Pantonic All Stars steel orchestra

Registered charity 1155970.

Our tour to Belgium in August went down a storm. You can pick up photos as well as some live videos in Ostend and Niuewpoort by clicking onto .

The History of Pantonic All Stars Steel Orchestra
First Pantonic All Stars sign Photo galleries: (1993, Heilbronn), (1998, Barbados), (Olden Days) and (Recent...ish).

Pantonic All Stars Steel Orchestra was formed in November 1985 when two families, one of whom had recently returned from a working period in Trinidad, decided to form a steel band for the benefit of children in Stockport. In addition, personal circumstances focused on a desire to support the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital Bone Marrow Trust Fund and through playing, raise money for the fund.

 The aim was always to be a family affair run by parents for the benefit of youngsters and to consider what was best for the whole group before any individual. The motto remains to this day ‘We Not I’

From those ideas the band grew into an orchestra which has raised and extended the scope of steel music not only locally and regionally but nationally. Back in 1985 the Orchestra, under the tuition of Arthur Culpepper, started with steel pans obtained from several sources, and as funds became available from playing out and charitable sources, expansion was possible and chrome plated instruments were purchased which provided better quality and durability.

Rehearsals were held in the drama studio at Dialstone Community Centre in Offerton, Stockport from 1985 until 2003 when a new home had to be found and we moved to Hazel Grove Primary School.

Pantonic All Stars, First band members

In 1987 the Orchestra made its first visit to Beziers, Stockport’s twin town in the south of France. This was followed by a short trip to Belgium in 1988. The Orchestra took part in a number of competitions but most notably in the National 'Music for Youth' Festival where they were presented with the Outstanding Performance Award twice and performed at many School Proms concerts including St. David's Hall, Cardiff, St Georges Hall, Bradford and the Royal Albert Hall, London, where they were fortunate enough to make four appearances between 1989 and 1995.

Most memorable being 1992 when we played Bohemian Rhapsody on the first anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death with the spontaneous full backing of a Welsh girls choir. The Orchestra has also been featured several times on television and radio in arts festival and youth programmes including Blue Peter (twice!) and the 'Young Entertainer of the Year' semi finals on BBC1. Were you there on the photos from this era?

Pantonic All Stars, Playing for Queen Elizabeth 2nd

This performance of a Queen tune came just a year after the Orchestra had played for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd when she had attended a ceremony in Mersey Square, Stockport.

Photos and a letter were the pride of the collection!

Letter from Buckingham Palace

The Orchestra has been primarily responsible for progressing an art form by its extension into pop and light classical music, as well as performing traditional music from its musical source, particularly calypso. In 1989 they recorded its first cassette using the famous Strawberry Studios in Stockport. Further recordings followed in 1991 and 1993 and then two years later these latter two were combined to create the first CD. The drama studio at Dialstone Community Centre has been used to record most of the music collections and three further CDs have been recorded since 1997 with cassette versions of all but the latest volume 6, which was recorded at the Royal Northern College of Music in December 2004.

The style of music on all the recordings is deliberately varied to re-create the traditional sound of the Caribbean, whilst demonstrating the wide versatility of steel pans. Easy listening and modern tunes are mixed with a selection of calypsos and some of the well known classics, initially arranged by Nigel Brathwaite and then from 1991 till 2004, by our third Musical Director Scott Sinckler. Volume 7 is due to be recorded this year and all the new and revamped arrangements will be by our fourth Musical Director, Steven Marshall, who originally joined the Orchestra as a junior player back in 1987.

The 'Bubble'

In the late 1980's player transport was achieved through a 12 seat Bedford minibus, followed in 1991 by a local coach company donating a 15 seat mini coach – the lovable ‘Bubble’ for obvious reasons. In summer it was like driving a greenhouse. The first transport for the pans was an old caravan with some glass missing, that once allowed a pan to bounce along behind the group.

A Ford Transit Luton was replaced by a second Transit supplied by Asda and presented to us by local folk singer and comic Mike Harding, in 1991. This second one proved to be a bit too small and soon had to be modified with a tall roof to accommodate the growing group. A loaned trailer, and later our own trailer, provided us with the ability to carry two five piece bass sets.

With a need to become more reliable and widen our horizons for playing, we applied for a grant from the National Lottery. This was achieved through the Arts Council in the summer of 1997, and enabled the Orchestra to obtain a 17 seat Iveco Daily minibus, which provided the necessary transport to extend both the number of venues and geographical area that the Orchestra could cover.

