Instant Recap: WGI Percussion World Class Finals

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SCHOLASTIC WORLD

Walled Lake Central (5:00 PM) — Confined

So, I've gotten to see this show a few times now, and I think it's a really intriguing concept. Basically, it's based on the short story, "Harrison Bergeron," which was written by Kurt Vonnegut, and is about a dystopian future in which the government has taken over and removed all forms of individuality by handicapping its citizens to all be the same. This concept is really well-designed visually; cage walls fill the floor, and are used both to portray the mental confinement brought on by this loss of individualism, but also to imprison the members who rise up against those perceived to be in power. The best part of its show was the way the performers sell those two-sided roles in order to develop the story; they do a great job of that.

South County (5:11 PM) — Don't Look Back 

South County’s show is really aggressive from the start and it’s got a lot of dark layers to it. The whole show centers around a main character who appears to be searching for something by lamplight through a dark forest of sorts. Musically, I was really impressed by the cymbal features — there were a couple of them, really crisp, pretty intricate, fun to listen to. And then one of the cymbalists did a front handspring, so that was pretty awesome, too. The end of this show was the most memorable part, it's extremely chilling; one of the main character is dragged into an array of forest props, screaming hauntingly as the music fades away. That was one of many examples of South County having really good characterization from its performers. 

Milton (5:22 PM) — The Inventor's Apprentice

This show was really interesting; the members did a good job of selling the role of, essentially, machines or robots. The "Sorcerer's Apprentice" music was a really nice touch, too, but all in all the performance energy of this show was what made it most memorable. It's honestly a really fun show, in all reality, as it tells the story of — as the title would allude — an inventor's apprentice, looking to make his mark; he ultimately makes a mistake and loses control of the robots, who are portrayed by the marching members, and is fired by the inventor in what is a very funny and lighthearted moment at the show's end. This is just another great example of Scholastic World groups selling their story well with great acting and characterization.

Center Grove (5:33 PM) — Fahrenheit 433

Center Grove's show is pretty unique; it opens with the quote, "First they came for our books, then they came for our art, then they came from our music," so one could assume, between this quote and the title, one could assume this is meant to be a story similar to Fahrenheit 451, but based more deeply in music than books. One cool thing about this show is that Center Grove doesn't have a floor, it just has three props that looks almost like small volcanos; essentially, tall rock structures that fire-like lights emitting from them. The ballad and ending of this show really stuck with me; it's quite inspiring and leaves a really positive feeling with the audience, as the members bring music back to life.

Lebanon HS (5:44 PM) — Pink

Lebanon's show is really, really cool. Designed to be all about Pink Floyd, there are a bunch of really cool moments in this show, which has a full-size white brick wall as its backdrop. In the front right corner, a triangular platform operates like the prism on the cover of Pink Floyd's album "Dark Side of the Moon," except it refracts sound. In the opener, this platform features a four-stick snare solo, which is sent through a microphone to have the pitch of the solo shifted while the platform's outline lights up in different colors. This platform comes back into play later in the show, when a bass drummer plays the trumpet — yes, trumpet — solo to "Great Gig in the Sky" with a cymbal player on his back. Finally, at the show's climax, wall is broken down, and the battery percussionists take pink hammers to their snare heads, destroying them and emphatically ending the show. Really well-designed, really well-performed. Props to Lebanon.

Petal HS (5:55 PM) — Oceans Deep

I had the chance to talk to Petal's director this week, and he told me that Petal's show — which centers around a young man, sitting on a dock by the water, remembering a lost parent — is somewhat of a tribute to a member who lost a parent a couple of years ago. So, that's pretty cool, and makes the show all that much more memorable. Petal definitely tugs at the heartstrings, using Hillsong's "Oceans" as a motif throughout to create the kind of longing experienced by the main character. This show has some really cool effects; at one point, the main character pretends to skip a rock down a line of battery members, and the cymbal players all toss their cymbals in the air one at a time to simulate that visual. I know I've said this a few times, but the ending of this show really stuck with me. It's really soft and emotional, and it ends with the main character ringing a bell at the end of the dock on which he stands. 

