2002-08-10 / Columnists

Notes From The High C’s

By Sharon Gabriel
Rockaway Music and Arts Council

I have visions of days gone by when the iceman came down the street delivering huge blocks of ice for those families that still had the old-fashioned ice-boxes, and we kids scrambled to the wagon to eat some of the ice flakes left over from his chopping. Right now as I swelter in this summer’s heat, that picture comes to mind and I cool off, just a little.

I remember too, that we live in this wonderful oceanfront community and have the luxury of a national park where we have our Sunset Picnic Concerts each summer. This year, with all of the extra concerts, we have been extremely lucky that each Sunday was beautiful and each concert went off as planned. With just two more concerts to go, we have to all keep our fingers crossed.

From Oscar Brand to The Long Island Pops, the programs have been wonderful, something for everyone, and this week will be no different. On Sunday, August 11, at 6 p.m., The RMAC will present The Atlantic Steel & Brass Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Rudy Bishop.

For the longest time we have wanted to present a steel band and we are certainly presenting the best.

The Atlantic Symphony Steel Orchestra was formed on May 26, 1966; the very day Guyana was proclaimed an Independent Nation. This group of young men fascinated many audiences with their ability to master this unique art form. Originally founded by schoolboys of Kitty, a village near Georgetown, they were then known as The Guyana Chronicle Atlantic Steel Symphony Orchestra.

Coming under the leadership of Managing Director Rudy Bishop shortly after its formation, the Orchestra was placed among the top three orchestras of that era. The orchestra won many awards including second place in the 1969 Musical Festival, second runner-up in the 1973 Musical Festival and undefeated National Champions from 1975 to 1981. During this period, the orchestra made their first overseas tours visiting Suriname and Cuba, and an extended visit to Brazil in 1978 where they performed in Brasilia, Rio, Bella Horizonte, Sao Paulo and many other cities. Their music captivated audiences at each performance.

Their world travels continued as they visited the USSR in 1980 and also England where they performed at the New London Theatre. In 1981 the Orchestras made their first trip to the North America where they appeared at the UN General Assembly, the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan and a special reception hosted by Mayor Koch at Gracie Mansion. They have since traveled extensively in the U.S. to Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Chicago and Detroit, just to name a few cities.

From their first trip in the 1970’s the Orchestra has performed all over the world. On their return to Guyana, they performed in Belize for its Independence Celebrations, and it was during this period that a new dimension was added to the Orchestra – the fusion of brass instruments (trumpets and trombones) with the steel pans, the formation of its new Dance Theater along with the acquisition of modern sound equipment, heralded the birth of the world-renowned Atlantic Symphony Steel and Brass Orchestra and Troupe.

Their repertoire is taken from the musical heritage of various countries: the Shanto Bhoom of Guyana, Reggae of the Caribbean, Jazz, Pop, Soul and also, surprisingly, Country & Western. The Samba and Salsa of Brazil and many other Latin rhythms are included. All of this said, the principal work of the Orchestra is its ability to perform inspirational and intricate classical compositions by the world’s greatest composers including Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Bizet’s Excerpts from Carmen, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and many, many others.

So, as you can see, you will be in for a very special event this Sunday, August 11 ar 6 p.m. at Fort Tilden. We invite everyone in Rockaway to join us, from the east end to the west end for a most unusual evening. Plenty of parking is available and everything is free. Just bring your chairs, your picnic supper and enjoy the concert.

The last concert of the season (can you believe it?) will be held on Sunday, August 25 and is a "Tribute to Frank Sinatra." So, come in your bobby-sox, your poodle skirts and your saddle shoes to enjoy a trip down memory lane.

And don’t forget, if you enjoy the Summer Concert Series consider becoming a member of the RMAC. It is through our membership that we are able to bring the summer concerts to Rockaway.

See you on Sunday.

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