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Percussion Scholastic A
Westhill — "Alone"
Westhill does a great job of portraying isolation, mostly with the use of one large three-wall prop that serves as a barrier between one member and the rest of the ensemble. This group’s strength is undoubtedly its visual performance; between the overall cleanliness of drill and the expression of the main character, Westhill’s show is quite engaging from a visual perspective. “You Will Be Found” from the musical Dear Evan Hansen serves as an uplifting centerpoint of the show.
East Pennsboro — "Winds of Change"
This show has some very cool visual and audio effects, including a translucent curtain that covers the fuil battery at the outset of the show. As you’d expect, there are a lot of wind sound effects and the like, and those fit well into East Pennsboro’s music arrangements. I was particularly impressed by East Pennsboro’s front ensemble; the mallet instruments were especially tight and expressive. A major highlight of this show was definitely a live singer performing David Bowie’s “Changes.”
Southern Regional — "On Fire"
Southern Regional’s visual design is really eye-catching; between sleek black and red uniforms and flaming tarp, the show’s theme is pretty visually tangible. From a performance standpoint, that theme is developed with some ritual-esque movements and music, as well as faux flames appearing in three pillar props at the back of the floor. Blue flames also fill a similar prop in the front left corner of the floor. As you’d expect from the title, this is a really energetic show, and features Fall Out Boy’s “Light ‘Em Up” in the final movement.
Ridley — "The Fighter"
Its members dressed in white, hooded costumes and shorts, the whole nine, Ridley’s show features the skeleton of a boxing ring in the back middle of its floor, which comes into play as the ensemble dives into the story and psyche of a prize fighter. Among many things, Ridley’s characterization is very in-your-face; the members sell the energy of the show well, but also do a good job portraying the softer emotions that come with the ups and downs of a boxer’s story.
Nutley — "Drought"
Nutley’s design really sets the stage for its show concept; parched brown earth fills the floor, and backdrop props paint the picture of an arid desert. One patch of “water” — a small blue tarp — fills the back left corner, and early on in the show reveals four blue-clad dancers from hidden underneath it. There’s a lot of chaotic character and high-running emotion in this production, which really adds to the feeling of a desperate search for water and life that the show is meant to portray.
Newtown — "Look Up"
This is a pretty ethereal, mysterious show; Newtown’s floor features a cosmic background, with the translucent image of featured in the bottom left corner and what looks like a half-prop of the moon in the back right. This show is largely driven by narrations, and is pretty high energy when it comes to the general feel of the music, which makes for an entertaining and engaging overall product.
Hatboro-Horsham — "The Shape of Water"
A blue-to-white gradient fills both Hatboro-Horsham backdrops from left to right, and its floor, from back-left to front-right. One of the show’s cooler moments is the tenor feature in the opening movement; surrounded by the cymbal line, the tenors utilize the cymbals as part of their feature, which makes for a cool music and visual effect. A full-on brake drum feature also makes for a cool and unique sound from the snare line. All in all, it’s a very expressive program, as you’d expect for a show named for the 2018 Academy best picture winner.
Thomas Jefferson — "Energy Is"
This group has a really unique and innovative layout for its show; the front ensemble instruments make a curved line from the bottom-left corner through the middle of the floor, each separated into pods of three or four instruments. These pods each have their own respective uniform color, as do the sections of the battery, which makes for an eye-catching organization of color within the ensemble. At one point, all of the members take off these uniform tops and wear unified gold for the rest of the show,
Unionville — "Jane"
An arc of large pillar props makes for a really cool, almost arena-like visual design for Unionville’s show, which centers around one female character. That character is the focal point, most notably, of the show’s ballad, of which she spends a majority alone on the floor while battery members hide behind and move props, before gradually re-emerging. The closer of this show is quite memorable; it’s a pretty powerful, upbeat, 3/4 arrangement of Sarah Platten’s “Fight Song.”
Percussion Independent A
Tar River Independent — "Winter"
Despite being a smaller group, with just two front ensemble members and seven battery members, Tar River fills the floor well and packs a pretty solid sound. The front ensemble arrangements do a good job of creating the “winter” feeling even with minimalist instrumentation. This is augmented by what sound like sleigh bells attached to the snare line’s drums.
StarCross Percussion Ensemble — “Capture the Moment”
StarCross’ design is pretty bare-bones, yet effective. The group uses an undersized, all-black tarp, with two backdrop props in each of the back corners. Each member is dressed in what looks like a construction worker’s outfit, and the front ensemble instruments are positioned in the bottom right corner of the floor. The performers emerge into the floor taking photos of different surroundings — and each other — to open the show.
