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PANORAMA SHAKE-UP
Reduction in playing time for steelbands
 
 
In an attempt to stem decreasing attendance at the annual steelband Panorama competition a number of radical adjustments have been made to the preliminary round of which gets under way January 29.

The revised regulations for the 41st edition of Panorama include categorising of steel orchestras into small, medium and large groups, a system long used by masquerade bands in their competitions, reduction in playing time of each band and an initiative aimed at reducing tiresome intervals between performances.

Speaking to the Express, Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold yesterday described the changes as "crucial and necessary improvements," saying sheer continuance of the contest demanded a comprehensive review of its regulations; many of which had not evolved to meet contemporary standards of the entertainment industry.

"We can't be talking world-class entertainment and not matching that concept with action," Arnold said.

"Panorama is now 41 years old and still we experience recurrent problems that first faced us decades ago. There comes a time when you have to look at any product and assess whether it will continue to sell or perish, and take appropriate steps based on your findings.

"The bands have become much larger, there was no control over the time they took to set up on stage and a number of other factors made the show increasingly longer each year, without bringing any additional excitement to the event. We believe those components and perennial problems with house management conspired to reduce our audiences over the past few years.

"What we have done, therefore is attempt to improve product-appeal by making Panorama more audience-friendly at every sequence, from the house to the stage. We have been viewing presentations by various companies involved in admission-ticket security, to ensure that this year the promise of reserved seats is finally delivered.

"Participating orchestras have also been seeded based on size and other considerations, actual playing time cut from ten to eight minutes and we have also instituted a new approach to managing set-up time for bands and put in place wireless communication to expedite movement along the track, which is expected to result in significant reduction of lulls and lapses; making for a tighter show all round," he said.

In terms of the categories, a small band is one fielding between 35 and 55 members, while the medium slot means up to 90 players can perform and, for large bands, the ceiling has now been raised to 120 persons. "We believe this will result in better performances," Arnold said, "as some bands that thought they never could win a significant prize, now have the chance of better placing within their grouping."

Evidently responding to widely-held suspicion that, by taking an inordinate length of time to set up, some orchestras force the house DJ to repeatedly play (and hence reinforce in the minds of the audience) the tune they are about to render, Pan Trinbago has also limited to eight minutes the playing time of vocal versions preceding performances. "After that, it will be up to the band to avoid negative public response occasioned by any further delay," Arnold said.

"We had to shake up the competition, because it had become conceptually stagnated and the records show that, over the past few years, gate-receipts have been dwindling, which we think is due in part to the length of time-up to 17 hours in a recent example-people were expected to sit for these marathon events.

"Tampering with Panorama is always a tightrope act," he conceded. "On the one hand there is the picnic-type North Stand atmosphere of the semi-final, because the majority of people who go there are in it for the dancing, meanwhile you have to consider the Grand Stand patron who comes for the music.

"While these adjustments may appear new, some derive from proposals developed by various committees appointed to study Panorama over many years. They were sitting there in files and folders and we decided to put them back on the table. It is from that mix of old and new ideas that we have formulated the new regulations.

"Over the years, valuable people have retired from the administration of Panorama, frustrated by reluctance to implement positions agreed upon years before. And while this was understandable in the context of breaking free from conservative and traditionalist view, the time has come to revamp the product."

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