There was an abundant outpouring of love last Sunday evening at the St James Amphitheatre for the 81st birthday of composer/arranger/pan scientist Anthony Williams. Organised by Williams’ close friend Judy Arthur, the occasion was held to celebrate, as well, the 50th anniversary of Williams’ Pan Am North Stars winning the 1962 Steelband Music Festival, playing Johann Strauss’s Voices of Spring. Williams and North Stars also won the first official post-Independence National Panorama title in 1963.
With a huge audience in attendance, most of them pannists, glowing tribute was paid to the living pan legend by a number of speakers, including host Alvin Daniell, National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Patrick Arnold and Pan Trinbago secretary Richard Forteau. The official programme was preceded by prayers by Orisa Ajibona Erin Folame and Cheryl Thomas.
In his address, Arnold cited Williams as “a very special individual,” as Williams, while celebrating his birthday, unselfishly chose to honour and present plaques of appreciation to other steelband arrangers, including Ray Holman, Pelham Goddard, Robert Greenidge, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and Earl Brooks. Greenidge was unable to get a flight from the United States for the event, while Sharpe, still in bereavement over the recent loss of his Phase II Pan Groove “sidekick” Franklyn Ollivierra, was reportedly under the weather and also absent. Allima Garcia, wife of Woodbrook councillor Cleveland Garcia, received on behalf of Greenidge, while T&T Guardian entertainment editor Peter Ray Blood obliged on Sharpe’s behalf. On receiving his award, Holman revealed that it was Williams who had inspired him to begin composing his own songs for the steelband after hearing Williams’ Pan Down Fifth Avenue, a piece Williams composed for the 1974 Macy’s Easter Parade in New York. One of the evening’s most poignant surprises was Williams playing one of his favourite songs—The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot—accompanied on double tenor by Holman. Holman also performed during the formal segment, as well as Brooks, performing on the revolutionary PSI pan. After the evening’s formal segment, there were live performances by Witco Desperadoes, Curepe Scherzando, St James Tripolians and Scrunters Pan Groove.