Franklin Central (6:06 PM) — About Nothing

Well, this show is certainly quite interesting. The floor and props are designed like the color bars screen you'd see when your television would cut out, and all of the members dress head to toe in one of those colors, matching the texture pattern seen on the floor. The show opens with an exchange from "Seinfield" where two characters discuss a show being "about nothing," and then we hear the opening sequence from the TV show, so right away we establish the humorous and light-hearted nature of this production. In one of the coolest effects I saw today, three members all disappeared under props that match the color of their uniforms. You can tell the members love this show, which makes it really fun to watch them perform it. 

Homestead (6:17 PM) — The Space Between

Homestead's show concept is a little harder to get a read for, but they perform it very well, especially musically speaking. The front ensemble in particular is really quite good, hey've got such a full sound and really incredible musicianship. I'm sure it's partially credit to the arrangements, but at all tempos and dynamic levels, this front ensemble was really a pleasure to listen to, with some very clean intricate passages to boot. For a high school group performing a less obvious show concept, Homestead really gets into its production, and even having trouble figuring out what exactly it was about, I really enjoyed watching it for that reason. I haven't mentioned the battery yet, but they were really quite clean, too. There were several memorable feature moments, including a snare feature where the snares play with just one hand the whole time and include a few split passages. 

Etiwanda (6:40 PM) — It's Just Us

This is without a doubt one of the most well-acted shows I've seen at the Scholastic level in WGI. Holy cow. The show centers around a fighting couple, and the two people who fill those character roles sell them so well. The rest of the ensemble kind of serves as a backdrop for what happens with those two characters, but it's really such a cool show from a characterization standpoint. Throughout the storyline, though, visual ensemble members dressed in all white and all black are involved in the acting, almost acting like the good and evil versions of the two characters. Their involvement in the show almost reminds me of the demons in Pulse Percussion 2017's "Uninvited," for anyone who remembers that show well. I was honestly captivated by this show. It's so hard to explain what's going on, but it's really something incredibly unique and engaging. 

Burleson Centennial (6:51 PM) — The Vessel

This show is quite cool, and its set up is something really unique. Basically, a long bridge curves from the right-middle of the floor to the front-left, with ramps shooting off to either side and front ensemble instruments positioned between those ramps, on both sides. The ramp is used pretty frequently; it's pretty much the focal point of the show. Can we take a second, though, to talk about how good this group is? Burleson Centennial wasn't even competing five years ago, and joined World Class last year. Yet, they perform like they've been competing with the best for years. This group moves so well and plays even better across the board.

Ayala (7:02 PM) — The Indoor Generation

This show is truly classic Ayala. It's in your face and really impeccably performed, and the design really makes you think. The idea of the show is kind of a commentary on today's generation. There's one closed door prop in the back left corner of the floor, which leads you to believe the setting of the show is meant to be indoors, as the title would allude. The highlight for me was definitely the snare feature and battery break that followed. Between the two, there was probably a good 30 seconds of nothing but battery, and it's played really cleanly, and makes for a strong impact moment. After that though, we see the door prop opened on a crack and notice a bright, almost blinding light emitted from it. There's one really cool moment, too, where 12 battery members pick up a set of cymbals and play a really complex feature; unsurprisingly, they play it really well. To mark the show's end, the door is forced shot by a handful of members, which makes for a really thought-provoking final sequence. 

Avon (7:13 PM) — Enough

Avon has a really eye-catching floor and uniform design package, with yellow and purple accents filling the entirety of both visual pieces. Along the floor those colors are presented in the form of sound wave recordings. There are a lot of cool moments in this show, but to me, the most memorable is the ballad. It's set to "Never Enough" from the 2017 film, "The Greatest Showman," which is a beautiful song in and of itself, and the battery arrangements match the rhythm of the climactic moment . The movement that follows is also really fun, it's set to Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," which makes for an upbeat musical sequence that even features an eight-person quad feature and a pretty difficult cymbal toss before transitioning into a strong closing push. 

