BLUE HILL – A sprawling network of steel drum performers, collaborations and bands on the Blue Hill Peninsula bring live music to nearly every corner of Hancock County and beyond each summer. The style originates from Trinidad and is loud, cheerful, and participatory.
Flash local steel drum groups! in the Pans, Atlantic Clarion, Planet Pan and Rhythm Rockets all stem from the same creative well: Carl Chase, who founded Atlantic Clarion in Brooksville in 1974, and his son Nigel. Atlantic Clarion would perform outside the Buck’s Harbor Post Office as schooners arrived from Camden to listen.
âThere would be street dancing, literally,â said Nigel Chase, who now runs Atlantic Clarion himself. “It was a great scene until the ‘bad boys’ wanted to join us.”
These bad boys came from Brooklin and Blue Hill in their pickup trucks. âThey were hanging out and smoking cigarettes behind the church. Me and my [siblings] were quite small, and we were throwing bad apples at them. Then they squeaked their tires as they left.
The noise upset neighbors, neighbors complained, and impromptu street dancing was cut short.
Shine! started as a community steel drum workshop behind Buck’s Market in the mid-1990s, Chase continued. ” A lot of [Atlantic Clarion] the players were also in Flash !, teaching and helping.
While Flash! is a community group and Atlantic Clarion transformed into a professional group, this crossbreeding continues almost 30 years later. And this summer, it was practically official.
âWhen we came out of the pandemic, we were really hesitant to play,â Chase said. Shine! had canceled its 2020 season, and some members did not return. âTo ensure a group that could engage, we said, let’s put Atlantic Clarion with Flash! We thought that as a professional band we can definitely play these concerts. They also invited Planet Pan, a group of younger players, often of school age, to join them.
Now Atlantic Clarion performs a short set before several members join Flash! for their longest show held on Monday nights in Hancock County.
The 2021 outdoor show series has been confirmed after a winter of discussions, Chase noted. Not only was COVID-19 a concern, Carl Chase and his wife Susan also died in 2019.
âI think COVID has really taken a toll on the membership and the board,â said incoming board chairman Sandy Phoenix. âWe weren’t even sure we had a season [in 2021]. “
Phoenix took on the lead role of Peninsula Pan, thinking âif I can get us over this bump, that would be great,â she said.
For starters, longtime director John Coleman had resigned. But Flash! Player Tim Seppi took Coleman’s place and started organizing Zoom workouts.
âIt was tough, but it was great,â Phoenix said. “It helped motivate a lot of us to get our pans out and start practicing.”
Co-Captain Kate Morse agreed.
“It put us on the same page, let us know what music we were going to bring back to life,” she said.
During the long months of the pandemic, Flash! was “a little bit on hold, wondering what would happen,” Morse continued. âI have been in the group for 27 years and  This is the first time I can remember that we have been canceled.
And losing a season of shows has also hurt organizations financially.
âWhen we lost our season last summer, we lost pretty much all of our income for the whole year,â said Matt Freedman, treasurer of Peninsula Pan Inc. âAt the time, we weren’t sure whether or not when we would play again. “
A very first limited appeal for donations helped, he said, and the large crowds this summer have left the organization in a healthy financial position.
Then there were the local associations that benefit from Flash! performances. In normal years, Peninsula Pan accepts applications between October and December for performances the following year, where Flash! then shares the door product with the association chosen for that night’s performance.
With the decision of the 2021 season on hold until April, they took the 2020 schedule that never actually happened.
âIt was our starting point,â said Morse.
One thing Chase suggested during the discussions was to revamp the nonprofit organization behind Flash! – Peninsula Pan – so all associated groups and programs officially live under one roof.
And there are many.
Chase runs the Pan Institute, which offers steel band and calypso drums lessons for all ages and optional at George Stevens Academy. He also runs the after-school group Planet Pan and the Rhythm Rockets for the 8-12 age group. He founded the Pan Coalition USA, an orchestra of steel orchestras with international performances, conducts Atlantic Clarion and helps organize Last Night! every New Years Eve at Blue Hill, bringing over 100 performers to venues for free evening performances.
Freedman said that combining the different groups under one nonprofit umbrella is âa discussion that is definitely worth havingâ¦ It would take creative thinking and patient listening, but it certainly can. I would like to make sure that we haven’t created financial obligations that we can’t meet, but there is always a way.
âWe’ll just see what happens in the future,â Chase said. âEveryone is having a good time. “
Find out more about Flash! In the Pans Steel Drum Band, visit www.flashinthepans.org and the group’s Facebook page.