scarlet Mercer, Catherine Simpson)

Steel Soloist Category

Under 13 Soloist- Tamsin Reed

Under 16 Soloist- Sarah Williams

Under 18 Soloist – Elwin Marshall

Tynedale Festival

NTSB kickstarted their festival season with a bang! North Tyneside Steelband boasts 4 bands: Training Band for beginners, Junior Performance Band (typically 12-16 year old players who have some years of experience), Performance Band (for experienced players) and an Adult Band, Precious Metal.

The Training Band (newly reformed in September) made an excellent debut in competitive playing with renditions of Lambada and Mucho Mambo. They were placed 2nd overall but got excellent feedback from the judges for their controlled dynamic playing and particularly on their dancing skills.

The Junior Performance Band were next to take the stage in the U18 Instrumental Ensemble category playing Brazil, California Dreaming, Queen of Sheba. Down on numbers the juniors still managed to pull off a confident performance and attained 1st place. The judges particularly liked their Queen of Sheba and were genuinely impressed to hear classical music played by a steel band.

Last but not least were the Performance Band who were competing in the open instrumental category, which was nice for our older players who are out of full time education and often don’t get the opportunity to play competitively after the age of 18. The performance band aced their set of Las Isla Bonita, Maple Leaf Rag and Palladio and achieved the highest distinction mark in the whole competition. The judges were very impressed with NTSB as a whole.

Chilly Road Steel Band entered and won the Under 11 category at the Tynedale festival.

 Jenny Gilberg is particularly proud of the Wansbeck Music Festival, because every band, ensemble and soloist was tutored by her. She  arranged a whopping 41 pieces of music for the competition!
Jenny has worked with the festival organisers over a couple of years to introduce a soloist and a small ensemble category to the pan section of the festival, and for this they presented her with the Elsie Tunney Memorial Cup for her contribution to the festival and for the development of young people’s music making. Pan Podium congratulates Jenny on her amazing achievements!


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