Dartmouth (7:24 PM) — All In: A Dance with Addiction

Truly classic Dartmouth. Incredibly fun, super energetic, impeccably clean, and a lot to watch, but not a particularly complex or hard theme to follow. Essentially the show is about a gambling addiction, and it's brought to life by the battery and visual performers, who are dressed as a different types of cards and try to lull the main character, a gambler, back into "one more hand." As the show continues it follows the emotional highs and lows of gambling, and eventually ends with the main character pushing over a stack of oversized playing card props and shouting "I'm done," but not before an exciting final sequence of "Pokerface" by Lady Gaga — a staple type of closer when it comes to Dartmouth's productions. 

Arcadia (7:35 PM) — One of Us

There are a lot of visual layers to this show; based on the look and feel of the show, the title seems to allude to a tribal concept, in the sense of welcoming a member into the tribe itself. There's a lot of music that gives off this vibe as well, including tribal percussive renditions of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." One character seems to be the focal point throughout the production, standing out from the rest at a handful of key moments. Ultimately, the aspect of this show that stuck with me was the music. Arcadia did such a good job with aggressive, in-your-face music, as well as slower, more flowing passages as well. The front ensemble had such a good quality of sound across these different styles, and honestly, the most memorable moment was the ballad, if I'm being honest.

Chino Hills (7:46 PM) — The Vine Wound Tight

Goodness, this show is truly something. It's all the staples of Chino Hills — really clean, great energy, — but it's a much more serious concept than we've seen in years past. The show is, in a way, about a struggle with alcoholism. Throughout the production, we see a main character, hair messed up, clothes in disarray, sitting near a bright green bottle of liquid. Over time, we're let in on his struggles, as he learns he's going to become a father. Wide green ribbon props are used to wrap around his body and neck and portray the stranglehold alcohol has on his life, one he tries to break away from, in order to create a "better life" for his child, as a lyric motif alludes. And of course, the level of performance is really something special. 

INDEPENDENT WORLD

Atlanta Quest (8:10 PM) — Lay Your Burden Down

AQ gets off to a really hot start, with a pretty in-your-face tenor feature, before transitioning into a much lower tone, the foundation for an impressive and very expressive cymbal feature. Five large props are often carried by members, almost like crosses, to visually drive the overall theme of the show. At one point, the five props center around the snare in the middle of the floor from what was probably the most memorable part of this show, a snare feature that included its fair share of clean rolls and stick tosses. One really cool effect, though, came at the very end, as the music cut out and the entire battery performed a short dance block into a ripple effect from one end of the floor to the other to close the show. 

STRYKE Percussion (8:21 PM) — The Addicted

I think the coolest thing about this show was its use of visual motifs to portray the kind of emotional struggles that go behind the concept of addiction. At the show's outset, a series of long white ropes are attached to the harnesses of a few battery members. By way of those ropes, the members are drawn back into the rest of the group — metaphorically, back into addiction — as they're dragged slowly agains the ground. The opening battery break that comes after that was really attention-grabbing; it's in your face, really loud, and really clean. STRYKE's bass feature and cymbal feature in the second movement were also quite memorable; the cymbals in particular played some incredibly difficult passages. The show really comes full circle at the end, as members are attached once again to the white ropes and try to crawl away; one breaks free as the show fades into its final notes.

Cap City Percussion (8:32 PM) — A String of Fate

Cap City uses ribbons in a lot of different ways to drive its theme ; at some point in the show, pretty much everyone is connected to a ribbon of some kind, with colors varying between certain instruments, movements of the show, etc. The array of uses for these ribbons really makes me for a show that is continuously visually intriguing. The ballad movement, which is "Everything in its Right Place" by Radiohead, is probably one of the cooler musical portions of this show; the song has a really mysterious lower feel to it, and the way Cap City's arrangers laid battery features over that sound made it really cool to listen to. At the very end, five thicker ribbons are pulled out from the side of the floor, each a different color, which is a cool visual effect and really ties the show together.

United Percussion (8:43 PM) — Master of Silence

I'm not usually one to skip through a show, but the ending of this production is by far its coolest moment. The show's concept is somewhat obvious from its title, and it's most prominent featured in the final moments, when the battery finishes playing, but continues to air what would be its final notes, while the main character, the so-called "master of silence," stands over them; it's almost as if this character controls their sound, and in this final moment, shuts them off completely while they continue to motion as if they're playing full-out. So, that was really cool, but all in all this show was quite good. The front ensemble in particular had some really memorable passages; very expressive music, but also quite intricate.