United Percussion 2 — “Dreams of a Matador”
This was by far the largest and most produced PIA group, and that really showed up in the quality of design and performance. The show opens with a march-like snare solo, before the full battery joins in with a powerful opening impact. This show’s Latin vibes are apparent throughout, which make for a very energetic production. At one point, eight members meet at foor platforms in the middle of the floor to perform an entertaining cap feature; they’re then replaced by a tenor feature, and then a snare feature. An exciting accelerando/crescendo build fittingly leads into the show’s final impact.
Percussion Scholastic Concert A
Fike — “Supernova”
Fike is a pretty small group, with just six total members, but the ensemble still performs with plenty of musicality and expression. As you’d expect based on the title, Fike’s program is quite ethereal and mysterious, with plenty of resounding synth chords filling the majority of the sound.
Rahway — "Living Room Music"
For a concert ensemble, Rahway does an intriguingly good job of developing its concept not just musically, but visually, with a couch and coffee table set up in the midst of its instrumental ensemble. The coffee table is used at times as an instrument of its own, as members play rythms on it with their bare hands. Throguhout the program, many of Rahway’s performers get involved in the characterization of the show.
Percussion Scholastic Open
Orange County — “With All My Heart”
Orange County’s floor features a very large, anatomically-correct heart, with the more commercial drawing of the heart featured in the back left corner of the floor on a prop. The show opens with an ethereal arrangement of “Wicked Games” by Chris Isaak. Simply put, the show ranges through many of the emotions — good and bad — that come from the expression of love. The show’s closer is set to Sia’s “Elastic Heart,” which provides for a strong final impact and an expressive fade-out ending.
Old Bridge — “As We Know It”
Old Bridge — a perennial Open Class finalist which took second a year ago in Dayton — brings a very unique and thought-provoking production this year. To open, its floor is folded up from the bottom left corner to the midway point, and the right side of the floor — which has a grassy design is covered in tree-like props. A beautiful morning aesthetic quickly turns to chaos, and the music turns dark. When a black curtain flies over the floor from right to left, the tarp is unfolded to reveal a desolate look, and the tree props are turned around to show a similar design. All in all, this show seems like an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic type of show, and it’s very well done in that sense.
Mansfield — "The Build"
An entirely hardwood floor design and construction outfits set the tone for this show, which opens with the theme from the recent Sherlock Holmes movies, followed by an incredible xylophone solo. One thing that particularly stuck out was the ability of Mansfield's front ensemble to play well and together at a varying levels difficulty, style and dynamics. The battery was sound as well, but Mansfield's front ensemble really won me over.
Downingtown Area School District — "The Other Side"
Downingtown's show opens with the quote, "the grass always looks so green off in the distance," which explains why there are tall grass-blade props positioned in the top-left corner of the floor. This show follows a wide range of tempos, emotions and music styles, which really makes it an engaging watch. At points in the show, multiple sections even play their instruments backwards; bass drummers play a feature while their drums are harnessed to the backs of cymbal players, and all 10 mallet players spend their second movement playing from behind their instruments. All in all, this is a pretty inventive and engaging show with plenty of memorable musical and visual moments.
Mechanicsburg — "The Eternal Connection"
This common PSA finalist presents a very ethereal production; all-black uniforms, all-black props and a night sky floor create a dark and mysterious visual design. The show opens with a snare brush feature, before bringing together the full ensemble. Mechanicsburg’s show features one main female character, who wears a blue dress and seems to be part of a love story that runs throughout the production. At one point in the ballad — by slight of hand — she disappears behind a prop, before reemerging in a new costume from the left side of the floor to open the closer, which is a rousing arrangement of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.”
Hilton's show is really upbeat, but probably the most impressive thing about it is the cleanliness of the drill. The battery members are flying around the floor, and while they're somewhat of an undersized battery, there are some pretty impressive-looking drill moves throughout. I'll be honest, I didn't catch the show's title, but it seemed to be a take on modern social technology, with references to social networking apps throughout the show. In that sense, it was quite well-designed, with two television screens in the front of the floor helping drive the theme forward.
