Steel Pan Photo credit:

The Rev D S Ching who was a serving at the Methodist Church in Basseterre in 1966 had an innovative streak. On Sunday the 6th February he welcomed the Coca Cola Steel Orchestra to accompany the organ in the church. Alexis Knight directed the band and Lorna Shepard played the organ. The performance was described as “commendable” and the Rev Ching praised the reverence that the Steel band players displayed n their renditions.

The reaction of some members of the church to the announcement had been far from encouraging. Some sent letters and even telegrams protesting such an unorthodox move and even accusing Rev Ching of giving in to pressure from his own congregation. The Minister however, thank them for their concerns and insisted that the decision to host the steel band had been his and his alone. He also reminded those present that in “every age comes something new” and pointed out that the steel pan was the West Indies’ contribution to music and as such should appreciated as part of the culture of the region.

Steel pan in churches, played either by soloists or by bands are no longer seen as sacrilegious. They became a feature of the Christmas concert held annually at St. George’s Anglican Church in Basseterre. Panists know that playing in church is different to playing on the road. Like musicians trained in the European classics, they understand what is appropriate for a particular occasion.

National Archives
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St. Kitts, West Indies

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