Sunday Guardian- February 18, 2001
Ray Holman, the person who has the distinction of writing the first own-composition for the steelband in the National Steelband Panorama competition, is displeased with the judges decision at last weekend’s preliminaries.
Holman composed and arranged “Heroes of the Nation”, which his band Humming Bird Odyssey played in the Panorama preliminaries last Saturday. The selection was vocalised by 98 Road March winner Wayne Rodriquez. Holman described “Heroes of the Nation” as “the most beautiful piece I have ever written for a steelband”.
“But, he said, “judging from the results, the judges have equated the quality of my work to that of a 10-year-old (Atiba Williams) who arranged for Panasonic Connection. The bands tied with 406 on the judges score sheets. He made it clear he was not complaining about the judging. “I am just noting their evaluation.” he stressed.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be there at all”. In 72 Holman produced “Pan On the Move”-significant and symbolic as the first tune to be written by a musical arranger specifically for a steelband. At the time, Holman was working with the Starlift Steel Orchestra of Woodbrook.
The “original” selection won the North Steelband Panorama contest in that year and was third in the national finals. Under Holman’s musical directorship, Starlift also had two national Steelbands Panorama victories –in 69 and with Kitchener’s “The Bull” and in 71 playing Sparrow’s “Queen of the Bands”.
“But” Holman declares, “since those days, I always seem to be treated quite unfairly by the judges. People from all over the world ask me how it happened. I am no longer trying to understand what they are doing, I don’t worry about it”.
Nineteen years after initiating the own-composition trend in the steelband movement, Holman is not so happy with the way things have gone. “I am a little disappointed that more arrangers are not composing music of their band,” he whined. He says only Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Pelham Goddard, Brian “Bean” Griffith have been maintaining the trend, “but this is too few.”
He pointed to California based musician/arranger Robert Greenidge who has done a few compositions over the past decade. While he understands that for varying reasons some people get disenchanted, he didn’t have any advice for budding composers.
“You see, it is difficult to advise on something like this because some people are gifted with the ability to compose, but most are not,” he said.
Holman’s Panorama history includes a 10-year stint from 1973 to 1983, during which he composed and arranged for Pandemonium Steel Orchestra.
He later arranged for Exodus, Carib, Tokyo, Phase II Pan Groove, Starlift and Humming Bird Odessey. About his musical history, Holman admits he never attended a music class in his life.
“But I got a good education on how to play the plan from good panmen back in the good old days, like Cobo Jack and Emmanuel Riley, Ellie Mannette, and Gerald Forsythe amongst others,” he added.
At age 13 he was playing both tenor and double-tenor in the Invaders Steelband. From 1957 to 1962, while still attending Queens Royal College, Holman became the arranger for Invaders. He was just 17 and remembers what a special honour it was back then, to be musically directing many of the great pioneers of the steelband movement.
“That responsibility was thrust upon me to arrange for all these big men,” he recalled fondly.
He arranged his first tune with Invaders in 1960, and fondly recalls it was titled “Ray Saga.” Since that time he has written “about 300 pieces of music.”