The grant also enabled us to procure a second long-wheel base Iveco Daily to transport the large volume of equipment that is required to provide the musical entertainment. Not to be outdone we picked the newly registered van up on August 2nd, the minibus six days later, and set off on the 10th for our first fortnight tour of Torbay in Devon – thank heavens they were reliable! In 2009 we were able to replace the aging van with a new and more efficient Iveco daily and are now looking to replacing the minibus as soon as possible.

The Van and Minibus

The Orchestra's own funds, together with the National Lottery grant, have enabled regular capital purchases of musical instruments, uniforms, cases and stands to reach the stage where we can accommodate, if pushed and with percussion, a group in excess of 40 young players. The vast majority of our pans were made by Biggs in London until his death in 2007, since then we have used Toussaint Clarke in Bath for tuning and to buy three new tenors and a set of bass.

In addition the new equipment has allowed us to support our local primary schools by passing on our old pans to their bands and this in turn provides us with a supply of new young talent to keep the Orchestra alive.

The Orchestra regularly appears at Caribbean evenings, shows, garden festivals, carnivals and shopping precincts taking on over 50 events each year throughout the Country. Recent years have seen the Orchestra tour Devon regularly in six summers – watch out for 2011 - as well as covering a wider field taking in all the northern and midland counties, Scotland and North Wales.

The Orchestra receives donations for playing at public and private functions and a local authority grant which, together, provide some of the funding required to operate the existing vehicles, and support our other operational costs. These include foreign visits and, as well as those mentioned above, the Orchestra has performed in Europe on many occasions, visiting our other twin town Heilbronn, Germany in May 1993 (Were you there?), touring Barbados in August 1998 (Were you there?) and revisiting Beziers and Valras Plage in France for two weeks playing in the summer of 2004.

We made our first tour to Esbjerg in Denmark in February 2007, to undertake workshops and concerts for the youth service. This was followed in August 2009 with another tour starting with the Esbjerg Steel Music festival and incorporating venues around the area. Reports and photos from the recent tours can be found elsewhere on the site.

Crystal Waters

Two successful anniversary concerts have been held, with the tenth at Stockport Town Hall in 1995 and the fifteenth at The Plaza just as it reopened for business in 2000. 2010 sees the 25th Anniversary of the Orchestra and we will be partying with as many of the original players as we can get in contact.

Nationally the Orchestra has a high reputation in steel music and needs to support it's continuing development, not only as an orchestra, but for the contribution it can make to extending a musical forum and reaching audiences throughout the country by performances at both public and private events. It continues to develop steel music as an art form and to produce the quality of music for which they have become respected and well known in the steel music and Music For Youth forum. This is further supported by the constant request from local primary schools and local young people to join the orchestra. This growth, even with those leaving the orchestra, has risen from 25 in 1992 to today's total of around 50.

Locally the Orchestra is developing and extending the basic tuition obtained within primary education to beyond that available within the educational system. The orchestra currently has 31 senior players aged 12 - 31 who rehearse every Sunday morning and Tuesday evening in Hazel Grove Primary School, where the acoustics for music and security for the storage of instruments is ideal as well giving the provision of a safe environment for both the young players and parents alike.

In addition we operate a junior section of young players and teenagers interested in learning steel pan, currently of 20 players aged 10 - 19, who rehearse every Monday evening except during main school holidays. There are four primary schools in Stockport where steel bands exist, however, no secondary schools continue this aspect of musical education. Our practise for the last several years, mainly in July, has been to recruit those children leaving primary schools who wish to continue playing steel music. In addition we regularly get new players from audiences at our venues around the local area.

The Orchestra not only provides a music service for the young people of Stockport but also a social and youth function. Many of our players remain in the Orchestra for most of their teenage years and playing service by some has now exceeded twenty years. The Orchestra is run purely by volunteer parents, assisted by the older players, and again some of those have given that support for as long as the longest serving players.

1997, Band Photo

The orchestra has now raised over £39,000 for the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Trust since 1985 as well as supporting directly or indirectly many other local and national charities through playing at fund raising events.

Finally the Orchestra operates in the name of Stockport. All public appearances operate behind a banner proclaiming Pantonic All Stars Steel Orchestra - the “Sound of Stockport Steel” and the vehicles sport the same logo on their sides.

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