Caribbean Christmas to heat up holiday season
by Bob Young
Wednesday, December 6, 2000
Fans of West Indian music are getting an early holiday gift Friday when
several of the Caribbean's biggest stars convene at the Strand Theatre for
what's shaping up as a power-packed Christmas concert.
Venturing north will be the BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra from Trinidad and
Tobago, considered legends in the islands, and Shadow, also known as Winston
Bailey, the reigning "National Calypso Monarch of Trinidad and Tobago."
Also appearing will be steel pan performer/arranger Ken "Professor" Philmore,
considered to be one of the world's finest jazz pan players.
"The intent is to bring the word of what a Caribbean Christmas would be to
those of us who are going to spend our winter here," said Ronald Lammy of
eCaroh Caribbean Emporium, who is lending local marketing support to the event.
"The program will cover a range of music, from classical to parang."
In addition to traditional holiday tunes from the Caribbean, listeners can
expect to hear originals and interpretations of songs from the pop, soul and
Lammy, whose Jamaica Plain business also hosts a Web site, www.ecaroh.com
that's essential for anyone interested in all cultural things Caribbean, grew up
in Guyana as a huge steel band fan.
He points out that the Invaders, formed more than 60 years ago by Ellie
Mannette and now conducted by Dr. Jeannine Remy, are revered in the West Indies.
They finished near the top at the recent world steel band competition and are
always contenders in the annual Carnival competitions.
"They're one of the pioneering steel bands in the world," Lammy said.
Legend has it that the band was formed in 1937 under a breadfruit tree at the
Mannette family home in Port of Spain. A group of youngsters from the
neighborhood used biscuit tins, paint cans and other empty metal containers as
instruments, which later evolved into 50-gallon oil drums after Mannette
subsequently experimented with different shapes and sounds.
The breadfruit tree by the Mannette house remains the literal and symbolic
roots for the current day Invaders.
In addition to offering Caribbean holiday cheer, Lammy and others hope the
event opens a window onto a culture that's vibrant both in Boston and in the
"The intent is to reach out and put the overall emphasis on the West Indians,
the role we are playing, the music we love and how we are enriching the
community," he said.
The Invaders, Shadow and Professor Philmore Friday at the Strand Theatre at 8
p.m. Tickets: $30 in advance, $35 at the door, also available through
BWIA INVADERS STEEL ORCHESTRA
CHRISTMAS SHOWS AT
TOWN HALL, MANHATTAN & STRAND THEATRE, BOSTON
The world renowned BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra and Shadow, the National
Calypso Monarch of Trinidad & Tobago, will provide spectacular Christmas
concerts in New York and Boston from December 6th to December 11th. Billed as
"A Caribbean Christmas," the holiday extravaganza will open at The
Town Hall in Manhattan’s glittering theater district at 8:00 P.M. on
Wednesday, December 6th and the Strand Theatre, Boston, on Friday, December 8th.
Famous for mesmerizing audiences around the globe with its exquisite
renditions of Christmas music, gospel, pop and classical, including Carnival
Overture by Dvorak, the Invaders Steel Orchestra is ranked as one of the top
five steel orchestras in the world.
The 32-member BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra is conducted by its musical
director Dr. Jeannine Remy of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Dr. Remy is a tenured
professor of music at Idaho State University. She is a recipient of a Fulbright
Award to research the history of steel drums and to author a book on the
Invaders Steel Orchestra.
Ken "Professor" Philmore, the famous steelpan arranger who has
toured with the Count Basie Band, will make a special performance.
Established in 1937 by Ellie Mannette and friends, Invaders is a versatile
full orchestra. Many other famous steel orchestras in Trinidad & Tobago,
such as Starlift and PhaseII Pan Groove, were established by former members of
Invaders. Dr. Ellie Mannette is artist-in-residence at the University of West
Virginia. His work has been displayed in museums across the U.S.
In addition to concerts at The Town Hall, Strand Theatre in Boston, and
Macedonia Center in Mount Vernon, the orchestra will also perform and conduct
workshops at Lehman College.
EVERYBODY’S, the Caribbean-American Magazine, is the producer and promoter
of the Christmas spectacular. It is presented by Hennessy Cognac and Johnnie
Walker Black. Heineken is the sponsor and BWIA West Indies Airways, the official
from CARIBBEAN-AMERICAN MAGAZINE
DR. JEANNINE REMY
MUSICAL DIRECTOR & CONDUCTOR
BWIA INVADERS STEEL ORCHESTRA
Dr. Jeannine Remy of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, holds a doctorate from the
University of Arizona and her Masters and Bachelors degrees from Northern
Illinois University; her degrees are in percussion performance with an emphasis
on ethnic music. Dr. Remy is a tenured professor of music at Idaho State
University and is internationally recognized for her contributions in the art of
steel drum performing and arranging.
