Regional News Steelbands North Newsletter Spring 2013 Edition – Panpodium

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Published on April 11th, 2013 | by Robbie Joseph


Steelbands North Newsletter Spring 2013 Edition

Regional News

Steelbands North’s own North Tyneside Festival of Steelbands enters its seventh year at Wallsend Memorial Hall on Friday 5th July. TLA Steelband from Sussex are planning to travel north again this year following their visit to the festival in 2011. This year the festival will focus on supporting established regional steelbands which have been unable to take part in previous years, but there will be room for newer bands too, just don’t leave it too late to book your place as space is limited.

We highlighted the drop in pan gigs last year and this is the time to see if the recession is still biting and our bands will be struggling this year, or whether bands can claw their way back to previous levels of income from gigs to enable them to survive where some have already bitten the dust across the country – fingers crossed.

Spring term is the time for music festivals in this region. Wansbeck is one of these, and this year it offered dedicated steelband classes, that’s a first as far as we know. You can read a special gig review of this in a future issue. Tutor and ex SN young leader Jenny Gilberg had eight steelbands in that event from five local schools and was joint tutor for the other three – a fantastic achievement which was recognised by the adjudicator and festival committee who awarded Jenny the Elsie Tunney Memorial Cup and Bursary for encouraging young people to give outstanding performances and for forward thinking of ways to promote the festival.

International News

50th Anniversary of Trinidad & Tobago Panorama

Three players from Newcastle and a small group from London made the long journey to Trinidad & Tobago to participate in the National Panorama competition on its 50th anniversary. Jenny Gilberg (North Tyneside Steelband, pictured left), Claire Suckling (Sunshine Panners) and Sarah Fothergill (formerly of Drumdin) performed in the Single Pan Band Semi Final with San Juan All Stars, but the band did not make it to the final. Jenny also competed in the Large Band (120 players) Semi Final and Final with BP Renegades. The band jumped 4 places in the Final and finished 3rd with 275 points behind Phase II Pan Groove (283 points) and Trinidad All Stars (278 points). Check out the competition on ‘When Steel Talks’.

National News

There’s also a steelband friendly national music festival with about 60 regional heats in March – Music for Youth’s events will feature dozens of steelbands across the country and several in the north east including NTSB and Shotton Hall. Keith Hewson, Music Mentor & Adjudicator for Music for Youth has a unique overview of the steelband scene across the country and we are pleased to be able to print his comments here.

‘One of the delights and privileges of being a music adjudicator is the opportunity to travel the country listening to hundreds of ensembles offering a vast diversity of styles and genres. During March Music for Youth have sent me to several Regional Festivals from Gateshead in the north to Northampton in the midlands and I have listened to many superb performances from Orchestras, Choirs, Brass Bands, Wind bands, Jazz groups and Chamber Ensembles. I have been astonished at the high level of musicianship and technical skill on display at these festivals from the country’s fine young musicians. I have also had the pleasure to be entertained by many Steel Bands at these festivals and the standards of musical excellence from them have simply left me speechless.

Steel Bands bring something that is quite unique to these festivals. Their performances allow you to admire the energy and youthful enthusiasm from the musicians of the bands. I do love the carnival atmosphere that each generate and of course the audience love their appearances and often spontaneously respond by clapping along to the pulsating rhythms and even some improvised dancing has been witnessed!!

I have been monitoring the development of Steel Bands at these festivals for over 20 years now and I do see a lot of changes. The actual instruments (the pans) are of better quality now and they are better tuned and maintained. The repertoire has also changed enormously and bands are performing such a diversity of styles including classical arrangements, film music, pop and ballads, as well as the Latin American standards so loved by audiences throughout the country.

But it’s the young players that have transformed the genre. They demonstrate outstanding technical ability with their melodic clarity, vibrant rhythms, understated and restrained accompaniments, wonderful dynamic contrasts, coruscating tone colours and never ending diversity of harmonic and contrapuntal textures. Add to that their ability to always move and dance with music and their smiles of enjoyment you then have the complete entertainment package. They bring so much joy to festivals and we need more of them in the years to come.

