“It takes a long time for them to be built,” Richardson said. “Some were handmade in Trinidad and some in West Virginia.”
The new pans arrived in dribs and drabs. When the orders were finally all in, it was the celebratory trigger for OU’s first Steel Band Festival to become a reality in 2012.
The concert Saturday evening promises to be a beat marathon.
“Each of the six separate school bands plays by themselves for a few minutes,” Richardson said. “Then all of them play together.”
Eighty players will be on stage, with some individuals striking two or three barrels each.
“It’s quite a sight to look at and will have a similar feel to the big Panorama competition in Trinidad,” Richardson said. “The music is some of the most foot-tapping and exciting that we get to play and should be entertaining to just about anyone.”
Popular compositions from Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. and classical music will be played.
“We’ll be doing some that was written specifically for the steel pans,” Richardson said. “CJ Menges has given us a few pieces he has written to perform, and he’ll be doing some solos with the OU band.”
There will be a duo with Richardson on marimba and Menges on steel drum. Menges also will lead the mass band numbers.
“He’ll also be on stage talking a bit about the day with the students who have been learning, rehearsing and playing together earlier,” Richardson said.
As in jazz, there will be some improvisational solos both by the guest artist and students. The concert will not be stuffy or intellectually inaccessible.
“Orchestra concerts sometimes have that reputation,” Richardson said. “This is music where the players smile at each other, dance, yell and sing during the performance. Not to say that one style of music is better or more appropriate for a concert hall than another, but this will be visually appealing as well as musically appealing.”