Reviews for 9/15
Filed under: — Dan Balash @ 12:47 pm

Metro East review-Keith Galantowicz

A bright, cool, and breezy day was the setting for a nice day of marching bands at the Metro-East Marching Band Competition held annually at O’Fallon Township High School. I was running a bit late due to the construction at the brand new interchange at I-64/170. What a mess! I arrived at O’Fallon Township High school thinking that I would be just in time for the first band at 4:30, but as it turns out, Helias High School was scheduled to perform at 4:15, so I ended up missing the very first performance of the competition. I quickly found my seat for the next performing group at 4:30.

Class A:
Newton High School was next on the schedule. Their show didn’t have an established name or all-encompassing theme, but every piece of music they performed was an arrangement of a famous Ludwig von Beethoven composition. The first musical statement was the famous opening theme from the 5th Symphony. Right off the bat, various marchers were out of step throughout the show. There are some decent marchers in this group, but there are individuals that are obviously not pulling their weight and taking responsibility for their portion of the drill. Musically, the group had some nice moments. The trombones tended to play with a bombastic sound, and the tubas overbalanced the rest of the band at various times (there were frequent unfocused blats from these guys).
My Score: 52.6

Mater Dei was next with a show titled “The Question of Who I Am.” The opening moves were fairly well executed with clean marching technique as the band performed some difficult box rotations. The guard had some problems with flag coordination. It felt like they were trying so hard to be integrated into the drill that the moves became very difficult as they weaved in between the band members. The integration, however, was very good. Watch out mellophones! Play with warm and balanced tones. It’s so easy to get carried away with the instrument. Play with a strong tone, but don’t overbalance the rest of the band, especially when you play those difficult counter-melodies. Come on alto sax player!! Don’t look at the ground when you march! You stick out BADLY when you do that. Know your drill!!! The band seemed to run out of gas during the last 2 minutes, and in this show, endurance is key. This was a pretty nice show, and there is a lot to get clean.
My Score: 54.9

Class AA:
Centralia High School performed after the 15 minute break. There were 5 backdrops placed in an arch formation from both 30 yardlines. The name of the show was “The Black Wall Tour”. The backdrops decreased the performance area of the group, which was alright because this was a group of about 60-65 total students. The band is filled with decent individual players, but the problem with the band is getting them to play as a cohesive unit. This marching show is really difficult! I cannot believe the tempos this group is taking. It is extremely risky. The kids are having a difficult time staying in step, others are having a difficult time getting from picture to picture at the same time as the rest of the group. It’s very disconcerting seeing this. The soloists are very nice. Come on band! Lock in with the drum major and the pit. Pitch and intonation across the group throughout the course of the show is all over the map. Adjust!!! The band stood and played the rest of the show in one spot. Unfinished show.
My Score: 53.5

St. Charles West followed with a show titled “Con Pasion y Fuego.” I was looking forward to seeing this group perform this year because they are under a new band director, and I was curious to see how they’d respond to it. Well, I was not disappointed. The band started strong and had some nice dynamic moments in the latin flavored music. There were a few pitches in the low brass that were a bit unfocused. As the group marched from picture to picture, the majority of the group was consistent in terms of foot technique. The solos were VERY good, although I’d like to hear the saxophone solo played with a jazz mouthpiece rather than the standard mouthpiece used during concert season. That solo needs to sound bright and needs to be carried out towards the audience a lot more than it was. The slow movement was a very nice moment for the color guard, and the large multi-colored blue flags they used provided and nice burst of color in the big musical moment. The band frequently started and stopped together at the same time. Good first competitive outing for this group.
My Score: 63.3

Triad High School followed with a show titled “Metal!” I thought this was going to basically be the Carmel show from 2002, in which case I would have been scared for these guys because that show from 2002 was wicked difficult. Luckily, the group only used the Iron Man segment from the show. Overall, the show was alright, but there were MANY instances where the musical hits were not together at all. The trombones dragged so much that there was side-to-side phasing between the pit (placed FAR in the back-field) and the band. The color guard, while not always together, was a good performing unit, and they knew how to sell the show. Mellophones, clean up that articulation, make sure it matches with the rest of the group! This band needs to get into the habit of crescendoing on the ascending lines. This was a fun show with some good ideas, but there were many individual issues which should be addressed in the future. The key thing is that the kids just need to watch the drum major.
My Score: 57.8

