Chronicle Atlantic Symphony celebrates 49 years

The Young Acolytes perform during the celebration.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

The pristine sound of the Chronicle Atlantic Symphony Steel Orchestra (CASSO) is still as sweet to the ear as it was 49 years ago, when musical visionary, conductor, composer, Rudy Bishop entertained the Guyanese community, and pan lovers around the world.

On Sunday, May 31, the maestro was once again in his element as he was celebrated, and applauded for his sterling contribution to steelpan music during a reception at the St. Stephen’s Church Banquet Hall in Brooklyn.

Always excited about his stirring repertoire of music that include classical, pop, rock reggae, Bishop, a multi-talented musician who trained five generation of steelpan players, enjoyed an evening fit for a king. Patrons, and fans alike listened to the panist as he recounted the incredible life he has enjoyed so far, as an arranger, tuner and teacher to many youngsters growing up in Guyana.

“Boysie,” as he is known in the neighborhood, also marked the occasion with a tribute to the Young Acolytes Steel Orchestra of St. Stephens Church, whose outstanding performances on the pan have kept audiences entertained for the last 14 years.

The talent of the young ones from age nine to 14 took center stage and created excitement for the audience with Pharrell William’s hit “Happy,” and the popular “La Bamba” in a musical tribute to their leader.

The pleasure of being among his prodigies could be heard in his voice as he called out the names of many former players who joined Bishop to reminisce as far back as May 1966 when the band burst onto the scene with the legendary showman at the helm.

The award-winning CASSO has remained alive and relevant for so many years because of the passion and determination in which Bishop has imparted his skill and knowledge to generation after generation.

Winning titles in both the National Steelband Competition and the National Music Festival in Guyana, Bishop went on to capture best arrangement for the CARIFESTA theme in 1972, and won every single competition until 1979, and many more accolades.

Celebrated for playing classical pieces such as Khachaturyan’s “Sabre Dance” and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” CASSO is world- renowned. Tours to Russia, and venues in Palm Springs, New York, Baltimore, Chicago and Salt Lake City has made the band the most traveled steel orchestra in Guyana’s history.

One of the band’s unforgettable moments was being filmed in a documentary at Mohamed Ali’s home in Los Angeles according to Ruel Johnson’s Down Steelpan Memory Lane with Rudy Bishop.

A talent to be reckoned with, Bishop singlehandedly transformed steelpan music, making it one of the most enjoyed forms of music on the airways, and at Mashramini celebrations over the years.

After migrating to New York in 1992, Bishop continued his love of steelpan music and reinvigorated the band that was later invited to perform at the United National’s 50th Anniversary, in 1995.

Bishop later put together the Guyana Young Entertainers in Brooklyn. His current youth band The Young Acolytes has received rave reviews from performances throughout the New York area and at the famous Apollo Theater’s Legendary Armature Night, where they received a standing ovation.

Director and bandleader Bishop, a musical genius in his own right, is the recipient of awards and citations for his outstanding work and dedication to helping youth, and keeping them focused through the art form.

The maestro says he looks forward to celebrating his golden 50th anniversary alongside Guyana 50th Independence Anniversary in May 2016.

Rudy “Boysie” Bishop against his 49th-year backdrop.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

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