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TASPO | Sterling Betancourt | The 1951 Festival of Britain

Sterling Betancourt MBE talks about his experience of performing at the 1951 Festival of Britain with Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra.

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Comment by Glenroy R Joseph on October 5, 2011 at 10:59am

Now I know I'm really old!!!

I actually remember the tunes being played by the band!

The first one (just after the hideous,racist picture) was "We wan't Ramadhin on de ball" by King Radio.

Nice arrangement, too!

This was a calypso  celebrating the greatest West Indian spin bowler  to ever come out of Trinidad and Tobago, Sonny Ramadhin.

1950 was  the year that a West Indies cricket team including such legends as the "Three W's", Ramadhin and Valentine and others beat the English team in their backyard at Lords for the first time in history.

I remember that victory being celebrated on the streets at carnival in 1951.

I also remember the second tune, but I've forgotten its name

Comment by Pan'tum - The Ghost Who Talks on October 5, 2011 at 8:16am

If you are mentioning TASPO, and your account does not include the name of George "Sonny" Goddard, then you (obviously) do not know to whom the credit should be given. As such, I repost:

This is the TRUE account as to how "Operation Britain" came about, and although Sir Hubert Rance should be credited for his support and patronage, TASPO was not a creation of this former Governor's "recommendations", and the credit should be re-directed to the proper party/parties. What is interesting to note, is that this "operation" coincided with George "Sonny" Goddard's first official post, as Vice-secretary of the (then) Steelbands Association (c. April, 1950). On the invitation of Invaders' Ellie Mannette (Invaders' captain) and Clarence Gulston (Invaders' secretary), George attended a series of meetings, and the result was the forming of the association. The other officials elected at that meeting were Sydney Gollop (President), Nathaniel Crichlow (Vice-president), Sonny Harewood (Secretary), and Carlton Bidhi (Treasurer). Coincidentally,  the first recital they held was partly to raise funds to assist Spree Simon, who had been shot (George's book says it was an "accident"), according to recent information I received from Kim Johnson (author and journalist). These former executive members (GOLLOP, CRICHLOW, HAREWOOD, GODDARD, and BIDHI) are the ones truly deserving of the credit, and the evidence shows why.
According to Goddard (in his book), as early as "late in 1950 or...early...1951, on hearing of the Festival of Britain (planned for August 1951), the association believed that "Trinidad and Tobago should present steelband music at the Festival", and solicited the government for financial assistance ($6,000 TTD) for sending a "representative steelband". The government denied their request, stating that their "application was a bit too late" The Trinidad Guardian, on April 13, 1951 (long before the governor's alleged July 1951 "recommendations") reported that the government's "financing of the local team to the Pan American Olympics has exhausted the money for these purposes". The association then decided to raise the funds on its own, and a "nember of sub-committees were set up". During that time, Albert Gomes was a die-hard supporter from "day one", and POS Mayor, Raymond Hamel-Smith made a public "appeal for $7000" (Trinidad Guardian. April 25, 1951). That target was later reset to $15,000 (Sunday Guardian, May 6, 1951) One of the sub-committees the association formed, was headed by Canon Farquhar, and Wilson Marshall, Carlyle Kerr, Lennox Pierre, and Ulric Nesbitt were members of that committee, and these persons also deserve the credit and recognition. Also deserving honor, are the Bermudez Buscuit Company also donated "one dozen steel drums", and well-known tailor, Fitz Blackman "offered to tailor, free of charge, the uniforms..." (Trinidad Guardian. May 3, 1951)
It was in keeping with their fund-raising efforts, that Sir Hurbert Rance, in a brochure the association put out, entitled "Operation Britain", posted a message of support, but he was not the only one, as Albert Gomes, Canon Farquhar, and Roy Joseph, also posted messages. (Trinidad Guardian. May 29, 1951) Interestingly, there was also foreign support from the (then) Mayor of New Orleans, Lesseps Morrison (Trinidad Guardian. June 13, 1951), as well as the "local press". By mid-June, the T & T Tourist Board would "promise to contribute $500...on the condition that the campaign must reach thetarget of $15,000". (Trinidad Guardian. June 21, 1951). Others "chipping in" included Lt. Brian Gething (the Governor's Aide-de-Camp), Mr. Winfield Scott, R. J. Shannon, Edward Lee Lum, the Hon. Stephen Maharaj, E. J. Clovis,, and T. A. Telemaque, and the Hemisphere Club of Barataria. Canon Farquahar also pointed praise to persons such as  P.M. Renison, W. minshall, Sir Gerald Wright, Mrs. Mahanna Hathaway, Lt. Griffith (the musical director), and the Montano bro

Comment by Hameed Shaqq on October 1, 2011 at 11:53pm
TASPO presentation in London in 1951, was the most meaningful presentation to the World of Music. They presented the Birth of a New Orchestra in the form of a steelband from Trinidad. Steelbands Orchestras were ready to take their seats with the family of musical instruments now alongside the traditional woodwinds, strings etc. The Steelband is the only independent Orchestra created in modern human history and today, is sweeping across the world.
Comment by Audley Sue Wing on October 1, 2011 at 10:31pm
Watching this video of Sterling Betancourt and reading Kim Johnston's brief account of the creation of TASPO in 1951, one gets a sense of the heroic proportions of the contribution these pioneering steelbands men made in the middle of the last century while T&T was still a British Colony. We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. Thank you Sterling. ASW
Comment by Irwin C.Clement on September 30, 2011 at 9:02pm

Hi Sterling


  After really watching and listening to your interview, I commend you. Especially the singing bit.


Your St Crispin School Buddy

Comment by Winston A. Rodriguez on September 30, 2011 at 6:33pm
Excellent video, and Sterling Bentancourt looks amazing for his age. Thanks
Comment by Terry Alfred on September 30, 2011 at 12:46am
Brilliant piece if history for the pan community.Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Barry Mannette on September 29, 2011 at 11:05pm
This is amazing, this video should be seen by all pan supporters, players, students, teachers and everyone else in the steelband fraternity. Got to know your history!!!
Comment by The Steelpan Store on September 29, 2011 at 12:13pm
That was great! The timing was perfect too. I was just talking with Glenroy about TASPO and wondering what the instrumentation was. Although Sterling did not go into that, I did get a pretty good idea of what they used. It looked to me like they had 4 instrument in the soprano range, 2 in the alto range, 1 in the tenor, and 1 in the bass. I know there were more than 8 people involved though, so were the others playing iron, or did I miss some pans?
Comment by Glenroy R Joseph on September 29, 2011 at 10:08am

Great history lesson!


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