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By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Friday, February 13th, seven of the fifteen Série A samba schools will parade in Rio de Janeiro’s Sambódromo, officially starting the 2015 edition of the internationally famous Carnvial competition. While not the top tier of competition, the stakes remain high for the schools, as the winner of the Série A group (formerly the Access Group) will move into the Special Group in 2016.

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Samba school Em Cima da Hora performing during the 2014 Carnival, photo by Fernando Maia/Riotur.

The seven schools or Grêmio Recreativo Escolas de Samba (GRES), that will enter the Sambódromo on the 13th, night one of two Série A competition nights, will be the following (in order of first to last):

Unidos de Bangu (9:30 PM) – Formed in 1937 in Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone) neighborhood of Bangu, the school paraded in the Special Group four times in the late 50s and early 60s. This year, they will present the enredo (theme), “Imperium,” in the hopes of earning their way back into the top group.

Led by carnavalesco (Carnival Designer), Rodrigo Almeida, the theme weaves together the story of humanity and the rise of empires throughout history. Parading for a victory of their own, the lyrics of their samba-enredo (samba theme song) state: “Fight, win and conquer is the mission/In art and faith … samba Warrior/The excitement will take us.”

Em Cima da Hora (10:05 PM) – Next up, the school Em Cima da Hora will celebrate Arab immigration to and ancestry in Rio de Janeiro with their enredo, “No Coração da Cidade, uma História das Mil e uma Noites – O Rio das Arábias” (In the Heart of the City, a History of a Thousand and One Nights – The Arabs’ Rio).

Formed in 1959 in the neighborhood of Catumbi, the school’s name translates in English to “at the last minute,” and their symbol is a giant clock. While they have competed several times during their history in the Special Group, time will tell if their performance this year will earn them a spot at the top once again.

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Porto da Pedra’s parade in 2014, photo by Raphael David/Riotur.

Império Serrano (11:10 PM) – Parading in the Série A group this year, Império Serrano is no stranger to the Special Group. Since its formation in the neighborhood of Madureira in 1947, the school has won the Série A parades three times and taken home the main Carnival championship nine times.

This year led by carnavalesco Severo Luzardo, the school will present the enredo, “Poemas aos peregrinos da fé” (Poems to the pilgrims of faith) and while they haven’t paraded in the Special Group since 2009, they remain a school to watch.

Paraíso do Tuiuti (12:05 AM) – Originating from the Morro do Tuiuti and now based in the neighborhood of São Cristóvão, the Paraíso do Tuiuti school was established in the early 1950s.

Led this year by carnavalesco Jack Vasconcelos, the school will present the enredo, “Curumim chama Cunhantã que eu vou contar,” a theme based on the famous 16th-century accounts of German soldier and explorer, Hans Staden and his two trips to Brazil.

União do Parque Curicica (1:20 AM) – Founded in 1993 in the West Zone neighborhood of Curicica, this school did not officially parade until 1998. Having yet to reach the Special Group in the years since but holding on to their place in Série A since 2013, União do Parque Curicica will try again this year to move up in the leagues with their presentation of the enredo, “Os 3 Tenores… do Samba!” (The Three Tenors…of Samba!).

The enredo is a playful homage to famed pop-opera group, The Three Tenors featuring Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti and a tribute to the operas presented by the Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro.

During their parade, União do Parque Curicica will host the Brazilian Samba tenors Arlindo Cruz, Martinho da Vila and Monarco. “Sing forcefully. Sing high,” state the lyrics of their samba-enredo. “The show must go on.”

Porto da Pedra (2:25 AM) – Established in the municipality of São Gonçalo, located across the Guanabara Bay from Rio, Porto da Pedra has paraded in the Special Group numerous times, only being demoted to the Série A group in 2013 after maintaining their place in the top league for eleven years.

This year, keeping the hope of returning to the Special Group alive, the school will present the enredo, “Há uma luz que não se apaga” (There is a Light That Never Goes Out).

Caprichosos de Pilares (3:30 AM) – Founded in 1949 in the Zona Norte (North Zone) neighborhood of Pilares, the school Caprichosos de Pilares has paraded in the Special Group over fifteen times but has yet to see a victory. Losing its place in the top league after its showing in 2006, the school has struggled to maintain its spot in the Série A group in recent years.

Led this year by a new carnavalesco, Leandro Vieira, the school is preparing for a comeback as they will present the theme, “Na minha mão é mais barato” (What’s in My Hand is Cheaper) to close out the first night of the Série A parades.

In the coming days and weeks, The Rio Times will take a closer look at the second night of the Série A parades and each of the Special Group schools.

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