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America

Published on July 29th, 2013 | by Brianne Bowen - New Haven Independent

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St. Luke’s Puts Kids in the Steel Band

Children crossed their drumsticks above their heads, hitting them together to start off a rendition of jazz legend Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”—and they were off filling St. Luke’s Episcopal Church with steel-pan magic. The song opened the Steel Pan Summer Camp’s concert at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Friday morning. Students recruited from New Haven Public Schools played songs by artists from Mozart to Bruno Mars to the Seattle-based rap group Macklemore. As parents filmed on iPhones and cameras, the children got the audience swaying and clapping along as they showed off the results of two weeks of rehearsals sponsored by the St Luke’s Steel Band.

“In a feat of memory and youth,” instructor Debby Teason told the audience, students had learned Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” in just one day. Christopher Burney, 12, started the piece off on the drum kit, providing the underlying rhythm while other parts joined in on the up-tempo song. Two boys in white T-shirts carried the melody on small silver “tenor” drums. In the audience, a little girl in a yellow dress started clapping along and bobbing her head. Soon, the young musicians had wrapped the rest of the audience up in the rollicking tune, too. The kids broke out into song at the piece’s end, singing the chorus – a series of “na”s and “oh”s, followed by “and all my people say” – that reached the heights of the rafters.

Besides more modern tunes, the concert included a classical piece arranged for steel drum: an allegro by Mozart. While other students returned to their seats in the pews, Morgan Edwards and Kobi Spence took center stage to perform the duet. Teason advised the girls to take a “good deep breath,” then let them start the piece, a performance that highlighted the clear tone of the instruments.

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