The North Star Steel Orchestra, getting ready for Carnival

I had a joyful visit with the North Star Steel Orchestra founder Freddy Tromp, in his spacious backyard in Noord.

He is getting ready for Carnival, tuning the pans, and rigging the equipment to sound fabulous when the orchestra hits the road, for the twenty-first consecutive year.

It was well-timed that I also met Andy Neils, an internationally famous pan tuner, on island to service the orchestra’s pans and make sure they sound crystal clear and true to tone.

A musician and an ace steel pan player by profession, Andy comes to Aruba every year, invited by the North Star Steel Orchestra to care for their instruments.

As you know, the Steel Orchestra has been a crowd favorite on parade from day one, they open the Grand Parade each year, and the crowd goes crazy, taking pictures and cheering the group of two dozen panhandlers, expertly playing favorite tunes, on instruments carefully hammered from 55 gallon oil drums.

Freddy started with an ordinary variety of pans, and slowly over time, changed and upgraded them all, to highly polished, much more expensive, Chrome coated ones.

Andy showed me how to tune the pan to perfect sound, and introduced me to the Lead Steel, the Double Second, the Double Guitar, the Six Base and the Triple Cello; I think this one will be played by Robert Tromp in the parade.

It was also nice to meet Charles Brower, another dedicated band member.

I must say it’s a science, not as easy as it looks, Andy comes from Trinidad to do the job, and that is where we say thank you to loyal sponsors Romar Trading and Setar, the orchestra could not have done it without you!

Andy reports going around the world, as far as Japan and the USA to tune steel pans, apparently, he is among few experts in the world, and he is trying to get his son Mikhail to follow his footsteps as a pan tuner, but to date, the kid is busy with his music, and not considering a career change.

You should tune your pans every six months, Andy advised, and I suspect he just wants to come to Aruba and hang out with Freddy, in the backyard, twice a year.

It is clearly visible, that Freddy is proud of the orchestra; the sacrifices and hard work during years are all worth it. The music gives him great pleasure, as he takes the show on the road, each Carnival.

We are blessed to have him, and the musicians, most of the retired Freddy explains, they now have the time to train because it takes a while to perfect a tune and play it well!

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February 11, 2017
Rona Coster