High Wycombe honours its pan pioneers Vincentians who moved to High Wycombe established the Buckinghamshire town as a centre for carnival and steelpan. Recently it celebrated the 20th century’s only new acoustic musical instrument and those who introduced it to the UK.
The Holiday Inn at High Wycombe was the venue on Saturday 14th November for “an evening of excellence” organised by arts and heritage organisation SV2G.
His Excellency Cenio Lewis CMG, High Commissioner for St Vincent & the Grenadines, was guest of honour and made presentations to some of those who brought the sweet sound of pan into the streets and schools of Buckinghamshire. Also present were local MP Steve Baker and the chairs of Wycombe District Council and Chiltern District Council.
Among those honoured were Hesil Caesar, Cyril Leroy Morgan, Gideon Quashie and Evrod Cottoy, who were members of New Sound Crusaders. The steelband played on popular television show Opportunity Knocks (an early version of Britain’s Got Talent) for six consecutive weeks in 1971.
No steelpan celebration would be complete without the instrument itself, of course, and Wycombe Steel Orchestra – celebrating its tenth anniversary – performed at the event, having just rushed over from the Mayor’s Parade in the town centre.
Guests were also treated to performances from the School of Steelpans and pan player, arranger, tuner and educator Gerald Forsythe OBE. Along with London All Stars founder Frank Rollock, Forsythe founded the Pan Teachers Association and in 1978 was appointed steelband organiser for schools by the Greater London Council. By 1990, 160 schools included steelpan as part of their curriculum.