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Steel Expressions 2020 lifts patrons to new heights

Steel Expressions 2020 lifts patrons to new heights
the show’s producer, promoter and pannist, Rodney Small performing at Steel Expressions 2020

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by Bria King

Many patrons soared high during the ninth edition of Steel Expressions last Saturday night, expressing their enjoyment by singing along to the many performances, shouting their approval from their seats and raving about the overall excellent quality of the production.

The 2020 installment of the show was held on Boxing Day at the Victoria Park under the theme, ‘Lifted’ and was punctuated with performances from the show’s producer, promoter and pannist, Rodney Small and a variety of local talent.

But while some were awed by the three-hour long production, others left Victoria Park feeling as if they had not yet taken flight.

One patron who was attending Steel Expressions for the second consecutive year told SEARCHLIGHT that Saturday’s event “wasn’t bad” and that “last year was better because it felt more like a journey”.

A woman who had gone to almost all editions of the Steel Expressions event said it was not as “up-tempo” as expected, and that the song selection was just okay.

“If you look closely at the song selection…they are songs that inspire people. They are songs that a lot of people look to when they are feeling down or feeling sad,” Small told SEARCHLIGHT in a post-production interview.

Small, who is the executive producer and artistic director of Steel Expressions, expressed satisfaction with this year’s event, noting that he paid attention to elements that would help to execute his vision of the theme, ‘Lifted’.

“Over the years, I always play close attention to the theme and to try and select songs that can really match or highlight what I’m trying to say in terms of the theme,” he said. “This year, I took a very brave and bold move not to really be too complex with the music or place a lot of arrangement on them but to really leave the songs in its purest element so that persons can enjoy it for what it is.”

In usual fashion, the pannist made three appearances during the show during segments dubbed ‘Reflections’, ‘Love and Happiness’ and ‘Lifted’.

Using his steel pan and e-pan, the pannist performed renditions of popular songs including ‘Bridge over troubled water’ by Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Excess Love’ by Mercy Chinwo, ‘I can see clearly now’ by Jimmy Cliff and ‘Perseverence’ by Rasum Shallow.

Performances at Saturday’s show also included vocalists: Andy Cruickshank; Caywama and Caydonna; Brent Williams from the band, Silc; Aretha Shallow and Hance John.

Steel Expressions 2020 also provided a platform for young talent like six-year-old dancer, Jyasi Nash Jr and vocalists: Ahjea Jackson, Kyron Westfield, Abeni Richards and Havlyn Gill.

Local soca star, Gamal ‘Skinny Fabulous’ Doyle also made a spur of the moment appearance at this year’s event before Small ended the show with his finale song, ‘High Mas’ by David Rudder.

His theme of ‘Lifted’ came through not only in the song selection, but in the set design, which saw members of the band being elevated for the entire event, giving the appearance of floating above ground.

Various elevations were also featured on stage with Small completing half of the first segment on a platform before making his way to stage level to entertain the audience.

During Saturday’s show, the artistic director said Steel Expressions 2020 was one of the hardest events to put together.

He told SEARCHLIGHT this was because of the many challenges he faced during preparations, one being the change in the usual venue of the Arnos Vale Playing Field to Victoria Park.

“…A lot of families didn’t think that Victoria Park was the place for them so we really had to do a lot of work in terms of convincing persons that you can come and feel comfortable,” Small said.

Indeed, the Steel Expressions theme was able to transform Carnival City to create a more intimate atmosphere so that patrons could enjoy.

Small also said the coronavirus pandemic posed some issues and a lot of emphasis was placed on ensuring that people felt comfortable and safe coming to the venue without worrying about the virus.

“At the end of the day, if you have a very good team, these things can become very easy,” he said, while expressing gratitude to his team.

He also expressed “a major thank you to the Vincentian public for the support, those in the Diaspora who keep calling to see if we were showing it on pay-per-view or who commented on the little snippets that they saw”.

Proceeds from this year’s show will be donated to the World Paediatric Project.

“…We promise the Vincentian public that we’re going to continue to be giving clean, fun events,” Small said, noting that other events leading up to Steel Expressions 2021 are in the planning stages.

Plans are also afoot for the 10th anniversary of Steel Expressions slated for December 2021.

Without letting too much out of the bag, Small told SEARCHLIGHT that the theme will be “The Kingdom” and will tap into various aspects including the biblical meaning, female empowerment and the idea that every king needs a queen.