Antigua & Barbuda, W.I. - On Tuesday 7th March 2017, Hells Gate Steel Orchestra member Reginald Henry, who made sterling contributions to the orchestra and the art form in Antigua for over 70 years, passed away.
Reginald “Reggie” Henry being honored at Hells Gate’s Father’s Day Concert in 2013
Reginald Henry, referred to most as “Reggie” or “Uncle Reggie,” was one of the founding members of the Hells Gate Steel Orchestra, the world’s oldest steel orchestra, established 1945, in “The Point,” Antigua, West Indies. Hence, “Reggie” was a pioneer of the Antiguan steelband movement.
From the inception of the Hells Gate Steel Orchestra, “Reggie” ensured that he was ever present around the orchestra. “Reggie” from all accounts, played the ‘strum pan’ [guitar pan] and percussion in the early years. He never spoke much about himself and his other involvements in Hells Gate Steel Orchestra, but exhibited his love for the orchestra by giving wise counselling, sharing his personal experience with the orchestra and his knowledge of the struggles and achievements of the band.
Whenever there was work to do around the pan yard, “Reggie” was always present and was not afraid to roll up his sleeves and assist in getting the work done. He was an ‘action man.’
“Reggie” was very ‘Soup’ for Panorama and took it very seriously. “Reggie” kept the leadership of the orchestra on their heels especially during the preparation for Panorama. He would never hesitate to approach the leadership of the orchestra and voice his concerns regarding anything that he felt or believed was wrong. His approach was for example, “Hey, a wah are you a do man, are you hab dy piccaneerga an dem dong yah a run bout de place an nar practice? Are you a waste time man.” This usually happens whenever “Reggie” felt that the orchestra had too long a break during rehearsal sessions. Our response was generally, “OK “Reggie,” are we a go start up now.” He would then reply, “Hope so. Memba me nar move from ya now.” Whenever Panorama rehearsals were running late, or at the end of the evenings rehearsals and “Reggie” is tired and wants to go home, all you hear is, ““Stove,” Veron, Alston, me warnt fu gu home. Are you a tap too lang jus a chat. Me foot a hat me. Come now jack.” We normally expect “Reggie” to do this, so we just laugh it off.
“Reggie” made it his duty to report to the leadership of the orchestra any unusual activity he saw happening around the panyard located on Bay Street, Villa. Whenever “Reggie” saw good drums for making pans, he notified the captain, Veron, immediately. Also, if he happened to come upon any material that might be of some use to the orchestra, he secured it and informed the orchestra’s leadership.
Hells Gate Steel Orchestra
“Reggie” was so serious about being at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) on Panorama night, that he demanded his backstage pass the night before, or about the close of the final panyard rehearsal; he would find either “Stove” or Veron and say, “Me warnt me backstage pass now, me ready fu gu home.” He would be told that he had to wait until the players received their backstage passes first. Well, “Reggie” nah warnt fu hear dat; he would start mumbling to himself and say, with his right index finger pointing at whomever spoke to him, saying, “See are you dey, see are you dey,” and walk away smiling.
From L-R: Reginald “Reggie” Henry, George “Nugget” Joseph, Eustace “Manning” Henry
“Reggie” loved being at Hells Gate panyard, where youths and ‘joy’ [just older youths] meet all year round. He respected the youths and they respected him.
“Reggie’s” wise counselling and invaluable contributions to the Hells Gate Steel Orchestra, throughout his lifetime, have indeed reinforced and strengthened the foundation on which the organization was established, seventy-one (71) years ago. His legacy will live on for generations to come.
The executive council and members of the Flow Hells Gate Steel Orchestra express sincere condolences to his family at this time of their bereavement.
Rest in Pan, “Reggie”
Prepared by: Stafford “Stove” Joseph
Submitted by: Jabari Edwards
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