Trans-Caribbean orchestra! group plays Christmas songs on steel pan drums

Jolly jammin’: Blenman Steel Sounds orchestra members Vilma Smith, Elva Lewis, and Dolores Herbert played traditional Christmas tunes on steel pan drums at Kings County Hospital.
NYC Health + Hospitals

Christmas music never had this much rhythm.

The Blenman Steel Sounds orchestra played steel pan renditions of holiday music at Kings County Hospital Center on Dec. 21. Crowds of guests, staff, and visitors surrounded the lively band — composed of mostly women who are senior citizens — to dance along and sing. The music was so up-beat that it even made care-givers do a better job, one said.

“This is the best thing they could’ve done,” said Rosalind Hardy, an employee at the hospital. “Sometimes we have a down day or the energy is extremely down that day — but this type of music lifts us up and that way when we deal with visitors we are more cheerful, they enjoy it that way. When they come to us we don’t have to worry about have attitudes.”

And music itself offers it’s own health benefits, according to the band’s musical director.

“These days there’s so much going on and music is therapy,” said Alston Jack, a member of the band for 20 years. “Music brings love and it brings a lot of togetherness — it’s important to share that love this time of the year — for all seasons, but mostly this time of the year.”

The band played songs such as “O Tannenbaum” and “Silent Night,” the Latin classic “Perfidia,” and even a few Broadway show tunes.

Seeing the happy crowds surround the band was an early Christmas present, said one the group’s oldest members.

“It was very nice and I’m glad everyone seemed to be enjoying the music and in the Christmas spirit,” said Elva Lewis, an 88 year–old pannist who performed with the group for the first time. “There was a large crowd there, and they really enjoyed it and we’re happy to play for them.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.

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