Boonville High School from Indiana followed afterwards with a show titled “Tempus Fugit.” The show began with a “confused” band member who humorously hammed it up pretty well, then proceeded to play a very nice solo. There was slight side-to-side phasing at the end of the first part of the show. Watch and listen guys! In the slow part of the show, the same soloist from the beginning moved across the field in front of the band and the color guard. When he marched across the field, sections of the band that he was passing in front of would move to different positions. This was a neat idea, but I’m not sure if it was executed very well. I’m glad I saw this group. It’s nice to see some of the other Indiana marching band programs that one not from the state of Indiana normally does not get to see.
My Score: 57.5

Effingham High School followed with a show titled “Heart”, music by Key Poulan. Musically, this group was pretty strong. The articulations throughout the group mostly came out clearly and cleanly. Tubas!!! Think of that very first pitch and get that embouchure set so it doesn’t splat like it did there! The brass, overall, is very strong and plays with a lot of authority, and the woodwinds are somewhat drowned out a bit. I think this group actually has more brass than woodwinds, not the most ideal situation to be in. The color guard provides nice sudden flashes of color in the musical hit sections. Keep the pitch up flutes! I know it’s getting colder outside, but make sure you continually listen to each other and adjust as you are marching. Try blowing warm air through your instruments right before you march onto the field. Pit! Don’t cover up the mellophone solo! Alright kids, which foot do we start with when we commence marching, our right or our left? The show was incomplete, they played the rest in one spot. This is a very decent show with nice musical moments, and the design of the show is adequate. Individual marching responsibilities and intonation issues must be addressed for this band to be really successful this season, but this is a good start.
My Score: 58. 5

Hazelwood West High School followed with a show titled “The Beast Within.” The music played included “Murder, Murder!” from Jekyll & Hyde, “Without You” from Rent, and “King Kong Finale” from (self-explanatory). The marching consistency, right off the bat, was pretty poor. I’m not so sure if the students are paying attention to the drum major and watching because their feet are not hitting exactly with the beat that the drum major is giving them. The Drum Major, as well, seems to be trying to win the “Best Drum Major” trophy of the night. Sadly, he won’t be winning it because there is no such trophy at this contest. Half of the colorguard was in white gowns, the other half were dressed in red/black gowns, which I took to represent “good” and “evil.” Marching from set-to-set was very sketchy from the band. The students need to realize that each step one takes is a new picture. They need to realize that the PROGRESSION from set-to-set is just as important (if not MORE important) than the sets themselves. The colorguard really takes away from the band in terms of precision and GE. There is almost no sense of performance and style in the individual members. There’s a lot of watching-other-people going on. It’s very apparent that the members do not know what’s happening next in their drill moves.
My Score: 42.0

Class AAA:
Collinsville High School followed after the 15 minute break with a show titled “Evolution.” I could immediately tell that this band was fairly well rehearsed and schooled in musical fundamentals. Articulations and dynamics were pretty well balanced and blended throughout the group. The show didn’t really grasp me very much because I wasn’t sure how the theme of the show was communicated to the audience through the drill and the color guard. Overall, a nice showing from the group.
My Score: 65.9

Alton High School followed afterwards with a show titled “Illuminations.” The music was from John Meehan’s “The Hypar Effect.” This group has a new director this year, and for the most part, it was a strong performance, but it was extremely brief. They only performed two sections of the show, ending with the slower section. It felt REALLY anti-climactic and abbreviated, and I feel like this would be taken away from their overall score. That’s too bad, because the music and the marching are fairly solid.
My Score: 60.9

