Brighton has a vibrant musical scene and is home to several samba schools and other Brazilian African and world music percussion ensembles. The Brighton Carnival Association realised that amongst all this activity there was no opportunities for local people to play in a steel band, and decided to rectify this situation by forming a new ensemble: Euphoria Steel Band.
This is a particularly timely development as 2011 represents the 60th anniversary of the first performance of a steel band in Britain. In 1951 the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (known as TASPO) made the long sea journey from the Caribbean to London to perform at the Festival of Britain at the South Bank Centre, where they were a huge hit. The band subsequently undertook a tour of venues in both France and Britain. European audiences were entranced by the melodic power of the instruments and the dexterity of the players and over the years the sound of steel band has become a popular part of the British Summer - heard at fetes, parties weddings and of course the Notting Hill Carnival and BAS National Panorama competition.
A generous loan of instruments (called ‘pans’) from London-based Nostalgia Steel Band ( http://www.nostalgiasteelband.co.uk/ ) the assistance of Lionel McCalman, and the kind agreement of Same Sky to allow the band to use their facilities for their rehearsals, made it possible for band leader Rachel Hayward ( http://www.steelpan.co.uk ) and manager Daniel Bernstein to establish an initial series of workshops. The band’s first official performance was at Brighton’s spectacular Children’s Parade, where they received an ecstatic response from the crowd and participants.
The band has been inundated with requests for them to perform and appeared at the Slug and Lettuce, George Street, Hove on Saturday 28th May, where Rachel played solos between 2 and 4pm. The next day they promenaded on Brighton sea front between the piers and played at the bandstand between 2 and 4 pm on Sunday 29th May. The band also appeared at Kemptown Carnival on Saturday 4th June.
Euphoria is unique in the south of England in being the region’s only pan-round-neck ensemble. This means that the pans are carried on straps across the back (not actually around the neck!) and the players walk while performing in the original Trinidadian style; the heavier pans are pushed on trolleys. This means that both players and audience get a much more immediate and intimate musical experience; much more fun than performing on a float or lorry!
Euphoria is looking to expand its membership and started a new set of workshops in June 2011. These were held at Same Sky, Belmont Street, and ran for 8 weeks. Newcomers are welcome and no experience is necessary. The band is offering a free, no-commitment taster session to all new players, after which the cost will be £40 for the series.
Rachel says: “I have been involved in pan for nearly 30 years now and am thrilled to bits to have the chance to establish a band in my home town of Brighton. Pan-round -neck is a flexible and fascinating form and I have been so inspired by seeing and playing in bands such as Nostalgia and Pan Nectar. Euphoria has also performed at the Pride Parade and Playgroup Festival in August 2011. I hope to take some players up to perform in the Notting Hill Carnival this summer to play with Nostalgia, and it is my ambition that one day Euphoria will perform there in our own right.”
For more details about tuition or bookings please call Rachel on
or find them on Face book: (search) Euphoria Steel Band
Photo by Andy Stiller, Robert Rankin and Rachel Hayward.