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Home Headlines That Matter Halcyon Steel at 50 – Keeping the Vibes Alive

Halcyon Steel at 50 – Keeping the Vibes Alive

Halcyon Steel Orchestra was established 5th May, 1971.  This became a reality mainly through the efforts of then parliamentary representative for the area (St. John’s Rural West) Mr. Selvyn Walter.  Mr. Walter was ably assisted by a wide cross section of the community, including brothers Sam and Penrod Kirby, Melvin Simon and James “Tanny” Rose.

As part of a plan to rekindle the art form within the community, during the campaign leading up to the 1971 general elections, Mr. Walter made a pledge to build a champion steelband within the Gray’s Green Community. 

In an effort to fill the void left by forerunners Starlift and Red Army steel orchestras.  Fifty (50) years later this promise has been realized with Halcyon Steel undoubtedly being widely regarded as one of the most successful steelbands in the history of Pan in Antigua/Barbuda.  The following are just some of the achievements which lend support to this fact:-

  • 13 panorama championships out of the 24 competitions it has participated in between 1972 and 2016.  This translates into a 54 winning percentage Producers of one of the finest steelband albums in Antigua/Barbuda – Pan in Harmony – Disco Steel – 1976.
  • The only band to win 4 consecutive panorama championships since carnival began in 1957 (1992-1995) The only steel band to accompany an artist in Antigua’s Calypso Monarch finals in the last 40 years – 1982 – the Mighty Wizard – Mr. Pan Man 40 unbroken years performing at Shirley Heights Lookout

In addition to the vision of Mr. Walter and his band of lieutenants, the success of Halcyon Steel Orchestra, throughout the years, can also be attributed to a number of other factors.  These include an extremely supportive community, a cadre of skilled players and arrangers, and a number of generous sponsors.  With respect to the latter these included Y De Lima, LIAT, Corn Producing Services (CPS), Bryson’s Digicel and the Antigua Masonry Products (Hadeed Group of Companies).

The impact of Victor “Babu” Samuel on the growth and development of Halcyon Steel cannot be gainsaid.  As a drummer, captain and musical arranger, he played a phenomenal and inspirational role kudos to him.

While the Band fully appreciates the contributions of all of its sponsors over the years, the Antigua Masonry Products (AMP) must be singled out for the thirty (30) years it has partnered with the Band from 1981 to 2011. 

In this regard, special mention must be made of the late Mr. Walton E. Theodore who was most instrumental in consummating the relationship back in 1981 under then owners Devcon and then later Hadeed Group of Companies, which continued the relationship from 2006 to 2011.

The Band has performed in several countries across the globe where it received rave reviews.  These include Germany, Denmark, Portsmouth in England, as well as Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami in United States. 

It has also given sterling performances in several Caribbean countries including the USVI and Montserrat as well 2001 CARIFESTA in St. Kitts/Nevis and 20 CARIFESTA in Barbados.  The Band also has the distinction of playing privately for the late Princess Diana in three consecutive while on her routine vacation on the sister isle of Barbuda. 

She was so impressed with the band’s first performance in 1995, she personally requested that the band play privately again for her in 1996 and 1997, a few months before her untimely passing.

On the local circuit, the Band which is known for its lively performances, can be found at a number of hotels across the island.  However, the most famous of them all is the Shirley Heights Look Out where Halcyon Steel has been performing every Sunday for the pass forty (40) years.  This session is widely regarded as one of the biggest social events in the entire Eastern Caribbean.

And so what started out as a dream by a most adventurous politician, has truly blossomed into one of the finest exponents of the art form and the only musical instrument created in the 20th century, Halcyon Steel Orchestra, of Antigua/Barbuda.

Panorama Championships

Year Tune(s) Arranger(s)

1975 Pan Rhapsody and St Peter Say – Gerald “Belly” Charles

1978 Benna Music & Panorama Night – Len “Boogsie” Sharpe

1979 Kangaroo Jam – Len “Boogsie” Sharpe

1986 Pan Getting Squeeze & Poet and Peasant Overture – Victor “Babu” Samuel

1987 Pan dying & Light Calvary Overture – Victor “Babu” Samuel

1992 21 Years of Blood Sweat & Tears – Victor “Babu” Samuel

1993 Woman Run Things – Victor “Babu” Samuel

1994 Where Will Pan Be in the 21st Century – Victor “Babu” Samuel

1995 Dis Party on Fire – Victor “Babu” Samuel

2008 Hit Man – Blakie & CC

2010 Rock Me – Victor “Babu” Samuel

2011 Don’t Stop Dis Party – Victor “Babu” Samuel

2016 Home for the 60th – Devon Bachelor

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