“Offering a platform to develop playing and musicianship”
Northern Steel Orchestra (NSO) was formed in March 2015 by steelpan tutor/arranger Jenny Gilberg and is supported by Northern Steel Network (Chair: Dave Edwards). Made up of 40 of the region’s most talented pannists, aged from 11 to 21 years, NSO operates as a regional band and rehearses seasonally between April to August each year. Players in the band are drawn from several local performing and school bands across the North-East (Ashington, Cramlington, Morpeth Newbiggin, Newcastle and North Tyneside).
The objective of NSO is to offer a platform and opportunity for advanced pannists to develop their playing and musicianship to a high level and to open up a range of performance opportunities both regionally and nationally in events such as UK Junior Panorama. Jenny thinks everyone involved can see, hear and feel the players' progress.
Players have formed new friendships and grown in confidence, are networking beautifully and have a lot of fun during the season. Through participating in Junior Panorama they are also seeing 'the bigger picture' and learning from watching other very talented national bands performing.
The first year, 2015, was a pilot for NSO and they were thrilled to be crowned the winners of UK Junior Panorama. The orchestra is the first band outside the London area to enter the competition and lifted the trophy at its first attempt, winning the title with a polished performance of Trinidad soca hit ‘Ducking’ by Fadda Fox.
Jenny said, “What most people won't know is that when we started NSO, none of our players had ever seen, let alone competed in, a Panorama, so the entire concept and process of preparing and participating in one was a brand new experience. The long intense rehearsals were initially a shock to the system but everyone got stuck in, built stamina and really embraced the disciplines involved and the hard work. We are very lucky to be working with such talented, dedicated and driven young musicians.” As a direct result of involvement with NSO, four players have gone on to play with Ebony Steel Band in UK National Panorama and one of these players is taking the plunge and venturing out to Trinidad with Jenny in February 2018 to play in her first Trinbago National Panorama with the BP Renegades Steel Orchestra.
What has been great to see is how the players work so well together and take responsibility within the band. Players have stepped up and taken various roles including Band Captain, Vice Captain and section leaders.
NSO has a dedicated team of musicians supporting Jenny including experienced tutors Michael Darling and Karina Atkinson, who work with players and drill the band, as well as excellent Band Captain Kieran Finney, Vice Captain Jason Ying and some great section leaders. NSO manager, tutor and arranger, Jenny Gilberg, has a unique style and her arrangements draw upon her classicalbackground.
During the season the orchestra learns a range of classical, world, pop and Caribbean soca/calypso pieces as well as the junior panorama piece. NSO players have enjoyed workshops with guest tutor Leroy Clarke in which they also explored the engine room. Toussaint Clarke, who has always offer support and guidance, is also their pan tuner.
The orchestra has performed at local festivals including the Under the Dome Festival 2015 in Whitley Bay and the Northern Steel Network Festivals of Steelbands 2015-17, has given private performances at venues including St James' Park and Stephenson Railway Museum and has put on concerts at their panyards: The Langdale Centre (Wallsend) and The King Edward VI School (Morpeth).
NSO is on an exciting journey and is looking forward to many more years of great panning and inspiring future generations of players to push themselves and enjoy all that the steelpan has to offer.
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