My lasting memory of the 2013 Music for Youth Regional Auditions will be the performance of the North Tyneside Steelband at the Gateshead centre. Their breathtaking performance was a privilege to see and they displayed all the qualities that I have described earlier. They are a perfect example of what a steelband should aspire to achieve. Their music took me through the full spectrum of emotions producing sounds that were exciting, delicate, evocative, subtle, joyous and often brilliant! Their musicians and musical directors have my praise and admiration. Long may they continue the development of this wonderful musical tradition.’

Keith Hewson, March 2013

Keith was Director of Music at Egglescliffe School for 32 years. During that time his Orchestras, Brass Bands, Choirs, Jazz Ensembles, and Chamber Groups appeared at the Music for Youth National Festival over 80 times winning many outstanding performance awards and appearing at the Royal Albert Hall School proms on 19 occasions. For over 10 years Keith was a member of the governments Music and Dance Scheme Panel and the Specialist Schools Music Expert Panel. In 2002 he was voted Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year.

It’s interesting to note Keith’s ideas on the strengths that steelbands exhibit, and that he wants, maybe expects, them to be more prominent in future. Can we live up to that expectation?


Local Band News

Chantry Middle School, Morpeth

Chantry Panners more than doubled in numbers in the Autumn Term 2012. Tutor Jenny Gilberg now runs four sessions on a Monday to cope with the high demand. New Music teacher Catherine Ellin has embraced the school’s rich steel pan culture by including them in some of her lessons and running a Caribbean music module last term. One of the Chantry bands was selected to perform in the joint Chantry and Newminster Christmas Carol concert at the beautiful St James Church, Morpeth, on 18th December. The panners enjoyed sessions with Dave Edwards in the new year whilst Jenny was away panning in Trinidad. All four bands performed in a school assembly on the last day of term and two were placed first in their class at the Wansbeck Muic Festival in March.

Steelbands North Young Leaders

SNyls are starting to operate as a band in preparation for a few events over the summer when our current Children in Need funding comes to a close. January saw the group sharing tunes which have been arranged by yls for use with their school steelbands.  In February they enjoyed a workshop with Dudley Nesbit and got a few good tunes under their belt. All the players work on steelband placements and are building up a wealth of skills and experience as leaders. You can see them in Dudleys workshop action (as leaders and as a band) at the North Tyneside Festival of Steelbands on 5th July.


KEVI Steel and KEVI Community Steel Band now have 25 members in total. KEVI Steel has recently welcomed players new to pan and also ex pupils from Chantry who have moved up to KEVI. The mix of old, new and beginners is working well and the group has been making good progress and sounds very good.
The band’s first performance in their brand new uniforms was for a Caribbean Evening held by The Salvation Army in Bedlington in

November!!!, which was followed the next day by a very successful Christmas busk in Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth. The whole weekend was a huge success and was followed by their final performance of the year at the school’s annual Wine and Wassailing Christmas concert. With support from the Head, Simon Taylor, and the Governors, the band is looking to upgrade and increase the number of its instruments to meet the demand from new members. Kevi Steel were placed 2nd in their class at the Wansbeck MF for their brilliant set.

Northumberland Music Hub        

NCC Creative and Performing Arts is now part of a music Hub and has several sets of pans placed in schools in the Blyth and Tyne Valley areas. Pan tutors Jenny Gilberg and Claire Suckling continue to deliver a range of wider opportunity whole class steel pan projects and after schools clubs and are looking forward to running a second annual ‘Pan Fest’ in the Summer Term.

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Steel Band

In 2011 Jenny Gilberg ran a successful summer school in Newbiggin. One year later she is now running regular sessions in Grace Darling Campus, including an adult group. Both bands were confident enough to perform at the school’s Christmas concert.

Northumberland Church of England Steel Band, Ashington

NCEA have 3 bands on the go with tutor Jenny Gilberg and now nearly every pupil in Yr 5 and Yr 6 plays pan. All pannists are under 11 and have had an outstanding year so far. Players have learnt a range of Classical, pop and traditional music and are performing to a very high standard. Last year the band performed in numerous school concerts, were placed joint 2nd in the Wansbeck Music Festival and had their first ever professional gig at the Newbiggin Maritime Centre. Two of the bands had a great time at the Wansbeck Music Festival and were able to wear their new uniforms.

Valley Gardens Middle School

After three years working as a SN outreach band VGMS have bought their own pans and invested in their five steelbands as a ermanent feature of the school. SN young leaders will still be involved in tutoring all five bands and ex yls  Holly Connon and Michael Darling will continue to work there.