Trumbull — “Power”
Trumbull’s floor design displays five different stone pathways emerging from a silver structure in the right-middle of the floor. The ensemble almost gives off a Wizard of Oz vibe, between Munchkin-like costumes and the aforementioned floor design, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. This show has a lot of energy and a ton of color, most notably stemming from the silver structure which remains lit in strobe colors for the majority of the show. On top of all of the production value, Trumbull is very sound in all facets, and looks primed to make its 15th-consecutive trip to WGI PSO finals. Oh, and the show features Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” and Kanye West’s “Power.” So, that’s pretty fun.
Fair Lawn — "Secrets of the Deep"
From the minute they enter the floor, Fair Lawn gives off an “under-the-sea” vibe, with ocean floor backdrops, an all-turquoise floor and uniform, and a handful marble pillars filling the floor. Throughout, Fair Lawn tells the story of the search for Atlantis, the fabled underwater city; one member is dressed like an explorer, and serves as the show’s main character in this endeavor. The rest of the ensemble seems to serve as inhabitants of Atlantis, which makes for a unique interplay.
Norwalk — "Re-Written"
This show has The Imitation Game vibes from the jump, and that’s not just because it opens up with Alexandre Desplat’s Academy Award-winning music from the 2014 film. The floor is designed like the flattened cover of a book, and a bookcase fills the back left corner of the floor. Throughout the show, each performer as his or her own book to uses as a prop, as well. This is a very well-produced production, and the performers’ precise execution of quite intricate drill is arguably the most impressive aspect.
Percussion Independent Open
Imperial Dynasty — “Dance of Equality”
With several very large red curtains filling what looks like a dark hardwood floor, Imperial Dynasty sets the stage well for its futuristic-themed production. This show is kind of emulative of the short story of “Harrison Bergeron,” in which government mandates have forced handicaps on people in order to simulate quality among an entire population; a live narration to open the show makes clear this is the story for Imperial Dynasty’s program. Throughout the show, characters break away from their government-enduced mundane personalities and the production grows more expressive and uplifting as a result. But in the end, equality is enforced, and this is displayed by the members being confined into the back right corner of the floor, locked in by the show’s props.
Spirit Winter Percussion — “All the Colors in the Box”
Spirit has a very similar show to Imperial Dynasty, as it opens with a quotation about factions, division and structure society. There’s no music for the first 30 seconds of the show, but that doesn’t stop Spirit from performing an impressively in-sync dance feature, set to sound effects . The quote, “But I’m different,” leads into the gradual revealing of color and introduction of battery section features, which is a very unique way to present the concept of division. Each section of the ensemble, thus, has its own respective color, featured most prominently on its instruments and uniforms. Throughout the show, Spirit’s floor is unfolded to reveal a full rainbow of color across the floor. The same unification of color scheme is revealed by the costumes; each member has a bright-color top revealed from behind a black outer layer. All in all, this is a very engaging show with a great use of color imagery.
Percussion Scholastic World
Dartmouth — "All In"
A Las Vegas aesthetic is pretty evident when Darmouth takes the floor; its backdrops are designed like playing cards, its floor looks like a poker table, and it features several platforms designed like stacks of poker chips. While the entire front ensemble members are dressed like dealers, the battery is all costumed to look like the faces you’d see on playing cards — jacks, queens, kings, etc. It’s a very unique and eye-catching overall visual design, and sets the stage for a very entertaining and well-designed show. As you’d expect from Dartmouth, there’s a whole lot of general effect, characterization and theatrics, and a very high level of execution both musically and visually. Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface” also makes an appearance in a very energetic closing movement.
Percussion Independent World
United Percussion — “Master of Silence”
UP came out firing in its first WGI regional of the season; it’s got an abstract floor design and a thought-provoking thematic concept. Especially from a musical perspective, this group has a very challenging book and performs it at a very high level, with one of the highlights being an impeccable drum set player. United also has a stunning cymbal feature right before its closing movement, and a really impressive electric guitar soloist. These musical effects add up to one of the event’s most engaging shows, which ends with a pretty incredible battery sequence that’s rife with ghost notes, fitting the theme well.
George Mason University — “Fringe”
Mason has a very cool look, decked out in baseball caps, tee-shirts and skate shoes. The show’s visual design has an inner-city vibe to it, with props on the left side of the floor built like the inside of a subway car, the tarp designed to like cracked gravel, and an old fountain prop positioned near the middle of the floor. Musically, George Mason’s show opens with a live singer, playing the character of an unknown artist looking for recognition, before putting on snare drum and joining the battery. He carries a microphone throught the show, singing and rapping at some times, narrating at others, and ultimately serving as the program’s centerpiece. If nothing else, this show is very original, and a lot of fun.