NIU Steelband plans busy spring of energizing audiences

Liam Teague
Liam Teague

The NIU Steelband often conjures up fast-paced rhythmic songs that make the audience want to dance.

“While what we do is extremely demanding and requires a great deal of discipline, dedication and practice, we also encourage an atmosphere of fun,” said Liam Teague, co-director of the ban with Cliff Alexis. “So it is quite common to see our members and audiences smiling and dancing and having a great time. We stimulate the intellect and emotion.”

The steelpan is often viewed as a novelty instrument associated with Caribbean music. But the NIU Steelband proves that it is much more than that since they play all kinds of music, including pop, blues, classical and calypso.

“In truth, the pan, the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, is one of the most unique and versatile instruments in the world,” said Teague, a native of the twin-island nation. “As a result, the repertoire possibilities are almost infinite and our concerts are quite eclectic.”

The NIU Steelband is adding a twist to its concert Sunday, April 26, by collaborating with the NIU Wind Ensemble. The groups will play Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter” and Teague will play the concerto “Origins and Expansion,” written by Kevin Bobo for steelpan and wind ensembles. The free concert will begin at 3 p.m. at the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall inside the Music Building.

On a broader scale, Teague was asked to write music for the Pastiche Steel Ensemble, an NIU alumni band, so the group can play it at the first International Conference and Panorama in August in Trinidad. Pastiche will play Teague’s composition, “Bella Vista,” in a live performance in sync with video recordings of players around the world to create a virtual band.

“This is probably the first time something like this has been done in the steelband world,” said Teague, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Northern Illinois University.

Photo of a steelpanBesides the April 26 concert, the NIU Steelband has lined up several performances, all of which are open to the public:

  • Friday, March 20, 7 to 8:30 p.m., Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2821 N. Bell School Road, Rockford
  • Saturday, March 28, 5 to 8:30 p.m., benefit concert for Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago
  • Friday, April 10, 7:30 p.m., Faith United Protestant Church, 10 Hemlock St., Park Forest
  • Saturday, April 11, p.m., Metamora High School, 101 W. Madison St., Metamora
  • Sunday, April 12, 3 p.m., All University Steelband, Steelpan Studio and CSA Steelband, Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, Music Building, NIU
  • Sunday, April 19, 3 to 4 p.m., Kishwaukee Hospital, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation fundraiser, Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John, 26555 Brickville Road, Sycamore
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