The first Pan-Jam workshop took place in Cambridge on 7th March 2015. Three bands and several individuals from across the Eastern Region came together for a day-long workshop with Delphina ‘Panness’ James of Ebony Steelband in London.
The aims of the day included challenging players with new tunes, taking them out of their comfort zones, inspiring them and at the same time to forging relationships between the local bands, which could be built on in future.
On the day the bands arrived between 9-10am and set up alongside each other. This allowed all the bass to form a backline, the tenors to form a frontline and the other pans formed rows within. CUSPS brought their drummer and percussion and there were spare pans for those who didn’t have their own. These were provided by Jenny and Yasmin from the pans in their own collection. The first hour was also used to socialise and chat so that people could begin to get to know each other.
The workshop started at 10am promptly and Delphina quickly brought all the pannists to order. She’d opted to teach ‘Magic Drum’ a tune which many of us never thought we’d get the chance to play. Delphina’s experience of pan as both a player and an arranger was the essential ingredient that would satisfy three of the aims of the workshop – to challenge, to inspire and move away from comfort zones. She patiently took her time with each and every player to ensure that everyone learnt their part and no-one felt ‘out of their depth’ or left behind. This included assisting the bass player for Sawston Steel who is blind, ensuring she knew how he wished to be taught, to make learning easier and build his confidence.
As the layers of tune came together the smiles on the faces around the room grew broader and the team spirit built. The ‘big sound’ that we wanted was there and the players all felt it!
The afternoon session saw the completion of the tune and ended with a free concert. Each band played two or three tunes from their own set-list and duos and soloists who had prepared tunes were sandwiched between the main bands.
The concert built to the big sound performance – the performance of the whole ensemble playing Magic Drum. The sound of the combined band – thirty players in a school hall with great acoustics – was something to behold. It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t have to be; it was a huge amount for the players to learn in one short day, and they were all proud to have played as well as they could. Everyone played their hearts out; faces were full of concentration and sheer joy at achieving such an enormous and unified sound.
All the bands were keen to do it again in 2016. Next year it is hoped that the event will be increased in size to accommodate fifty players as other bands have already expressed an interest in taking part.