Jefferson City High School followed afterwards with a show titled “Pandora’s Box” composed by Key Poulan. Tubas! Watch out with that opening syncopated pattern. Keep the articulations very light and spaced. The problem is that you’re so far back field, it’s really important to be just ahead of the drum major. Anticipation is key. The band starts off with a well performed dance routine that doesn’t get too intricate, but is just effective enough to get the audience in the mood for the visual program. The band seems a little smaller than in years past, but the difference between this year’s band and others from before is that this show is designed extremely well. There is a ‘box” theme to the show, and at various points in the show, band members form boxes that either expand or contract, then the boxes combine to form larger boxes. The show actually ends with the band in a huge box form. Different sections of the field are utilized to good effect. Band!!! Don’t break up the phrase in the slow movement! You all took a breath at the end of a crescendo!!! Don’t do that!! I was very impressed with the drill in this show and the little visual touches (the colorguard member pulling a balloon out of the box on the field and letting it fly away into the sky at the end of the 3rd part, nice touch). This was a very nice show and I hope to see it again in the future.
My Score: 67.9

Belleville East High School followed with a show titled “An American Elegy.” The thing that immediately struck me about this group was the uniforms they wore. I felt like I was about to watch a Blue Devils show, only with woodwinds! This was the largest group of the day, and they sure sounded like it. They definitely played with a lot of energy, but the thing about performing Appalachian Spring is that the nature of the piece is one of lightness and frivolity. The band played it as if they were literally pelting the audience with the strains of the famous Copland melodies. American Elegy by Ticheli soon came afterwards, and there were some nice moments provided by the oboe soloist. There were several times where the band was not together, and it happened primarily between the different families of instruments. It felt like the brass were in their own little world, and the woodwinds and percussion were in their own little world, and somewhere along the way these worlds met up and didn’t exactly gel in the way that a marching band unit should gel. The band stopped marching at some point and played the music in one place for the rest of their show. An incomplete show, but has the potential to be a pretty good one.
My Score: 64.4

Francis Howell Central followed afterwards with a show titled “Masters of the Sword.” Where to begin with this performance. It wasn’t the strongest of the day, let me put it that way. Let me put it another way. I knew it wouldn’t be one of the top 3 placing bands in Class AAA. It’s such a disappointment to see them play and march the way they did tonight because it was at this time last year that they were Grand Champions of this very competition. The entire performance looked like a struggle between drum major, drumline, colorguard, and band. Pictures weren’t hitting at exact moments from MANY band members. There was phasing in the low brass, overblowing in the mellophones, and a general lack of uniformity in marching technique. I hate being harsh like this, but this is exactly what I saw. I hope to see improvement from them in the future.
My Score: 52.7

Morton Pumpkin Invitational-Mark Overholt
Class A
Metamora – Metamora’s show, Electronica, was a neat concept. It had some really nice parts to it which I enjoyed. In terms of content, I enjoyed this the most out of the 1A bands. A few things I noticed: there were 2 synthesizers in the pit which were amplified. This overpowered the entire band. If the band was playing anything less than fortissimo, you really only noticed the synths. I noticed the second song here blended really well in the band (except for the pit). The harmony was quite nice and worked well. There were some tuning issues though out the show, but so early in the season, those will be fixed I’m sure. Also the drumline was very tight and clean, I was impressed. Another negative thing I noticed, was during a huge close, a mellophone moved 3 steps to get into form after he had already closed for at least 3 counts. A big no no in my book. All in all, it was a great show and a great way to begin the day. I would have given them 2nd place. They received 2nd place.

Streator – This was another good show. The show was “I love the 70’s”. The first thing that I noticed was the DM salute was really fun (disco anyone!). During the show, at least that I saw, the front DM conducted for about 8 bars with a disco dance. I thought Streator had a well blended sound, and convey musically very well to the audience. Their feet were a little out of phase with the music, and they were stamping the ground, instead of rolling. I would have given them 4th.

Olympia – Olympia did a Pirates of the Caribbean show. As it were, I have played this identical arrangement, so I know it very well. They played it very well. There were a few times where I would have liked to see a little more dynamic changes. That show has potential to really surprise the audience with horn flashes and dynamic changes. Those little additions would have made this show stellar. On multiple occasions I noticed some side to side phasing issues. I would have given them 3rd. They received 3rd.

Thornwood – Thornwood did Spirituals with a twist. As usual, their show had a fun atmosphere to it. Thornwood is good about using the most out of their small size. Some negatives I noticed were a lot of times the notes seemed garbled. This might just be they need more time to rehearse and get that notes down. During the times when the trumpets were really trying to get a lot of sound, it was pinched and out of tune. A precise sound carries farther than a forced sound. Through out the show, their toes were very good as far as I could tell. Also their small drum line was clean. I would have given them 5th.