Horton Panners, Blyth

In September 2011, Horton Grange Primary School started a two-term wider opportunity steel pan project. However, due to the success of the project, it is now in its second year and has exceeded all expectations!

Jenny Gilberg elevated the band out of the classroom and held 3 steel pan concerts. They entered the Wansbeck Music Festival and came joint second after only 20hrs of tuition! Usually only established bands enter this annual competition but Jenny had great faith in her young band and entered them anyway. They played for the Olympic Relay, making it onto local TV, and also in the first ever Northumberland ‘Pan Fest’.

This year all Yr 5 and Yr 6 pupils play pan and are looking forward to panning in more school concerts and Northumberland ‘Pan Fest’ 2013. They did really well at the Wansbeck Music Festival too.

The Dales, Blyth

The band is enjoying a second year panning with Jenny Gilberg. Last year the band played very confidently for the Olympic Torch Relay and made it onto local TV. They performed in the school Christmas concert and are hoping to go to more pan events.

North Tyneside Steelband (NTSB)

This term NTSB has been concentrating on music festivals. They entered two or bands in Tynedale and three in Ryton and Wansbeck Festivals locally and a 20 strong band aged 13-21 in Music for Youth. The older age group won first prize at all three local festivals whilst the under 13 band won a first and a second place. Under 16 bands won firsts at the two that they entered, Ryton and Wansbeck. We don’t usually work in age groups as we’re not based in a school so it was a challenge for some players who had to play in new groupings and even learn new parts. The experience has paid off and we now have a wealth of adjudicators’ comments and advice to help shape our future work. We’re hoping that our MfY performance will be good enough for them to invite us to the national stage of the festival this summer in Birmingham.

The weather has affected us this winter with a three gig trip to Edinburgh cancelled or (hopefully) postponed, but all our other gigs have gone smoothly. At the new year bookings looked a bit thin but they’ve picked up well since and our summer is beginning to look healthy.

We took part in the national ‘Learn To Play Day’ organised by the Music Industries Association. This is designed to encourage people to take up a musical instrument and become regulars at their local music shop. We attracted 16 customers for free micro taster lessons and it looks like we may have picked up a couple of new members. Not sure that they’ll be able to buy a decent pan from a music shop. NTSB is becoming a progression route for good players from local school steelbands, and one or two from community bands, and we are keen to take such players on to a higher level. We’ve got an Easter holiday workshop with New World’s Dudley Nesbit which should stretch us a little bit, and then it’s straight into a busy summer term with lots of gigs and a lot of involvement with local school steelbands. This is a  chance for our newer players to step up to the mark and take a leading role whilst some experienced players become nervous wrecks coping with exams.

Tuners Tips

As we’ve highlighted in previous issues a split bass pan is not uncommon these days, and it’s usually down to over exuberant playing with poor technique and often heavy sticks. But what do you do about the split? Well if you catch it early the first step is to stop it getting worse by drilling a small hole at each end of the split, then braze or solder it.

During a recent tuning visit by Toussaint Clark we had the opportunity to try our hand at this process. We had access to 3 or 4 split basses and needed to get them back into full use. Tutor Michael Darling (ex SN young leader) wielded the welding torch with bravery and aplomb.It’s important to use nothing harder than brazing rod; welding rod is too brittle and usually splits again. Electric welding is really too messy and leaves great lumps of metal on and under the playing surface.


It’s a technique that takes quite a bit of practice but after a couple of hours the splits were mended and the pans were ready for re-tuning, would the brazes hold up to the challenge? Yes they did, but there’s always a bit of a weakness where there’s been a split, so it’s crucial that playing style and techniques take account of this. The best policy is prevention. If you need help or advice with playing technique, or any other pan issue, contact Steelbands North.


 ‘I hope to bring some young people to Newcastle in September for music festivities later this year. Whilst checking on dates/transport/accommodation etc, I became aware of the British Science Festival taking place at the same time. Little to nothing is known about this in London, so I will be raising this at the next BAS regional meeting. I hope that in the future, we will be able to visit and support events as well as possible partnership/collaborative working.

