Trinidad’s Skiffle Steel Orchestra returns to Sweet Briar for concert, student workshops

April 5, 2017 | Janika Carey
Skiffle in concert

Members of Skiffle perform live. Photo by Tony Howell

Sweet Briar College will welcome back Trinidad’s famed Skiffle Steel Orchestra for a special concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13, in Murchison Lane Auditorium at Babcock Fine Arts Center. Skiffle will also perform with Sweet Briar’s Skiffle USA at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 15, at Second Stage in Amherst.

Tickets for the show at Second Stage are $5 at the door. Tickets for the Sweet Briar concert are available at skiffleorchestra.bpt.me and are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students with valid I.D. They are free for the Sweet Briar community and children younger than 12.

Skiffle, based in San Fernando and known around the world, has repeatedly won Trinidad’s prestigious Panorama competition in the traditional category and the World Steelband Music Festival. The music is indigenous to Trinidad and reflects the country’s particular culture and history. The orchestra takes its name from the genre of music known as “skiffle” and defined by the use of found instruments. Today’s steel pans evolved from discarded 55-gallon oil drums, long abundant in the former British colony where oil and gas are economic mainstays.

This will mark the second time members of Skiffle have visited Sweet Briar to perform a concert and conduct workshops with students. The first visit happened in 2014 — a year after assistant professor of music Jeff Jones created a small branch of the orchestra on campus. Skiffle USA features Sweet Briar students and faculty, with regular appearances at College events.

Briana McCall performs with Skiffle USA

Briana McCall ’17 performs with Skiffle USA in 2014.

“Our international program is educational, of course, built upon the principle of mutual benefit for participants from Trinidad and Sweet Briar College, and intended to help participants develop intercultural knowledge and competence,” Jones said.

Skiffle’s visit will further enrich that relationship with informal workshops and activities led by members of the Trinidadian group and Sweet Briar students.

The weeklong schedule includes a woodwind master class with arts management professor Natalie Szabo, an engineering workshop, canoeing on the lake, master classes with Skiffle, a gallery tour with senior art majors, a putting clinic with the golf team, tours of the Fitness and Athletics Center and the riding center, a dell party and a meet-and-greet with Skiffle, among other highlights.

Jones has a longstanding connection with Skiffle, having performed with the award-winning orchestra multiple times during his visits to the Caribbean island. In January 2013, Jones joined Skiffle in the Panorama Competition and in April of that year, he received a VFIC grant to conduct research on “Music Education and Community Development in Southern Trinidad.” Last year, his ethnomusicological research and efforts to establish an intercultural exchange were featured in PUPN Magazine.

For more information, email Jones at jjones@sbc.edu.

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