Vincy pan champs captivate New Yorkers

Most Vincentian pan aficionados were, clearly, very disappointed, but understandable, that perennial panorama champion Starlift Steel Orchestra was unable to participate in Club St. Vincent’s massive Biennial Cultural Exhibition in Brooklyn, New York, two weeks ago, because of visa and flight delay issues in Barbados.

But St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ leading steel orchestra surpassed the billing on arrival in the “Big Apple” two Tuesdays ago, living up to its extraordinary high standards, while, simultaneously, electrifying, to date on their debut trip, not only their compatriots but Caribbean and other nationals as well.

At each venue, the 12-member contingent, a small fraction of the 125-member band, stupefied its audience with crisp, pulsating rhythms that triggered calls for encore.

The band convulsed audiences in Brooklyn at Vee Jays Restaurant (last Friday night); the Flatbush-Caton Vendors Market (Saturday afternoon); Standard Shippers (Saturday afternoon/evening); and J’ouvert during the West Indian American Carnival on Labor Day, Monday.

“The band is (playing) real nice,” mas producer Jeffrey Hinds told Caribbean Life, as Starlift banged out Becket’s “Teaser,” among other hits, at Standard Shippers on Avenue D.

Swaying to a “Jam Dem” rendition, Ancilla Friday, president of Club St. Vincent, the Brooklyn-based educational and cultural group, which is hosting Starlift during its history-making visit, said the band is in a class by itself.

“They’re great, they’re captivating, they’re electrifying, they wonderful,” she exclaimed.

Chester Peters, who hails from Starlift’s home village, Old Montrose, Kingstown, said he was very impressed with its performance at Standard Shippers.

Marcia Kirton, vice president of the group VincyCares, said the band chose the right weekend to be in New York.

“Labor Day (holiday) is a great weekend. It’s a great opportunity to feature our artistes,” said Kirton, whose group also used the event at Standard Shippers to stage its annual toy drive.

“It’s exciting, and the music is wonderful,” she added. “Look at the wonderful crowd – the great turn-out.”

Verna Arthur, who had spearheaded efforts to bring Starlift to New York, said the orchestra’s performance in New York has been breath-taking.

“Vincentians and other patrons who attended Vee Jays Restaurant on Friday, Aug. 31, were in awe, as they listened and danced to Starlift Steel Orchestra’s extraordinary rendition,” she added. “I will simply say that outstanding is an understatement .

Kingsley “Hero” Roberts, Starlift’s musical arranger, said the band was “very proud” and “excited” to make the historic journey.

“We’re here to showcase our talent,” he told Caribbean Life. “It’s a historic moment. “We were longing to do this, and it’s long overdue.

Roberts said the band was hoping to perform at the United Nations during the week and “in concert” at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn on Friday evening, Sept. 7.

It is also planning to perform at St. Paul’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church – Friday’s church home – on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, on Sunday morning, Sept. 9, before heading back home early next week.

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