BPTT and the Renegades Steel Orchestra marked the start of their 50th anniversary partnership with a concert, Beethoven meets Renegades –A Classic Steel Experience, at Queen’s Hall, St Ann's, on Monday.
The concert highlighted the repertoire of the band's stage side which left on Wednesday for France.
The evening opened with the airing of To Be A Renegade, a short film highlighting the band's history, and more so, the last 50 years from when Amoco signed a sponsorship agreement with Renegades back in 1970, with the Charlotte Street, Port of Spain band.
In her remarks, BPTT president Claire Fitzpatrick said any relationship that has endured for 50 years is indeed a special relationship and good reason to celebrate the success of that partnership.
She told the audience: “We are paying tribute to one of the most successful steelbands in TT and one of the most world-renowned steel orchestras.”
The band is headed for its eighth tour of France, and the fact that they can do this during the Carnival season, Fitzpatrick said, is testament to the evolution of Renegades from the traditional steelband to a world-class musical organisation.
She said since the signing of the first partnership agreement, a lot has changed – "the band, BPTT, TT, and indeed the world – are very different, and yet 50 years later, here we are celebrating this important milestone.
“The BP Renegades represents our longest running sponsorship. Our partnership has grown and strengthened over the years being nurtured by strong personal relationship based on mutual trust and a genuine desire to work and succeed together. Excellence, courage and one team, which are three of the values we live by at BPTT, there is evidence of performance over the years and with their most recent 2019 Panorama victory, it is clear that they live and share the same values.”
Fitzpatrick said she enjoyed being welcomed by Renegades members including its president Colin Greaves, band captain Candace Brument and arranger Duvone Stewart. Having learnt so much of the history of the band, the ambition of Renegades and the continued drive for excellence both locally and internationally, should be an inspiration to all, she said.
Then wittingly she said, regardless of the outcome of this year’s competition, Panorama 2020 is the year they celebrate the 50th anniversary. “That being said – Candace, Duvone, Renegades: It would be great if we could mark our 50th by completing the band’s second hat-trick!....... just saying, no pressure.” Guests laughed.
She thanked band members for their continued dedication, energy and hard work, contributing to the band’s successes, before closing her remarks by proudly saying: “I am Renegade!” the tag-line of the band. More applause followed.
President of the BPTT Renegades Colin Greaves put the 50-year partnership into a context of his own. He said: “We’ve been together before the Republic of TT was actually a republic, before Diana ever met Prince Charles, before the first hand-held mobile cellular device went on retail and before the internet. There were no twin towers downtown Port of Spain, and there was no air-conditioning or even walls here at Queen’s Hall but there was the Amoco Renegades.” The crowd applauded in acknowledgement.
He said in 1970, when the government approached companies to sponsor steelbands as a means of stopping violence in pan and to give steelbands the resources they needed to maintain themselves and to evolve into the well-trained musically-competitive ensembles they have become, Amoco chose to "adopt" Renegades, notoriously know for bad johns with names like Gold Teeth, Boldface, Little Axe and Snake.
He said Amoco saw it as an opportunity to make a real impact in a community and the development of TT, and what an impact it has had.
Greaves acknowledged the only living member of the Renegades in the hall, who signed the first sponsorship agreement 50 years ago, Lennard “Boldface” Patrick.
He said apart from the obvious financial contributions which have allowed Renegades to have the best instruments, beautiful panyard, air-conditioned band room and sustained operations, they were grateful to BPTT for its interest in the development of the human side of the band.
He said a number of members of the East Dry River, Charford Court and La Cour Harpe, communities, through BPTT sponsorship, have become musicians, some music literate, while others were able to pursue tertiary education through the BPTT Jit Samaroo Bursary.
Greaves said: “Players from these areas have been able to travel the world and perform on the best international stages. We thank you BPTT for helping us to become world-class. As Simone Biles is to gymnastics, Usain Bolt of athletics, Michael Phelps of swimming, Whitney Houston of singing, Brian Lara of cricket and then there is the BP Renegades of steelpan.”
He continued boasting: “This band has gone where no band has gone before. We are the world’s most internationally-toured steel orchestra, we have the keys to the city of Port of Spain, as well as the keys to the city of De la Vendee in France and several other places from around the world. We are recipients of the Chaconia Medal Gold, we are in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 1990 performance in France where the band performed live in Paris under the direction of Jit Samaroo, with famous French composer Jean Michel Jarre for 2.5 million people. It was then the largest live concert ever staged on the planet.”
He also spoke of when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and said it was Renegades that performed at the celebration concert at the Yankee Stadium in New York City.
Greaves thanked all past Amoco/BPTT presidents and public relations officer for their support over the last 50 years, including Frank Arlen, Desmond Ballah, Cathleen Callender, Donna Ramsammy, Robert Riley and Norman Christie, and said Fitzpatrick is already a Renegade, after having her in the panyard in shorts and sneakers, in the rain, with the players painting the racks.
On Wednesday, 17 members of the band, along with classical musical director Desmond Waithe, were off to La Folle Journé in France for the annual music festival held in Nantes.
It’s the largest classical music festival in France and BP Renegades is proudly flying TT's flag for the eighth time. The band is doing 17 shows over a ten-day span.
Greaves dismissed queries about having some of the our best players of the band abroad in the middle of Panorama.
He said: “We are global entertainers and as the saying goes, the show must go on, we got this. We are not just the BP Renegades, we are the epitome of energy and music.”
The touring band then entertained guests with popular Beethoven numbers – Symphony 1 IV, Moonlight Sonata, Fur Elise, Sonata No 8, Turkish March, Romance No 2, Symphony 5, Symphony 9 IV and Ode To Joy.