TT – Ray Funk and Andrew Martin
On March 9, Queen Elizabeth and numerous members of the Royal Family accompanied her to Westminster Abbey for the annual Commonwealth Day inter-faith celebration. Featured on the programme was the Melodians Steel Orchestra led by Terry Noel MBE who had led Melodians since 1987. They have the distinction of being often called upon by the diplomatic corp to help celebrate the Queen’s birthday in countries around the world and to date have travelled to 33 countries. They featured a new composition—Commonwealth Medley—by Robbie Thompson of Arima, long-time arranger of the Trinidad Melodians.
Terry Noel notes, “The UK Melodians Family represents a large part of the Commonwealth. We see this as a Commonwealth family event. Our membership represents Africa, Asia, The Caribbean and the UK. We also unite many cultures and ages from nine to over 60 years. This is the ninth time we have performed at this service but the first time at this level. Normally we play as people are coming in and leaving. Never before have we played as part of the service hence the need for a special piece of music, something bright and cheerful. Robbie, our favourite composer and major contributor to Melodians repertoire always relish that sort of challenge.”
Jonathan Scales Fourchestra
NPR Tiny Desk Concert
For fans of steelpan, progressive fusion, jazz, and indie music, the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra’s recent performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series was groundbreaking. https://youtu.be/qYPQ0EUmbTs
The virtuosic panman, Scales, now based in New York City, has long been known for his boundary-crossing music and collaborations with other musicians.
This short concert was no exception, a tour de force showcasing his musicianship, original compositions, and steelpans. The Tiny Desk Concerts performance featured three songs from his 2018 Pillar album, joined by legendary banjoist Bela Fleck.
The Tiny Desk Concerts series is a web-based video series of live concerts hosted by NPR (National Public Radio) at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.
The series is shot in Washington, DC at NPR headquarters and since its inception in 2008, the beloved concert series has featured nearly 1,000 short concerts and amassed over three billion views on youtube—making it an important venue for established and independent artists from throughout the world.
Until the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra’s performance in February, the concert series had yet to feature a steelpan of any kind making this performance pioneering for the instrument.
In the two months since its release, the concert has already amassed over 140,000 unique views. Youtube commenters showered the pannist with praise, and it is clear from comments such as “steelpan played like that? Who knew,” and “Never heard Steelpan Jazz before. This is why I love Tiny Desk Concerts” that Scales continues to bring new audiences to pan.