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St Margaret’s steelband to perform at historic Carnegie Hall

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Members of the St Margaret’s Boys’ Steel Orchestra during their performance in the Junior Panorama finals at the Queen’s Park Savannah in February. Photo: ABRAHAM DIAZ

Having “laid its cornerstone on May 13, 1890 and opened its doors May 5, 1891…the world’s most famous concert hall,” Carnegie Hall in midtown Manhattan, New York, USA, will be stirred on June 17 from 8 pm with the scintillating sounds of the St Margaret’s Boys’ Steel Orchestra’s stage-side comprising 33 under 21-year-old pan musicians.

In what can be termed another history-making occasion for T&T’s pan world, but more impressively, the youth arm, the steel orchestra’s performance will be T&T’s second in this “beautiful venue where the world’s most gifted musicians come to perform,” after Desperadoes’ in 1987.

Having been selected from hundreds of worldwide CD auditions, the St Margaret’s Boys got the nod —an envious opportunity gained that automatically plunged them into a $600,000 expense, spinning the school and parents into a whirlwind of attempted frustrating fund-raisers…but fate struck.

On the afternoon of July 13, 2013, the St Margaret’s Boys Steel Orchestra was hosting its seventh annual Pan Extravaganza fund-raiser when Martin Daly SC and his wife spotted the banner and decided to stop and have a look. 

Enthralled by what he heard and saw at the Foyer of the Queen’s Park Savannah—live, high-quality pan music presented by international youth steel ensembles—he made a promise to partner with the orchestra, and so he did, as today, his promise has borne fruit. He and some of his corporate friends established The Friends of St Margaret’s. St Margaret’s also caught the attention of Methanol Holdings Ltd (MHTL) who promptly sprung into action. The company was diversifying their corporate social responsibility portfolio and they invested in the band’s dream to perform at Carnegie Hall.

In what he articulates as an investment in building community and social capital, chairman of MHTL, Dr Euric Bobb, said in a television interview on May 14, “…when we realised that the school began their self-help fund-raisers with parents borrowing, begging and putting-up their properties, we couldn’t standby and allow that, so we decided to step-in and provide all the funding. Methanol has been very quietly investing in many school projects, but this is the first time sponsoring an ensemble to travel…one that must not be done quietly. We have even purchased the entire Queen’s Hall to host a Gala send-off for the performers.”

The St Margaret’s Boys Steel Orchestra is the only steel orchestra, worldwide, that has bragging rights of maintaining three youth National Panorama competition hat-tricks, better yet, two consecutively. 

St Margaret’s itinerary sees them at June 15-21, St Margaret’s will perform at Liberty Centre, New Jersey; Carnegie Hall. They will rehearse with Brett Abigaña, prolific musical composer who will commission a piece that will premiere at the 2015 World Association for Symphonic Band and Ensembles’ convention in San Jose, CA. They are also expected to take part in a youth pan extravaganza in Brooklyn hosted by NY Sonata Youth Steel Orchestra among others. 

Shenelle Abraham, Paul Charles, Anthony John and Desmond Waithe are responsible for putting together the music.

On May 7, a ceremony was held at the school where cheques were distributed to the band’s musical director Rosemarie Abraham. Abraham and her group initially thank all those who contributed towards making this dream a reality.

The gala send-off will be held on May 28 at 7.30 pm to give specially invited guests, parents and the general public the chance to hear what the boys will be offering Carnegie Hall. The tickets which are free will be available at the Queen’s Hall Box Office by May 20.  

In a special farewell performance, Pan Trinbago’s Northern Region will present St Margaret’s Boys’ Steel Orchestra in concert on The Food Court, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, on Friday, May 22, at 8 pm. 


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