Remarks by Michael Marcano on 40th anniversary of the bpTT Renegades (continued)
NATIONAL PANORAMAWhen Renegades celebrated its first National Panorama victory in 1982, it looked back on almost two decades of being considered an, ‘also ran’. The climb had been slow and agonizing but it had also been systematic. Between 1970 and 1972, the band managed to get as far as the semifinals, then for the next three years, failed to go beyond the preliminaries. In 1976 and 1977, it again got to the semi-finals, then to the finals of 1978. In 1979, steel bands boycotted the competition in a demand for higher prize money. In 1980, when competition resumed, Renegades placed third, which it improved to second place in 1981. Then in 1982, ten years after Jit arranged his first Panorama tune, the band finally won the National Panorama Competition.
STEELBAND MUSIC FESTIVALHaving won the Panorama, the taste of victory awakened an appetite for new challenges for which the band turned in 1982 to the Biannual Steel band Music Festival. They were eliminated in the preliminary round but at the next festival in 1984, placed second overall and won the Test Piece Category. In the festival of 1986, the band again failed to make it to the finals and in 1988, was still en route to Trinidad from an overseas engagement when the preliminary round was held at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain.
Thereafter Renegades bowed out of the Festival circuit, mainly due to tour commitments. They returned 20 years later in 2008, swept the field in the minor categories, (which they had never entered before) winning champion soloist, champion duet, and champion quartet. The full Orchestra again placed second with Richard Wagner’s ´Rienzi Overture´ and Sparrow’s Document Pan, thereby achieving three 2nd places in five appearances at the festival, making idle the claim by its detractors that Renegades is not a festival band.
The band has also done well in the ‘Pan in the 21st Century’ competition. They won the competition in 2003 with Joe Lewis’ Pint of Wine, placed second in 2006 with Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ and second again this year with Celine Dion’s ‘I Surrender’.
Renegades is undoubtedly the most acclaimed and perhaps highest profiled cultural ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago and of steel band music. That this is not common knowledge here in Trinidad may have to do with Renegades lack luster approach to beating its own proverbial drum—the best kept secret someone recently dubbed it. A shortcoming they however hope to correct with the launch earlier this year of the website, renegades.co.tt
Renegades have played to audiences in festivals and concert halls all over Europe—visiting countries such as Germany, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France, sometimes on the road for as long as three months at a time.
In 1990, the band was hired to accompany French pop composer and multi-media performer, Jean-Michel Jarre at Paris Bastille Day Celebrations. When Jean-Michel heard the band in rehearsals however, he made them the featured performer for the entire second half of the concert that was attended by an estimated world record audience of over two million people. A huge section of Paris, stretching from the prime, high-rise business district of La Defense to the Arc de Triomphe, was closed down for the occasion with sweet pan music being played against a backdrop of tall buildings onto which laser patterns were also projected. That same year the band opened the Nelson Mandela Welcome Rally at the Yankee Stadium, in New York City.
In 2006, Renegades performed at the 18th Commonwealth Games in Sydney and at the Womad Festival in Adelaide. In 2008, they received an invitation to perform an exclusive repertoire of Schubert’s music at the Folle Journee Festival in France. Home based fans severely criticized them for undertaking such a project in the midst of a panorama season but the band’s management held the view that a band, the size and with the experience of Renegades, ought to be able to take on more than one engagement at a time. They were invited back to the Folle Journee Festival in 2009, this time with a repertoire by Sebastian Bach, and in 2010, to perform pieces by Chopin and Liszt.
On the 29 August 2009, Renegades performed at the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Independence of Trinidad and Tobago. They first accompanied dramatic soprano Anne Fridal, soprano Renee Solomon and lyric baritone Marvin Smith before filling its own time slot with a variety of musical pieces.
The band was also invited to perform at the gala opening of the 29th Biennial Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival at Queen’s Hall earlier this year. Dr Jan Harrington and Dr Carmen Helena Pellez, of Indiana University, together with Dr John Paul Johnson, of Wichita State University who were in Trinidad to preside over the festival later hailed the musicianship of Renegades Steel Orchestra as magnificent. A local newspaper quoted Dr. Johnson as saying that he had heard live steel pan music before, but never in the fine way that Renegades offered it. Last weekend, the band again brought the house down on the second night of the ‘Pop meets Steel’ segment of NAPA Fest, produced by the Ministry of Arts & Multiculturalism at the National Academy for the Performing Arts.
Whatever success Renegades has achieved at home and abroad, it has never lost sight of its roots and has remained loyal to its community and in particular to the development of its youth. In 1999, the band launched, The Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra with two objectives in mind. (1) To keep the youngsters off the streets away from bad influences, providing them instead with the worthwhile alternatives of training in playing skills and techniques and in the rudiments and theory of music; and (2) to be a source of proficient musicians from which the Senior Renegades Steel Orchestra can draw.
The Youth Orchestra has had a tremendous run of success, winning the National Junior Panorama on six occasion (including two hatricks between 2002 and 2004 and again between 2008 and 2010). Amrit Samaroo arranged the band’s first six panorama selections that saw them win the first hattrick and place second in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In 2008, he succeeded his retiring father, Dr. Jit Samaroo as the panorama arranger for the senior Renegades. His replacement, Shelton Besson then took the Youth Orchestra to the second hattrick of Junior Panorama wins in his first three years as its arranger.
The Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra is therefore the only band in the history of the National Panorama competition (Junior and Senior) to have accomplished a double hattrick—winning 6 times and placing second on the three other occasions it has been in the competition. The band has also gone on tours to France, Italy, Germany, Norway, and Venezuela, and in 2003, formed part of Trinidad and Tobago’s contingent to the Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) held in Suriname.
For the past nine years, Renegades has also organized a Jourvert morning Bomb competition in front of its pan yard on Charlotte Street to encourage other steelbands to come to the area. A Similar competition for costumed mas bands is also held on Carnival Tuesday, the purpose being to bring the carnival back to its community following moves by the authorities to shift the parade further to the west of Port of Spain.
In 2002, the band adopted a new constitution with a view to incorporating it as a Non-Profit Company. The vision of the ‘Renegades Steel Orchestra Cultural Arts & Entertainment Organization’ as the Company is titled, are:
- To achieve universal acclaim as the premier Steel Orchestra in the world.
- To become a self-sufficient organization that is capable of providing sustainable employment for its members.
I thank You.
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Remarks by Michael Marcano on 40th anniversary of the bpTT Renegades (continued)