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Revisited -- A Trinidad and Tobago Philharmonic Orchestra?

It is now five years later since the original opinion essay below was written by Mr. Nestor Sullivan. WST member Marcus Ash ask -- What are your thoughts and feeling on the subject today?


An Opinion Piece

by Nestor Sullivan

Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - I recently read an advertisement in the local daily newspapers inviting applications for positions in the Trinidad & Tobago National Philharmonic Orchestra. The ad made a call for nationals who could play oboes, trumpets, saxophones, violins, violas, clarinets etc., to join this orchestra. I was totally confused by this development. My immediate question was....“What do we need a philharmonic orchestra to do?” My next questions were.... “Whose idea was this?” and “what were they thinking?”

For reasons of this article and to encourage further debate on the subject, I will offer my own answers to the questions above. I will also attempt to link the philharmonic orchestra to issues of nationalism, independence and identity of our country and region.
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Whose idea indeed? Wonder if the naked emperor can shed some light?
Very well said Nester.
Jimi Phillip
We need a Philharmonic Orchestra for the same reason we needed The Divine Echoes. Unlike Baldwin Spencer who was a Panman, and could thus think like us, there was nobody in our Government circles who dared tell Patrick Manning that his Divine idea was rubbish. So now somebody 'up there' wants a Philharmonic Orchestra. Do you think anybody in government has the balls to suggest otherwise?. For all that Pan and Panmen has stood for and proven over the last 60-odd years, the age-old adage remains true..."a prophet is without honour in his own land".
My opinion about this topic as mentioned by my follow pan musician, I must state that he is categorically correct. This country already has several ochestras that have accomplished those said duties and more. As a Trinibagonian who have been in the music industry for quite some time now, I must say that we do not appreciate our fellowmen's talent and its time we get the real message.
Kenneth "Panam" Clarke
Pan people, try looking beyond your pansticks, ......please!
What a bloody narrow minded point of view, under the guise of being "trinicentric". I'm, frankly, quite disappointed to know that in the 21st. century, amid globalism and world music and multi-culturalism in general, that trini people, (specifically pan people, would still choose to live in this little bubble called nationalism.
> Have we thought about the benefits such an orchestra might have on local musicians, both young and old, or how this could help to persuade pan musicians to finally take learning to read and write music seriously.
> Then what about the unique perspective of skillfully integrating the various ranges of steel pans into such an orchestra, thus opening up the doors to a phenomenon that might not only be envied, but also copied by similar world class orchestras. Do you have any idea how much pan could benefit in the long term from something like? And I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the endless possibilities.
> One only needs to look at the cuban cultural model, to see some of the potential benefits of being open culturally minded, while holding on to one's roots, not just from the last century, but going all the way back to slavery.
I hear you with 'the Cuban Model' and all that Bryan. I just Googled the word 'Philharmonic' and one definition reads as follows...A name used by many musical organizations, meaning ‘music-loving’ (from Gk. phil -: ‘loving’; harmonic : ‘concerning music’). Nowhere was any particular instrument mentioned. I want to suggest that the integration of pan and violin, oboe, trumpet or what have you should be done from the very beginning of the process. Since to me there is nothing wrong with being 'trinicentric', I would be much happier a 'Philharmonic' Orchestra of that nature...
This has nothing to do with being Trinicentric or global thinking for that matter. It's a matter of pragmatism. The money spent on creating a non-pan orchestra (I assume the proposed National Philharmonic would be a non-pan orchestra) could be spent on promoting pan playing, building, etc and improving the lot of pan men in general.
Any other orchestra will be of benefit to the very few instead of the masses. And Bryan you ought to know by now that most pan players of this era can read and write music, not that that is such a big thing. Reading and writing music is only a way of communicating musical compositions and arrangements and not even the only way so it does not make one a better pan player just a better communicator and only for those who want to share the music outside of the panyard.
As for the Cuban model of culture I can safely say that if the steelpan had been invented in Cuba their National Orchestra would be an all pan one- because that is the Cuban way of dealing with its culture.
If there was a move afoot to assemble a National Orchestra composed of pan instruments with a few other 'traditional' instruments thrown in for good measure, I could support such an initiative although I would wonder what would be the benefit over a completely all pan National Orchestra.
BTW there is a National Pan Orchestra in Barbados (youth), what about TnT?
Good thinking
You know we (Caribbean people) will never come to terms with what is ours and prefer to emulate what is not. I had a recent discussion with an adminisrator of the Barbados National Philharmonic Orchestra about why they did not incorporate the steelpan in the orchestra. His answer was that pan was not a 'classical' instrument.
I of course ended the discussion there. I'm not sure he ever heard the Indian National Philharmonic Orchestra (that's probably not it's name but the description suffices). It contains the Indian national instrument the sitar also not a 'classical' instrument (by his definition).
I certainly support anyone's desire to play any instrument they choose in any forum available and of course the formation of an orchestra composed of 'classical' instruments is probably a good thing, but a National Orchestra consisting of anything other than the steelpan, at least as the majority of the instruments, is completely wrong.
Where has the oboe, the violin, viola, etc ever become a 'national' instrument of Trinidad nad tobago and how can we envisage a National Orchestra filled with non-national instruments?
These orchestras are formed around these instruments because they are the instruments that they identify with and in any case most are commercial orchestras not subsidized by the national coffers.
I have no objection to anyone founding a philharmonic orchestra in Trinidad and Tobago. I'd even relish going to one of their performances but I would object strenuously to anyone calling it a National Orchestra or having it funded by the public purse.
What can I say, you guys have your opinions and I have mine. I (try to) see the whole universe, you (only) see T&T - nutten wrong wid dat. :-)
Check out this video and laugh a lil bit.
Can we have both orchestras?
It'll certainly be good for the kids.


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