Dark Sky Percussion (8:54 PM) — PHRE

This show is really unique and really quite cool. It's one of those shows that really gets you thinking, but not in a confusing way, just in a deep and layered way. The acronym, PHRE, stands for "philosophy and religion, so the show itself is kind of just about re-thinking, and in a way, re-thinking how we do indoor percussion. So, at the start of the show, the entire battery hangs its harnesses to an all white backdrop wall. From there, the instruments are all connected to tall red poles that travel around with the performers throughout the show. This allows for so many unique ways of playing and moving, ways that wouldn't be otherwise possible in the current, normal way we think of performing with drums on harnesses, and in that way, it really drives the theme forward. By the end of the show, some of musicians and their instruments are all the way at the top of these poles, as part of a really exciting and powerful closing sequence.

Infinity (9:05 PM) — The Greatest Show on Earth

If you've seen the movie, "The Greatest Showman," you know what to expect from Infinity. The show has a full circus set up and all of the characters for your average circus event. It opens with a young boy — you'd have to assume he's P.T. Barnum, if you've seen the movie — pulling a hat out of a treasure chest and putting it on. When he does so, the full circus comes to life. From there, we hear staples from the film, and see a plethroa of cool effects. Obviously, the most notable effect is Infinity's tenors, who spent the final movement of the show walking around and playing on pretty tall stilts. The end was what really stuck out to me, though. It's quiet — you wouldn't expect a quiet ending from a circus show — and you see the performers presumed to be the younger and grown-up versions of the ringmaster character, walk off together, while the melody from "From Now On" plays softly.

George Mason University (9:16 PM) — Fringe

Man, this show is really unique and cool. It's all based around the Frank Ocean lyric, "I'd rather live outside;" that is to say, I'd rather live outside the norm, on the "fringe" of society. The concept is presented through the lens of a young recording artist looking to gain publicity for his mixtape. He raps and sings live on stage, as he presents his music to the audience. This musical journey through the main character's mind takes us all over the place, even to the point where we see bass drums being played in grocery carts and didgeridoos being played on top of fountain structures. The ending, though, was really the most memorable part of the show; it's aggressive and powerful, as the members all move toward the front left "fringe" of the floor, get up close with the audience, and the main character shouts, "Stand up, Dayton!" I was waiting to see if this moment would draw an electric audience reaction and finals, and boy did it deliver one of the cooler moments of the weekend.

POW Percussion (9:27 PM) — Dia de los Muertos

POW does a really good job of immersing the audience in a culture; in this case, it's a Latin culture, as the show is all about the "Day of the Dead" a Mexican holiday for people to celebrate and remember the family members who are no longer with them. To fully dive into this style, POW pulls out all of the stops; textures and colors that emulate the most bold parts of Latin culture, black and white photos of Hispanic individuals, not to mention a live trumpet player and acoustic guitar player. Those last two pieces of the puzzle were my favorite parts of this show; I love adding wind instruments — tastefully, in moderation — to WGI percussion shows, and POW does a great job integrating non-percussion into its show. This is especially true during the ballad movement when the two perform exposed passages of music with one another; that was the most memorable part of the show to me, having the two join sounds.

Monarch Independent (9:50 PM) — The Secret Zoo

This was my first chance to watch this show, and I have to say, I was really impressed; okay, that's not exactly a groundbreaking take when watching a group that's currently 7th in PIW, but seeing as it was my first read, I had no idea what to expect. The show is widely predicated on its visual ensemble, which has members all dressed as different animals as part of the "secret zoo." Concepts aside, I was stunned by the level of visual proficiency from this group. Holy cow, these guys can move. There were some really eye-catching passages of drill, and the level of clarity in those moments really made them pop. I'd say the most memorable moment, though, was the bass feature. Transitioning from split singles down the line, to split doubles between the top two, and back again, is not a simple task, but Monarch's line made it look easy. I also really enjoyed the note Monarch went out on with its ending. Oh my goodness, the piano solo that ended this show was spectacular. Incredibly difficult. Executed flawlessly. And it got the audience reaction to match. 

