Former Toronto District School Board principal Lennox Borel has fond memories of Dennis Renwick, who he taught at St. Mary’s College in Trinidad.
“The young man was among a class of bright pupils,” said Borel, whose students at the boys’ Roman Catholic high school included eight-time Trinidad & Tobago calypso monarch, the Mighty Chalkdust and Guy Boldon, the father of four-time Olympic medal winner, Ato Boldon. “He was very quiet and a nice kid and it was a great pleasure teaching him.”
Renwick, who migrated to Canada in 1969 and became a successful musician and businessman, succumbed to cancer in hospital on the last day of 2014. He was 68.
The teacher and student reconnected in the Greater Toronto Area in the early 1970s.
“Dennis was the same person,” said Borel, who has been the Organization of Calypso Performing Artists (OCPA) calypso monarch final head judge for the last 14 years. “He was an accomplished musician and I would often see him in the calypso tents and at social events. He was a perfect gentleman and someone who was very knowledgeable.”
The winner of a Trinidad & Tobago scholarship, Renwick graduated from the University of the West Indies with a Bachelor of Science degree and the University of Toronto with a degree in organic chemistry.
While at the U of T, he was a member of the campus band – W’Africa – which played highlife, a music genre that originated in Ghana at the turn of the 20th century and incorporated the traditional harmonic 9th as well as melodic and the main rhythmic structures in traditional Akan music and married them with Western instruments and ideas.
After graduating, the guitarist/composer/arranger performed with several local bands, including Jerry Jerome and the Cardells, Trinstars, La Petite Musicale, which he joined in the early 1980s and the Los Ketchos Association parang band.
“Dennis was a musical genius,” said La Petite Musicale director, Lindy Burgess. “His knowledge of music enhanced the quality of our productions. He was one of a kind.”
Even though he was extremely ill, Renwick joined friends over the Christmas holidays for a social get-together.
“Every Boxing Day, a group of us would gather at someone’s house to socialize and sing songs,” said six-time calypso monarch, Macomere Fifi. “I sang ‘A Green Christmas’ which he wrote and we all had a good time. That was the last time I saw him before he died. I will remember him for his musical talent, humour and very tall presence.”
Renwick, whose songwriting credits include The Emperor has no Clothes and Christmas All Year, was also a calypsonian who performed under the sobriquet, Leo.
“While not a dynamic calypsonian, he was a very ardent composer and administrator,” said Black Theatre Workshop founding member and calypso judge, Ken Bruzal.
Entertainer Dick Lochan and Renwick performed on the same calypso stage on a few occasions when there was just one OCPA tent.
“Dennis was very versatile when it came to music and well respected in the industry,” said Lochan. “He was also someone who was extremely computer literate and always willing to help others.”
Jan Morgan, a trumpeter with Ossie Gurley & the Truth band, also shared a musical platform with Renwick on many occasions.
“He was very quiet and knowledgeable in music,” said Morgan. “I enjoyed being in his presence.”
In October 2008, Renwick – the uncle of Caribbean Vibrations television host Royette Baptiste, who died in August 2012 – launched Futropia, which offers products and innovations in alternative medicine and energy.
“He was someone who never believed in the conventional approach to medicine,” said Burgess.
Renwick is survived by his wife of 44 years, Ingrid and their three children.
A viewing of the body, which will be cremated, takes place at Highland Funeral Home Scarborough Chapel, 3280 Sheppard Ave. E. from 5-9 p.m. on Friday, January 9. The funeral service will be held at the same venue on Saturday, January 10 starting at 11 a.m.