We are Belize project Reneau rakes in rave reviews


Wednesday, 20 September 2006

By Ann-Marie Williams - News Editor

We are Belize-The Music which captures the diversity and soul of a rich amalgam of people officially opened to rave reviews on Monday, the first of two nights at the Bliss-Centre for the Performing Arts.

It took 91 musicians/ singers and a host of technical individuals all under the guidance of Belizean composer Francis Reneau to realise a 25th Independence anniversary dream project by Prime Minister Said Musa. The We are Belize album comprises of 12 songs.

Among them; Belizean Fantasy which Reneau calls “cross over music representing a classical framework with Belizean rhythms.”

Reneau’s handiwork shone through when the curtain went up on the musicians who brought together different genres of music to perfect what he calls the orchestral work.

The young ladies of the Pallotti Music Ensemble all wore a white blouse over a long navy skirt while the men wore black and white.

They began first with their violins and cellos, in came the Moralez brothers with the marimba, the Primero and Segunda drums.

The Steel Pan was turned on its head and Reneau himself on the Yamaha baby gran piano struck a scintillating chord as the music which incorporated local tunes like “Iguana Creek” built up to a wonderful crescendo.

Reneau admits to having the 12-minute long Belizean Fantasy as his favourite piece as it explores a variety of musical avenues.

Indicative of a somewhat southern lifestyle, a Barbershop Quartet with members Theodore Burrowes, Anthony Christie, Leopold Perriott and William Synders did two nostalgic pieces by Reneau’s own admission.

Castor Oil and No Ansa Back brought back memories for the audience too, as many can remember their days of being forced to take the insipid medicine and getting a slap in the face if they answered back when their parents spoke to them.

Tanya Carter in her solo act sang Welcome to Belize. Her voice brought an invitation so refreshing it beckoned visitors from all over the globe to come to the Caribbean nation.

An easy, somewhat laid back but happy feeling one gets just by looking at the colourful shirts, blouses and in some cases skirts the vocalists wore in the second part of the project.

There was something for everyone. Ernestine Carballo was extraordinary as she displayed her ability to hit all the right notes along with her partner Theophilos Rodriguez as they did For all The Children.

Brokdong Queen Leela Vernon almost broke the Bliss down with an eclectic version of the Kriol folk song Coming Down Fram Foat.

She received thunderous applause for great stage presence as she sang and danced an old favourite which has been set to music with a new twist.

As Belize prepares to celebrate her 25th birthday having just barely come of age vocal soloist Jennifer Lovell reminds us that as a nation we are Moving on Up and we will overcome our obstacles and see tomorrow, if we only try. And trying to overcome the challenges of nation building and forge a Belize that is truly alive takes some reflection and what better time to do that than on September 21.

For that special day Reneau likened Belize’s Independence to a marriage or a love affair.

The country has and continues to take the good with the bad, the bumpy roads travelled yet as a nation it holds on. ‘Hence it must be love.’

The Happy Anniversary gig was done in a smooth jazz by no other than Jacklyn Castillo.

The album also includes an improvisation on Punta and Paranda rhythms on the drums.

The idea of commissioning a national album is not new. Former U.D.P. Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel had Celebrations almost a dozen years ago as his brainchild. It was the country’s first truly national album.

That project which is the country’s best selling album to date and is sadly out of print. The Celebrations project had a price tag of some $150,000.

Today, 12 years on Reneau says he’s proud of Celebrations but feels “We are Belize represents a superior piece of work as this time there are far better talents around, especially the singers.” “I really pleased,” a suave Reneau told Reporter.

The We are Belize project which began in December 2005 with auditions and several nights of rehearsals took flight and flew into the Bliss on September 18 and 19. The music project is budgeted at $200,000.

As ICAs Director William Neal who co-ordinated the project puts it, “the audience was taken on a musical odyssey which was well worth it.”

Both CD and DVD copies of the We are Belize Project will soon be on sale.