The Steelband Music Festival (now known as Pan is Beautiful) is a biennial competition based on a previous event, the Trinidad Music Festival.
Trinidad Music Festival
The Trinidad Music Festival is an event aimed to promote the talent of potential musicians throughout the island of Trinidad regardless of age. It was first held on 16 March 1948 at the Prince’s Building and the Royal Victoria Institute (RVI) and continued for five days. The Prince's Building was built in 1861 in anticipation of the visit of Prince Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh and son of Queen Victoria. The RVI, built in 1892 was named after Queen Victoria who celebrated her Diamond jubilee in that same year.
In 1950, the Musical Festival was extended to a fortnight. This decision led English born Helen May Johnstone and the Trinidad Music Association to petition for a purpose built concert hall (Queen’s Hall) to be erected. Helen’s involvement in developing music in Trinidad was so profound that she insisted the steelpan should be included in the Festival.
In 1952, at the Roxy Theatre, steelpans were introduced into the Music Festival. This achievement was also due to the success of TASPO’s European tour and support from the National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen.
On 11 March 1952, at the Roxy Theatre, Boys Town Steel Orchestra won the steelpan category for the Hope-Ross Challenge Cup. The format of the competition was for each steelband to play the test piece and tune of choice. Boys Town played Under The Marabella Bridge and You Are My Heart's Delight.
The 1950s was a productive era for the development of steelpan. Many people who were well educated and of middle class began to create their own steelbands, such as Dixieland and Girl Pat, bringing with them a new flavour which gave the steelpan more social acceptance. It was Anthony Williams who influenced the panmen to suspend the pans on stands instead of around their necks on or their knees. This idea paved the way for further development. The double seconds, guitars and bass were later introduced, and the Panmakers were also able to develop the range and tone of the instruments.
Steelpan Music Festival
In 1964 the Steelband Music Festival was founded as a standalone competition due to a surge of interest in steelpans.
The first compettion was held at the Queen’s Hall and won by West Side Symphony Steel Band with their rendition of ‘Roses from the South'. Other steelbands that entered the competition were Angostura Starliff, Chase Manhatten Savoys, Shell Invaders, Guiness Caveliers, Metronomes, Tripoli Steel Band, Coco Cola Gay Desperadoes, Dixie Harps, Wonderland and Stereophonics.
The soloist’s competition was also introduced and won by Ray Holman.
For many years the Steelband Music Festival attracted international interest and this led to the event becoming a world competition.
Pan is Beautiful
In 1980, the Steelband Music Festival was renamed Pan is Beautiful.
World Steelband Music Festival
In 1988, the first World Music Festival was held with steelbands from Venezula, Guyana, Swedenand and Trinidad played at the inaugural fesitival for world steelband music. The festival was won by Exodus Steel Orchestra.
In 2000, participants came from the United States of America, England, Sweden, Finland, France, Finland, Switzerland, Grenada, St. Lucia and Trinidad. The competition was won by the Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra playing "In the Rain Forest", composed and arranged by Len "Boogsie" Sharpe as their classical tune of choice, and Ken "Professor" Philmore's "Pan By Storm" as their calypso tune of choice. BWIA Ebony from England was placed fourth playing "Morning Noon and Night in Vienna" as their classical tune of choice and "Celebrating with Steel" as their calypso of tune choice.
Pan is Beautiful is a platform for steel orchestras, ensembles, single pan bands and soloists to compete by performing their interpretations of classical music from memory to an international panel of judges.
This competition has done much to improve the profile of the steelpan instrument throughout Trinidad and globally.