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The World

Published on August 14th, 2016 | by Brent and Kilburn Times

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St Michael’s youth steel band’s annual concert raises the roof in Stonebridge

St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra, part of the St Michael Youth Project SYMP), enthralled audiences in Hillside last night with their eclectic mix of pan music. Under the guidance of Patrick McKay, co-ordinator and Alfred ‘Freddy’ Totesaut, music arranger and teacher, the group performed a note perfect and nuanced Mozart Symphony No 1, Strauss’s Voices of Spring, and Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty having learnt all three from memory in under three weeks. They ended the evening with their debut performance of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive which they will play at the Notting Hill Carnival in two weeks.

Last year they battled big national bands to come second in the best steel band on the road competition, losing by one point. Mr Totesaut, who performed for Princess Margaret on her honeymoon in Tobago in 1960, said: “What these kids have played this evening takes five weeks to learn. They have done it in two and a half weeks. I can’t believe it. In two weeks they will perform at the biggest street carnival in Europe, Notting Hill. Last year they came second, losing by just one point.”

Patrick McKay, SYMP co-ordinator said: “Our concerts are free. We tackle social isolation through positive engagement and challenge the negative perception of young people through our concerts and public activities.” Through a grant from the Jack Petchy Foundation, the SMYP members have been awarded for a host of skills including volunteering and fundraising. Volunteers came from the HeadStart programme to help out in the evening. Orchestra member Joy Mangwata, 13, said: “I have been coming here for five years. This music is a big part of me.” Dylan Mitchell, 15, added: “My sister started playing her then I did. I was shy when I started this eight or nine years ago, I didn’t know what to expect from this.”

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