I also hope to ‘pick your brain’, in the near future, as reading the newsletter provided me with ‘alternatives’ to challenges common to us all. I have already learnt something from the good practice in the region.’ P. London

It’s great to hear of people waking up to the cultural benefits of the north east; just don’t tell too many people, we don’t want to be overwhelmed. Seriously though it will be great to welcome visitors with steelband skills. We’ve been lucky in the north east that we started from a zero base a couple of decades ago as far as pan goes, so we’ve been able to build the network to reflect our needs. Those needs have evelved and now we need to build relationships with players from outside the region to help raise our game. We can learn a lot from people and organisations who have already done what we’re trying to do. There are a few north east schools which might now have the potential to emulate P’s achievements over the next few years.  They’ll need all the support and guidance they can get.

From an audience member at a Music for Youth regional festival

‘I never really liked steelbands but this one has converted me –  fantastic!’ E.G. Gateshead

Glad you liked it, there are some great steelbands around now so don’t be put off by any which fall a bit short of the mark.

‘I’’m about to start a high school steelband. It’s quite exciting even though I know little about steelbands. One thing worries me , I don’t think I’ve ever seen a steelband playing from music and I don’t know where to get any arrangements. Can you help?’ Tom. Yorks.

Yes and no Tom. Generally steelbands don’t play from music; that’s the tradition and most players and tutors see this as an advantage allowing improvisation and better communication with each other and with audiences. Steelband arrangements do exist and can be found on websites such as panyard, smartypans, steeldrumshop, etc. They are quite expensive and most experienced tutors prefer to arrange their own music to suit players’ abilities and styles. If you’re not confident to try that yourself yet you can just use any arrangements (choir, brass, orchestra, piano, etc.) of tunes you want to play. This allows you to put a Caribbean slant on the music if you want, or put your own stamp on the music. There are many steelband ‘standards’ that lots of bands play, a couple of these would be a good start for you. Don’t forget to spend some time developing good technique with your players right from the start, this will enable them to make good progress now and later.


For Sale Contact SN for info on the following –

10 piece band, 6 years old, tuned 3 times, UK made, £4000 ono.

Set of 4 pan cellos, Panland, black, silver tops, almost new – £600

Pair Dble 2nds, almost new painted £540

C tenor (Trini) new, professional, chromed £590

D tenor (Trini) new, chromed £425

North Tyneside Festival of Steelbands  

Friday 5th July 1000-1500 at Wallsend Memorial Hall

Performance slots, Mass play, solo slots,

Pre-festival tuition available

FREE  contact  Steelbands North now



tuition – training – outreach – support & advice      



This list has been requested by readers wanting to book, join or make contact with bands.  Please make sure your contact is up to date.      

email to add your bands details

professional steelbands for hire

Jenny Gilberg steelpan soloist

The Monsoons 3-5 piece steelband

Steelbands who perform regularly and which anyone can join

Chilli Road Band Newcastle 0191 265 0304

Holly’s School of Steel Whitley Bay

KEVI Community Steelband Morpeth,

Milnthorpe Steelband Cumbria

Newcastle All Stars Steel Orchestra 07775803815

North Tyneside Steelband Wallsend

Pantastics Sunderland Steve 07956109526

Sage Adult Steelband Gateshead 0191 443 4666

Steel Quake Wooler Lizzie  Lowe 07791337209

Steelworks Middlesbrough Brian Wise 01642 315244

Sunshine Panners Haydon Bridge 01434 687991/220353 Eileen Suckling

Volcano Juniors The Sage Gateshead Lizzie Lowe 07791337209

Other steelbands, mostly based in schools catering for their own students, but doing some gigs

Abingdon Road School Middlesbrough Moira Ross 01642 210567

Battle Hill Panners Wallsend Emma Beasley 07580086748

Chantry Steel

Chilly Road School 0191 265 0304

Churchill Community College Wallsend Holly Connon

Hummersknott School Darlington 01325 241191

Jarrow School Holly Connon

KEVI Steel Morpeth

Kingsmeadow School Gateshead 0191 460 6004

Milnthorpe School Andy Whitfield 07854772834

Monkseaton Middle School Whitley Bay Liz Cook 0191 200 8715

Northburn School Cramlington Claire Falcus 07515917762

Stainburn Steel Whitehaven 01900 3235252

Stix ‘ n’ Trix  Seahouses

Shotton Hall School Peterlee

St Cuthberts Primary Hartlepool 01429 275040

Adult steelband  - Precious Metal Wallsend

0775 360 4281


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