The Trinidad and Tobago National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO), conducted by Jesse..." /> Trinidad and Tobago National Steel Symphony Orchestra – Panpodium



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Published on June 20th, 2010 | by Jessel Murray

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Trinidad and Tobago National Steel Symphony Orchestra

The Trinidad and Tobago National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO), conducted by Jessel Murray, was formed in late 2007 under the auspices of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs (now the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism), and is comprised of thirty-three of the country’s finest steel pan players who were auditioned both for the high quality of their technical skills and for their reading abilities. The National Steel Symphony Orchestra represents all steelband men and women across the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The musicians who came from different community steel bands were critically accessed in their proficiency on the National instrument along with, deportment, literacy, and technical skill to perform and adequately rehearse for 5 working days during the hours of 9.15 am to 3.15 pm. The usage of sheet music allows the NSSO to read classical transcriptions and adaptations, original compositions written for the steelpan and world music, with particular interest being regional and most importantly local on the newest family of steelpan, The “G” pans. “G” is defined as the Genesis pan and not the lowest note on each of the instrument.  NSSO exclusively utilises the Genesis Pans which were developed at the University of the West Indies, under Professor Brian Copeland, Dean of Engineering.

Additionally, the ‘G’ pans were launched on July 14th 2007 at the UWI JFK Quadrangle with 15 members of the previous now defunct Trinidad and Tobago National Steel Orchestra. Moreover, with the inclusion of the word “Symphony” some would argue this word means the many different musical pitched and unpitched instrument being used or a body of music. However, in this particular instance “symphony” means a wider range and more fidelity in sound (colours) related to the steel pans.

Furthermore, the oversized idea is not a new one as some would believe. Nevertheless, the dynamic tonal quality encompassing the four instruments: Tenor in 4th and 5th from low A below middle C, Double Seconds whole tone pattern from D below the existing F# or in some cases E, triple cello in a 4th and 5th style from A below the low Bb in some cases and also replacing the diminished sequence, and the basses from the low G just like what you would have on the 9 bass. Such sounds they produced are referred to by many in Trinidad as the new found richness never before available with the conventional instrument. By extension, the melodic range and colours are immensely improved. Special mention must be made on behalf of the persons upon whom credit is never bestowed, for example one such person is Lawrence Junior Hutchinson for his timeless efforts ensuring all the instruments coming from the Engineering Department at UWI are properly done, traveling long distances to obtain instruments from tuners and supervising the fabrication of new stands for the Orchestra.

As the practitioners of the Art, members of NSSO would have expressed that returning to the now old pans seemed like toys. (Smaller and the tone not as nice the G pan). The adjustments on new approaches and technical application impacted on the determining factors as to how rehearsals are conducted. There are chairs behind every instrument, because the pans are still a work in progress as they perform on this new instrument. The two month old fetus at the time of the launch July 14th has now passed three years and the National Steel Symphony has had command performances in Trinidad for the Prince Charles and Duchess of York arrival on March 5th 2008, at the UWI Quadrangle, the opening of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain, and the presentation of the entire NSSO at the Queen’s Hall theatre on April 19th, 2008. In collaboration with other cultural groups from Trinidad and Tobago, the NSSO has performed at numerous events.

Concert events have included performances at the 5th Summit of the Americas in April 2009 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference (CHOGM) in November, 2009 at the Hyatt Regional; two full concerts in May 2009 at UWI, St. Augustine and at Borough Day Festivities in Point Fortin; and a joint concert with the National Sinfonia Orchestra at Queen’s in August 2009, where they premiered two pieces for traditional symphonic orchestra with the inclusion of steel instruments.

Subsequent events have included   a high profile concert at Carifesta X in Guyana, a performance at the Panorama Finals at Queen’s Park Savannah in 2010, and two critically acclaimed concerts at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in May, 2010 as part of the concerts series: NAPA Fest.

Profile of the Orchestra Players:

The NSSO is currently composed of 33 players: 23 male and 10 female.  13 persons have completed a Bachelor’s in Music (or are no more than 2 courses short); 10 are current Bachelor’s in Music students; the other ten are graduates of certificate programmes from COSTAAT or UWI, or have successfully auditioned to matriculate in a similar programme.

Performances from August 2009- May 2010:

Major Concerts

Joint Performance with the National Sinfonia Orchestra, Queen’s Hall      August 2009

Opening of the History of Pan Exhibition, Port-of-Spain Museum     August 2009

Workshop and Performance, International School, Westmoorings September 2009

Workshop and Performance, La Romaine Secondary, La Romaine           September 2009

Workshop and Performance, St. Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando            September 2009

Workshop and Performance, Naparima Girl’s, San Fernando                      September 2009

Performance at All Star’s Panyard for Republic Day                            September 2009

Workshop and Performance, Russell Latapy HS, Morvant                 October 2009

Workshop and Performance, Arima North Secondary, Arima                        October 2009

Workshop and Performance, Bishop’s/Trinity East, Trincity               October 2009

Full Concert at the People’s Space, Queen’s Park Savannah (CHOGM)    November 2009

Performance at CHOGM, Hyatt Regency                                                November 2009

Christmas Concert, PETROTRIN Sports Club, Fyzabad                     December 2009

Christmas Concert, St. Barb’s Basketball Court, Laventille              December 2009

Closing of the History of Pan Exhibition,

Port-of-Spain Museum                                                                         January 2010

Concert at Panoram Finals, Queen’s Park Savannah                         February 2010

Concert at Toco Community Centre                                                        February 2010

Concert at Diplomatic Centre, St. Ann’s                                                 April 2010

‘Genesis in Steel’ Concert for NAPAFest at

the National Academy for the Performing Arts                                       May 2010

by Jessel Murray


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