Montserrat Arts Council’s Steel Pan Revival Project Begins

A cross-section of the participants of the Steel Pan Revival Project at the St. John’s Community Centre.

A three-week workshop to teach the rudiments of steel pan construction and tuning, music theory and steel plan technique began on island Tuesday evening.

BNTF Manager Mervin Browne takes a turn on the brand new tenor pan.

The Steel Pan Revival Project was developed by the Montserrat Arts Council and is being funded by the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF).

The Pan Trinbago organisation won the bid to deliver the project. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions they subcontracted the training to a team from Antigua & Barbuda.

Veron Henry is no stranger to Montserrat as he has visited regularly as arranger and captain of the multi-award-winning Hells Gate Steel Orchestra. For the past 25 years he has been making steel pans and tuning them for the last 20. Henry said he grew up in pan as his father Eustace Manning Henry was one of the pioneers of steel pan on Antigua.
The instructor, who is now a full-time steel pan constructor and tuner congratulated BNTF and the MAC on the project. He told the participants gathered that pan construction will be time consuming, dirty, noisy and hard work. Students will be learning how to make and tune the pans during the day, while others will take music theory and pan playing technique during the evenings at the St. John’s Community Centre.

Henry said by the end of the three weeks they hope that students have developed an ear for tuning and recognising the different sounds and tones.

Before the night ended, students got to try out the brand new pans purchased for the project and follow some basic musical directions he gave.

Dorothy White, who is the mother of local music teacher McCloyd White said this is her first time learning pan and it was something to do to keep her mind active as she has been on island since the shutdown in March 2020. She got her first music lesson from Nia Golden, who used to play pan at St. Augustine Primary School. She showed her the basic scales on the tenor pan.

Others trying the steel pan class for the first time are artist Tabu and Discover Montserrat Editor Nerissa Golden. Most of the other students play with the Volpanics and Genysis Steel Orchestra or previously played in primary and secondary school.

Volpanics Captain Herman “Cupid” Francis and vocalist Nia Golden check out the new pans.

Robert Simmons, also of Hells Gate Steelpan Orchestra will be teaching music theory. On Tuesday evening he taught the basics of music identification of the treble and bass clefs.

Director of the arts council Kenneth “Rabo” Silcott said he was happy to see the project come to fruition as it has been many years in the making. He added his surprise at the number of people who turned up. A total of 31 participated in the first training.

During the day, students at local primary schools will also have a chance to learn steel pan as well. Workshops will be tailored specifically to their needs. 

The evening sessions will run from Tuesday to Friday from 6:30 to 8PM.