Tributes to pan icon — Bertie Marshall
By Joan Rampersad Wednesday, October 24 2012
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Children's duty: Pan icon Bertie Marshall's grandson Saule, son Claude and daughter Claudine stand dutifully at the side of his casket at Trinity Cath...
Glowing tributes were paid to legendary steelpan innovator extraordinaire, genius scientific researcher, the madman of steelpan, arranger and tuner, Bertram Lloyd Marshall, 76, at his funeral service held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
Marshall, popularly known as Bertie, was dressed in a blue suit and red patterned tie with a corsage in his lapel to meet his maker, while placed on the bottom half of the casket was a wreath of red roses.
As Canon Knolly Clarke came down the aisle to meet the body, and on hearing raised voices just outside the church, he called for quiet.
After calling for silence Canon Clarke led Marshall’s body to the altar to the sweet sound of Witco Desperadoes Steel Orchestra’s playing of “Love’s Theme” by Barry White.
Among the mourners were MPs for the Laventille area, where Bertie grew up, Donna Cox and Nileung Hipolite, Works Minister Emmanuel George, Dr Lincoln Douglas, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, several members of the pan fraternity including Pan Trinbago’s president and vice president, Keith Diaz and Bryan Serrette respectively, Bobby Mohammed and Ray Holman, Port-of-Spain’s Deputy Mayor Keron Valentine, TUCO’s Lutalo Massimba and Karega Mandela, as well as calypsonians Crazy, Explainer and King Austin.
The tributes then began with Teddy Belgrave who lamented that another hero had fallen. He spoke of his dear friend Bertie, who in the early days questioned: “Why can’t pans sound like my harmonica?”
Belgrave said, Bertie turned the art of pan tuning into a science,” adding that Bertie was quite clear in his mind who he was, and concluded his tribute saying, “Bertie your life will always be my greatest inspiration.” The congregation applauded, and it continued after every tribute was paid to Marshall.
UWI senior lecturer, Dr Clément Imbert, a metallurgist, spoke of the 1970s Cariri project that he headed, and where they got to the point of producing actual pans with their quality approved by Anthony Williams and Bertie Marshall, the two tuners who were consultants on the project. That resulted in the first batch of pans being pressed in Sweden by engineers at the automotive giant SAAB.
Imbert also spoke of Marshall’s contribution to the development of the G-pan, in that his best double tenor was sampled for the project.
Diaz referred to Marshall as one of the finest artisans of steelpan. He said though Marshall never left TT to live anywhere else, the latter’s exploits in pan have gained worldwide acclaim. He ended by saying: “An icon like Bertie can never be replaced.” A representative of Despers then made her way to the altar to tell mourners of the co-ordinated efforts of Marshall and deceased Rudolph Charles, that resulted in the birth of the chariot pan, quadraphonic, 12 bass, and the Marshall tone — a 6-pan one-man band. She said too, that Marshall was responsible for that distinctive Despers sound that has been heard in some great concert halls such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Britain’s Royal Albert Hall, and The Apollo.
Also, pans tuned by Marshall and played by another pan virtuoso Robbie Greenidge have graced a multitude of recordings, from those of John Lennon to Grover Washington, and put the instantly identifiable stamp for 19 years on the sound of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. The Highlanders’ Steel Orchestra representative, who referred to Marshall as the ‘mad man, stated: “Here is an example of a man who came up in the village as an outcast. In those days, a panman was a vagabond. Bertie knew this, but persisted to do what he had to do, and from being an outcast he became a national hero.”
He then closed by saying: “We may have lost a hero but, do not let the spirit of Bertie Marshall die. Let it live on forever.”
Tribute was then paid to Marshall by pannist Earl Brooks who played a moving rendition of “How Great Thou Art”, after which Canon Clarke blessed the ‘Tribute to Bertie’ banner.
In his Homily, Canon Clarke said Marshall made a wonderful contribution to the life of this nation with his God-given talent.