TAIPEI, Taiwan — Murmurs of awe filled the Shih Chien University Auditorium on Sept. 18 as audiences entering the auditorium glimpsed the steel pans on stage to be played by the “Pantastics” Steelpan Orchestra.
Everyone was there for “A Musical Encounter” organized by the Embassy of Saint Christopher and Nevis in The Republic of China (Taiwan). The event was part of the 35th Anniversary of Independence celebrations of Saint Kitts and Nevis and also to commemorate 35 years of diplomatic relations between Saint Kitts and Taiwan.
In attendance were the Honourable Vance W. Amory, Senior Minister and Minister of Nevis Affairs, Social Security and Ecclesiastical Affairs and Mrs. Amory; Her Excellency Jasmine Huggins, Ambassador of Saint Christopher and Nevis to the Republic of China (Taiwan); high level officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan); members of the diplomatic corps; and representatives of foreign offices in Taiwan.
In her opening remarks prior to the performance, Ambassador Huggins said, “The evening is special as it brings together diverse cultures though a universal medium, music…The Pantastics, who travelled from Saint Kitts and Nevis for this special occasion, have captivated audiences throughout the region, winning accolades where-ever they played. They are excited to display their skills and share their love of steelpan music with you.”
Ambassador Huggins welcomed the Jiaxin Elementary School Choir, noting that their “impressive performance in Europe after a short learning period earned them the gold medal and the Special Jury Prize in the 2018 Franz-Schubert International Choir Competition.”
It became clear from the audience’s reception of first song of the concert, “Come Over” by Busy Signal when the hall erupted in applause, that the evening was going to be extraordinary. The Pantastics continued to impress the audience with the diversity of their musical choices which ranged from the classical to modern. Several soca songs had the normally conservative Taiwanese audience rocking in their seats and waving their hands in the air.
Some clapped to the infectious rhythms of the Caribbean beat. I Love St. Kitts (Viva Saint Kitts) was a particular favourite with the many students from the Federation who attended the concert, while the Taiwanese audience sang along to the Pantastics’ rendition of the extremely popular Teresa Teng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart.”
Melvin Hewlett, leader of Pantastics, shared details about the history of the steel pans. He even gave a slight demonstration of how the first song was played on steel pans. Saint Kitts and Nevis’ very own Stephen Richards surprised and delighted the audience when he translated Hewlett’s brief history lesson into mandarin Chinese.
After intermission, dressed in their traditional Atayal clothing, the Hngzyang na Nahuy & Matuy (The Children’s Choir of Jiaxing Elementary School & Yixing Branch Campus) graced the stage and rendered their interpretation of both Atayal-language and Chinese-language folk songs.
Just as Pantastics’ steel pans made the audience think of the rhythms of the Caribbean, the Choir’s sweet voices reminded the audience of the natural outdoor beauty of Taiwan.
The concert ended with both the Pantastics and the elementary school choir combining voices and instruments to perform a moving rendition of the famous Chinese pop Peng Yo (Friends). A standing ovation and rapturous applause at the end of the song ended what was described by the exiting crowd a wonderful and exciting evening.