Matrix (10:01 PM) — Life as a Movie

This show is predicated on the quote that opens it; a question, which asks, "They say you can learn a lot about life through movies... What kind of life would that be?" Matrix works to develop this concept by going on a very wide emotional journey; the first of those emotions are very aggressive and bold, with "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons being featured in the shows second movement, matched with a really clean battery passage before transitioning into a softer ballad movement. It's in that part of the show where we see the deeper side of the show developed, set to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which is sung live by one of the performers. That, to me, was the coolest moment of the show; I love that song, and loved seeing it performed the way Matrix did. I also loved the fact that Matrix referenced past shows and past memories from its current season, both musically and through images on its screen props.

RCC (10:12 PM) — He Who Controls the Universe

RCC's entire show hinges on the quote, "He who controls the spice controls the universe." The "spice," in this instance, refers to wealth of some kind, whatever it is that correlates to power. RCC takes a very ethereal approach to the concept, though, with a chest in the front of its floor representing the "spice." Members spend the whole show seeking after it, one at a time. From a performance perspective, it's pretty much everything you'd expect from RCC — high-energy, really clean, and, most notably, plenty of intricate movement. When all is said and done, a female visual ensemble member ends up reaching the chest once and for all; this moment is met by a chilling voiceover, "She who controls the spice controls the universe." All in all, it's a pretty high-energy and mysterious show from RCC this year.

Rhythm X (10:23 PM) — A•L•I•N•E•A

Okay, there are two parts of this show that I just can't get over, and they both happen in the first two minutes or so. We'll start with the opening musical sequence. Holy cow, this front ensemble. They play so well throughout, but that's never more clear than in the opening runs they play; they're fast and split between mallet players, and the sound they create, backed by a grooving drum set beat, continues to absolutely captivate me. Not much later, in one of the coolest audio-visual effects I've seen this year, the tenors play behind a prop, and the snares play on quieted heads, mimicking the sounds echoing from the back-floor tenor feature. This whole show is impressive, but those two moments really stuck out to me. Also, this show had probably the most energetic ending of the night, with the entire battery playing cymbals at full-out volume while stepping aggressively toward the front sideline.

Music City Mystique (10:34 PM) — Medium

This show is so, so cool, particularly from an audio perspective. If you follow along with MCM on social you've probably seen a video explaining the show, but essentially, Mystique has nine props that all have microphones embedded in them, and those microphones are used to pick up sound from instruments, clapping, performers speaking, and even ambient audience noise to be live-processed into the overall production. There are so many moments in which this concept is used so well, but the most memorably to me had to be when the cymbals' swells echoed through microphones and had their noise levels risen, only to be cut off on a dime. On another note, MCM plays and moves at such a high level, and adding that layer to the music package makes it even more impressive, the level at which this group is able to express itself musically. I could go on about this show, but it's really one you need to see for yourself to get the full feel for how cool it is, especially musically.

Pulse Percussion (10:45 PM) — Divided We Fall

The musical motifs of this show really make it special, to me. Continuous references to John Lennon's "Imagine," and a ballad that features George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" really add to the musical package, but also enhance the overall theme of the show — that being a simple search for piece between two sides. That said, the show is most notably driven from a visual perspective; a long green prop that kind of looks like a table is the centerpiece for the show's visual package. It's used to separate sides of the floor and sections of the ensemble, and is eventually broken apart during the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" movement. I have to say, I really liked the way Pulse picked specific lyrics of the song that fit its narrative, and let the front ensemble handle the rest of the melodic passages. 

Broken City (10:54 PM) — cede

This whole show centers around one emotional, expressive Adam Watts song — like we've grown to expect from this group. This one in particular hinges on "the desire to win," as we hear from a repeated soft lyric. In that sense, "cede" is an interesting title for the show, as it basically means to let something go, or to give up. There are so many cool aspects of this show, especially musically, including a couple of really notable bass features that take place with a lot of fluid movement, but the ending is really the part I keep going back to. We see three props in the back corner of the field, built kind of like a bar graph. As one member crawls away from each of those props, a white fabric rises up to the top of each, which is a really cool way to visualize the concept of two having to "cede" to one "winner." The show ends the way it starts, with a cool, isolated bass feature.

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