The original Hylanders (also known as Highlanders) was founded in the 1950s by Kim Loy Wong who was the band’s tuner, arranger, and manager.
After Wong left for the the USA in 1959 , the band’s leadership was assumed by Bertie Marshall who became the band’s leader and tuner .
Kim Loy Wong’s Highlanders Steel Orchestra is one of the bands featured on this 1957 Cook compilation album.Selections are Cumpanchero, Anna, Benata
Bertram Lloyd “Bertie” Marshall (1936-2012) belongs in the top tier of any list of pan innovators and pioneers, and is responsible for many of the innovations that created the sounds of the modern steel pan family.
These innovations included the double tenor, the high tenor and his experiments with pan amplification in the nineteen sixties.
Bertie was also a legendary band-leader and arranger.
His band Highlanders Steel Orchestra produced a unique sound that resonates with pan lovers to this day, and no one can forget the impact created with bomb tunes like “Let Every Valley be Exalted”, and “Gypsy Rondo”.(Arrangements by Les Slater)
When youngsters speak of steelband “bomb ” tunes, we like to remind them what a real bomb tune actually sounded like on the streets of Port of Spain and San Fernando in the nineteen sixties.
Here is a classic example.
From their 1964 album “Calypsoes and Classics”., here are Bertie Marshall’s Hylanders , and Haydn’s “Gypsy Rondo”.
Hylanders Steel Orchestra – Gypsy Rondo (Haydn)
Hylanders , one of the most unique steelbands ever, were a perennial favorite in the J’ouvert morning bomb competitions of the sixties.
And they also had some memorable calypso arrangements, as is evident in this Lord Kitchener classic “Mama dis is Mas”.
From the 1964 album Steelband Classics and Calypsoes, here is Lord Kitchener’s 1964 Road march “Mama Dis is Mas”, by Bertie Marshall’s Hylanders Steel Orchestra.
Heavy bass and ringing high tenors were their trademarks, and they were one of the first bands to feature an amplified tenor., played by ace tenor panist Franklyn Olivierra.
Credit should also be given to Les Slater , who was responsible for some of these classical Hylander arrangements.
And since we are on the subject of steelband “Bomb” tunes, probably the most memorable of them all was Hylander’s performance in the early sixties of Handel’s “Every Valley Shall be Exalted “.
In the 1960s and 70s , the bomb tune was a most important part of a steelband’s musical repertoire, and the dropping of the “bomb” by steelbands was an eagerly anticipated event on J’ouvert morning at the annual Carnival.
The performance featured the late Franklyn Olivera on the amplified high tenor pan that rang like a church bell that J’ouvert morning .
It was this J’ouvert morning performance , which was heard by Rev. Fr. John Sewell that inspired him to have the steelband perform at his church, the Holy trinity Cathedral in Port of Spain .
Since this was the early sixties, I believe that this was the first steelband to perform in a church, to the delight of the congregation.
It is said that when Franklyn expressed his concern about errors as the sole amplified tenor pan player ( supported by something like 32 double tenors ), Bertie Marshall supposedly responded by asking him whether a surgeon performing a critical operation was allowed to makemistakes!
The recording is flawed and obviously does not have the full J’ouvert morning impact, but it still gives an idea of the powerful performance.
How I wish I could have heard it live , that morning when Hylanders rocked Port of Spain with it !
To many pan aficionados, Hylanders classic version of Handel’s “Every Valley Shall be exalted” remain the BOMB tune of bomb tunes.
Hylanders Steel Orchestra – Every Valley Shall be exalted
Bertram Lloyd Marshall passed away on Wednesday October 17th, 2012.
Here is a tribute to Bertie.
“May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You”
Hylanders Steel Orchestra – May the Good Lord Bless and Keep you
R.I.P. Bertram Lloyd “Bertie” Marshall.
R.I.P Franklyn Olliviera.