SANDRA L BLOOD
bp Renegades Steel Orchestra (RSO/the band) celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, 2023, with year-long activities that culminated with an anniversary tour in December – Rhythm & Steel, its senior members committee (SMC) dinner where stories of yesteryear were shared, announcement of its bands’ 2024 Panorama tunes, and launch of its related merchandise.
The year was said to have been honed by their incomparable track record, and was deliberately shaped to embellish and intensely heighten its history.
Some very-early marked history:
Its partnership with bpTT is known to be a global record for being the only band with an unbreakable record with a sponsor – 53 years; the most toured steelband worldwide; only band that has toured six of the world’s seven continents; is a multiple-awardee.
In 1993, Japan established its first-ever national steel orchestra (Sukiyaki) with the use of RSO’s instruments, after Conversation Company in Japan purchased the instruments, following hearing RSO perform at concerts in Toyama, Japan in 1992 and 1993.
Also in 1993, RSO became the first band to win six Panoramas in a 12-year span; second to have won four consecutive North Zone titles; first to have won each of the four phases of Panorama in one year.
The only large conventional band with a hat trick (1995-1997); the only parent band whose junior band (RYSO) has won the most national junior panorama titles (11) including a beaver trick, hat tricks and a historic glut; has been a top-three finalist from its maiden performance to present.
Its leaders were then-Candice Andrews, and Edmund Willis for 20 years.
Springboarding from a 19-year Panorama-champion hiatus; Stellar Concerts:
After 1997, RSO returned to Panorama glory in 2018, 2019; missed its second hat trick in 2020 having placed 2nd, but in honouring its life/purpose, international audiences enjoyed its Beyond Horizons 70th anniversary concert in POS (2018), Renegades Meets Beethoven: 50 Years of Energy and Steel at Queen’s Hall (2020), and the only online pan concert during COVID-19, Beat the PANdemic (2020-2021).
A brand new RSO:
RSO came out of the pandemic rebranded, forging a new vision and a new era with focus on Music, Family and Legacy. An upscaled and memorable 75th anniversary year was envisaged.
The official designation of upper Charlotte Street, POS, to Renegades Way, RYSO remaining in winners’ row in their competition, and RSO becoming the second band to secure 12 Panorama titles, covered January to March. RSO ultimately became the only band with 23 Panorama champion titles under its brand.
bp Renegades through bigger clearer lenses:
RSO’s president Colin Greaves, first female captain since 2011, recently manager/director Candice Andrews-Brumant, Communications and Foreign Affairs Officer, bpTT, Ryan Chaitram with oversight for RSO, and president of bpTT, David Campbell, have viewed the bp and RSO’s collab as a family non-surpass, becoming more formidable given its true potential, expanding opportunities, and awaiting-unmapped territories.
Greaves said RSO has reached the stage where it’s no longer about only winning Panorama, but about becoming the best version of itself for its fans/supporters, the next generation, and T&T.
The Board speaks:
RSO’s Board said they have vibrantly yet carefully journeyed through 2023 emboldened by its history; heightened their record during the year, and are humbled and thankful.
“We took the honour of being the world’s 2023 National Panorama Large Conventional Champion very seriously, and did their best to represent the steelpan at the highest standard in everything they did.”
Recording every move:
Ensuring every aspect of the band is well-documented whether digitally or otherwise, is executive secretary of the board of directors, tenor player, RSO’s first female Panorama tenor-section leader from 2020, Jossane Kerrice Felix.
Felix said the board and the band worked hard and tirelessly last year, which earned them privileges that were otherwise never envisaged, this, as experienced in their 75th Anniversary concert tour in Washington DC last month. She said the Gala and Awards was also a high point for present and past members’ morale.
The overarching board of directors and support executives that took the band through 2023, and are installed for 2024 are, RSO: Colin Greaves, Candice Andrews-Brumant, Jossane Kerrice Felix, Ronica Gordon, Dawn and Nicolette DeSouza, Cleveland King, and longest serving board member, Edmund Willis.
RYSO: Keol Newton and Andrew Charles.
SMC: Joseph Lord, Marlon Thomas, Dave Anderson, Philbert Alleyne, Junior Thomas and Ama Marquez.
Some other major 75th anniversary highlights:
· Champions: Iron Park Band Shootout, all categories at National Panorama large-band conventional, IDB’s Lord Kitchener Steelbands Digital Spaces (large band), Downtown Carnival J’ouvert music competition.
· RYSO 3rd in National Youth Panorama.
· Honoured former long-standing arranger Betrand “Birch” Kellman and respectively personalized the pan room.
· Hosted/Produced: Mother’s Day Concert at the President of T&T’s Grounds hosted by Her Excellency, Represent Independence Cooler Party, and 75th anniversary Gala and Awards Function.
· Secured an overseas agent for the band’s entertainment affairs in USA and Canada.
· 75th Anniversary Rhythm & Steel Concert Tour:
- Awarded a Citation from the Governor of the State of Maryland.
- Received an official congratulatory Proclamation from the Mayor of Washington D.C.
- Visited the State House of Maryland in Annapolis.
- Sat in the Senate of Maryland State House.
- Met with and was addressed by the Secretary of State of Maryland Hon. Susan C Lee and the Deputy Secretary of the State of Maryland Michael Lore.
- Visited the Capitol Building in Washington DC. Presented a copy of the Renegades Commemorative Book to the Maryland Secretary of State.
- Met with T&T’s Ambassador to Washington, H. E. Anthony Phillips-Spencer .
- Facilitated free steelpan workshops.
Between December 20-31, RSO officially announced/launched their Panorama 2024 offerings and related merchandise. RYSO’s tune: Voice’s Woman arranged by Shaquille Vincent, and RSO: Mical Teja’s DNA, by Duvone Stewart.
Of its related merchandise, the board said the print resonates with the strength of change, celebrating the rebellion within the bp Renegades’ DNA, which afforded them the impetus to succeed a very hard life and become a sophisticated first-world product.
Among others, RSO wish to specially thank: bpTT, the President of T&T Christine Kangaloo ORTT, Monique and Luis McSween and Caribeat LLC of Washington DC, the Secretary of State of Maryland, the Honourable Susan C Lee and the Mayor, the Governor of Maryland Wes Moore, and T&T’s Ambassador to Washington, H. E. Anthony Phillips-Spencer.