In 1989, Dr. Remy became a member of the Invaders Steel Orchestra and, In
1998, she assumed the responsibilities as the orchestra’s musical director and
For the academic year (2000-2001), Dr. Remy is a recipient of a Fulbright
Award which allows her to lecture at the University of the West Indies and
research the history of steel drums. Her research will culminate in the
publication of a book on the history of the Invaders Steel Orchestra.
BWIA INVADERS STEEL ORCHESTRA
Its name was changed to "INVADERS"
after a U.S. war movie
By Elizabeth Mannette
The world renowned BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra from Trinidad & Tobago
has left audiences spellbound with its exquisite performances of Christmas
music, classical from Mozart to Dvorak, gospel, salsa, pop, reggae and calypso.
Dr. Jeannine Remy of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin who has been a member of the
Invaders Steel Orchestra since 1989, is the orchestra’s musical director and
conductor. Dr. Remy is a tenured professor of music at Idaho State University
and is internationally recognized for her contributions in the art of steel drum
performing and arranging.
Invaders founder is Dr. Ellie Mannette, a professor at the University of West
Virginia. Mannette is considered an icon in the world of steelband music.
Here is a profile of BWIA Invaders and Dr. Ellie Mannette by Elizabeth
The year was 1937. The breadfruit tree at the Mannette family home on
Tragarete Road, opposite the Queen’s Park Oval sporting grounds, was the
meeting place for an unusual group of musicians. Stanley Hunte and Ellie
Mannette were the leaders of the youngsters who talked about their own band of
They could have been described as "a gang." The neighborhood boys,
however, were going to focus on music and steelpan, an instrument that was still
being shaped. They decided to call themselves "Oval Boys," after their
first panyard located under the stands of the Queen’s Park Oval. They
collected discarded paint cans, biscuit tins and other empty metal containers to
be used as instruments. The Oval Boys changed their name to "Invaders"
after seeing the U.S. war movie, "Night Invaders." Soon their
permanent home was under the breadfruit tree at 147 Tragarete Road, where the
band resides to this day and the breadfruit tree is still alive.
Through experimentation with materials available on the street, they started
to bridge the gap between the earlier rhythmic beat of the tam-boo-bamboo and
the harmonies that would soon emanate from the steelpan.
Those were days of rivalry, innovation and excitement. The rivalry between
bands of Laventille and John John in East Port of Spain and those in Woodbrook
and the West often led to violent clashes. During the 1940's, Invaders was one
of the most feared steelbands on the road. The sight of their battleflag was
enough to frighten the faint-hearted. Lord Blakie’s (Carlton Joseph) calypso,
"Steelband Clash," documented a confrontation between Invaders and
Tokyo, a band from the East Dry River.
In those days, Ellie Mannette was the creative force, designing and tuning
the pans for which he earned the title "Father of the Modern Steel
Drum." His job in an iron foundry gave him a special feel and skill for
steel and other metals. Mannette experimented with the 50-gallon oil drum in
place of biscuit tins. He sank the playing surface downward into a concave shape
instead of the convex shape used at the time. Mannette created six of the nine
instruments in the steel drum family. He also discovered, through trial and
error, the uniqueness of the note blend on each pan; and that the sweetness of
the music could be brought out with sticks wrapped with rubber.
For the past 33 years, Mannette has been at the forefront of the steelband
movement in the United States. He left Trinidad and Tobago for New York City in
1967. In the USA, he has traveled extensively, making and promoting pan. As a
result of his efforts, successful steelband programs can be found from New York
to Washington State and from the Dakotas to Texas.
Mannette works with over 200 public school, university, community and private
bands. He gives lectures and conducts seminars on the construction, tuning and
history of the instrument. His work has been on display in museums all across
the United States. Currently he resides in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he
is artist-in-residence at the University of West Virginia.
Invaders’ growth was due, in part, to its Woodbrook location where a local
theater was established in 1949 with Invaders as the resident steelband. It may
have been a factor in the 1960's when Shell Oil Company became one of the first
steelband sponsors. Shell later changed its name to Trintoc and then Petrotrin,
retaining sponsorship until 1998.
Invaders produced many fine pannists and tuners who added to the musical
legacy created by the founders. The youngest Mannette brother, Vernon "Bridie,"
was Tuner and Captain for 25 years, maintaining the Invaders’ reputation for
"sweet" pan. Ray Holman, the prolific composer and arranger started
with Invaders when he was only 13 years of age. His work with pan jazz
arrangements gives him a unique position in pan history.
Spawned from Alexander Ragtime Band and Oval Boys, Invaders produced many
other bands. Among them were: Saigon, Green Eyes, Gale Stars, Tropitones,
Metronomes, Troubadors, Dixie Stars, Sombreros, Starlift, Girls Pat, PhaseII Pan
Groove and Third World.
THE NATIONAL CALYPSO MONARCH
OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Winston Bailey, better known as Shadow, is the reigning National Calypso
Monarch of Trinidad & Tobago. He is also a holder of the other highest title
in calypso, Road March Winner of Trinidad & Tobago.
Shadow has 40 CDs to his credit. His hits have been used in soundtracks of