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‘Real’ brass raises pores at UWI

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The TTSBO band conducted by co-founder and music director Leslie Clement. PHOTO: WESLEY GIBBINGS

Leading performer/producer/arranger, Michael Boothman, has softened his position on the apparent need for engineers over live musicians in the world of modern music, but still insists electronics are no substitute for real instruments.


“Technology,” Boothman says, “brings life to those who cannot afford the real thing.”


Boothman’s earlier views, recollected from a conversation more than three years ago, came to mind July 27 and 28 when the Trinidad and Tobago Steel and Brass Symphonic Orchestra (TTSBSA), playing “the real thing”, raised pores during its production of Music For All Ages on the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).


Little wonder former Shandilier and Atlantik trombonist, vintage “brassman” and Police Band inspector, Stephen Villafana, comfortably held the conductor’s baton for the senior TTSBSA band’s performance of Henry Mancini’s hypnotic theme from The Pink Panther and musical accompaniment for vocalist Martina Chow on Feeling Good.


At one point in the programme, the packed Daaga Hall audience was dared to identify the instruments played by five of the young musicians who had been asked to step forward on the stage. Nobody who volunteered to respond could recognise either the euphonium or the baritone sax and one person wasn’t too sure about the French horn.


TTSBSA co-founder and music director, Leslie Clement, has made sure that hundreds of talented youth from schools and communities in east Trinidad not only know their instruments, but are competent enough to draw cheers and even some tears from energised audiences wherever they play.


Music For All Ages lived up to the expectations of those who had attended any of the five previous workshop concerts staged by the group and made new fans of those who attended for the first time since the advent of the show in 2006.


The music of the featured composers/performers, said Clement, “helps us to cope with the challenges that face us and help our spirits to heal.” On show was the music of Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and the Miami Sound Machine, among others.


The senior band, conducted by an animated Kenny Stevens with trumpet solos by Justin Phillip, Josiah Clement, Milan Lewis and John Wayne, faithfully rendered the Damaso Perez Prado arrangement of Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White. Many who spoke about the brilliant rendition of the mambo standard were heard to confess ignorance of its original name —simply “Cherry Pink” in the programme.


The “junior” band comprised participants in a three-week intensive programme during which most of the young beginners, 30 of the 50 players, moved from learning their scales to performing sufficiently faithful renditions of the theme from Men in Black to Raider’s March to Everything I Do and Miss you Like Crazy.


Judging from the applause received by tutors Leslie and Judith Clement, Kenny Stephen and Stephen Villafana from the youngsters, the music “camp” graduates appeared to have also had more than a fair share of fun.


Founded by the Clements in 2008, following their successes with music bands at Bon Air High School and Five Rivers Secondary School, TTSBSO currently has over 110 students under its wings. If there was ever a case for sustained financial support for an effort to promote the teaching of music to children in particular, this has to be one.


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