June 2, 2007 – With the ping, ping, ping of steel pans, St. John kicked off its annual July 4th Celebration Saturday. Nine youth and adult groups from St. Thomas and St. John played their hearts out at Panorama, held on the Cruz Bay waterfront.
"Panorama is not just a gathering of people who play music," organizer Ira Wade said.
He added that the playing of steel pans has its roots in Caribbean history, and that it began with tambo and bamboo – the striking of sticks against each other to make music. Hitting sticks on metal followed, which evolved into the steel pans played today all over the Caribbean.
St. John resident Alfred Daley, who was taking in the music with his nine-month-old son Sean, said he came out because it was the start of the island's July 4th Celebration. "And I grew up on it," he said.
Les Smith, another St. John resident, said it was steel pan music that drives carnival. "I have to be here," he said.
St. Thomas resident Bobby Thomas, who plays with the St. Thomas All Stars, said he enjoys the sweet sound that comes from the pans.
"And we need to promote it as much as possible because it carries on our culture," he said.
St. Thomas resident Vernice Monsanto, 13, who plays with the Bertha C. Boschulte Burning Blazers, said she loves playing pan because music is her life.
Lahkeem Smith, 9, of St. Thomas and a member of Evelyn Marcelli Crome Iguanas Steel Orchestra, said he enjoyed making steel pan music because it had a lot of different sounds.
"And it's fun," he said.
Keiano Penn, 8, is a member of St. John's Love City Pan Dragons. He said he liked participating because he got to travel different places.
He also gets to practice twice a week, said Pan Dragons Director Samuel Lawrence.
Lawrence said that the kids develop their talent as they learn to play.
The event brought out slews of visitors, who gathered in front of each group to hear them play.
Old Lyme, Conn., resident Rene Shedlosky said she and her husband were drawn by the sound of the music. "It's wonderful. It's not like any band concert we ever heard in Connecticut," she said.
Acting V.I. National Park Superintendent Martha Bogle said the music had a distinct island sound. She was out enjoying Panorama with friends visiting from Florida, North Carolina and Washington, D.C.
One of those friends, Gayle Hazelwood, said the music made her want to get up and move.
"It's awesome," Hazelwood, who is the superintendent at National Capital Parks East, said.
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