Pekin – Pekin was by far the best band in 1A in my opinion. They had a well balanced sound that was able to put out a lot of power, especially for only having about 65 (i think) people. They played “Reflections of Form, Sound, and Light”. One thing that stuck out at me was they had a really really good solo trumpet player. Overall a wonderful performance. I would have given them 1st. They received 1st.

Class AA
East Peoria – East Peoria was one of the shows I was really looking forward to. They did “Guitar Hero”, which is one of my favorite games. Their show consists of Monkey Wrench, Frankenstein, Carry on my Wayward Son, and Freebird. Unfortunately, they only played the first two. While the content was good, I was just unimpressed with the show itself. All of the music seemed to be really forced. There were some good moments, and I do believe the show has potential, but as of right now, its just OK. There was a very large close in the first song that just seemed excessively large. It also seemed like the brass had no concept of blend, they just played as loud as they could which produced a muddy sound and an unbalance sound. I really have high hopes for this show, and I can’t wait to see it again (I think at Washington is when I will see it again). I would have given them 7th.

Eureka – Well my former band…I will be as unbiased as possible. Eureka is playing Revolutionary Scenes, Music by Stravinsky. Today they only performed 2 or their 3 songs, Petroushka Scenes 1 and 2. They skipped The Firebird. Because Firebird was not played, it was a short show, as it is the longest piece by far. The flute and clarinet solis at the beginning of song 1 and 2 respectively sounded immensely better than the last time I heard them. The low brass also had a lot of power, which made me smile. Musically this show was great. I know Stalter is always trying to be musical, instead of just playing notes on a page. The whole movement part needs some work however. Sets did not seem to flow, and the feet seemed somewhat lost. This will be a great show when it is finished and the movement is cleaned. Saxyman and I could not decide wether or not to give Eureka 2nd and Geneseo 3rd, or the other way around: so we did rock paper scissors and gave Eureka second. They actually got 3rd.

Monticello – This was my favorite repertoire of the entire day. “A New World”, movement 4; Jupiter from the Planets, Barber of Seville, and Beethovens 9th (they skipped this one). Monticellos’ sound just amazed me. I thought this was the best band in 2A. The woodwind sound was full and distinguishable. It was great. The sound was amazingly powerful. I was just in awe of this show. Their feet were a little sloppy. I noted that they were walking, not marching. But all in all, I still thought they would have gotten 1st. They did not place top 3 actually.

Limestone – I apparently did not make any notes about this show, and to Limestone people, I am sorry, next time I see you guys, I will make a full review. My sheet does indicate I would have given Limestone 6th.

Dunlap – Dunlap played music from James Bond. This was a fun show and had many recognizable themes. On average the forms were clean and spacing was good. My biggest gripe was the music. It seems not together at all and very sloppy. It also seemed like the entire brass section was struggling to play at all, so they were forcing the sound. This is a really good program, and I hope in the next few weeks, your music can get turned around. Different this year compared to years past is normally, early in the season, Dunlap has clean music but sloppy feet, then they clean. This year it is backwards. I would have given them 5th.

University High School – U. High played “Inferno”. Over all I thought this show was nice. The percussion section was very clean (and the Perc caption agrees with me). Some things I noticed were sloppy feet. The forms were good, but individual marching was meh at best. During part of show, it seemed the brass had a forced sound. Also they had only 1 dynamic…it was not very musical. I would have given them 4th. They actually got 2nd.

Geneseo – The King Kong show was fun. It is the best way to describe it. The low brass really brought this show to life. There was also a part where about 10 players came into the pit and played on BIG conga style drums. It was cool. There was some foot phasing and stamping. Other than that it was a really good show. As noted above, I did a rock paper scissors to decide 2nd and 3rd with Eureka, they seemed equal to me. Geneseo ended up with 3rd. They actually recieved 1st.

Class AAA
Washington – Another rock show for Washington. Really, Washington is one of the few bands that can pull off a decent rock marching show, and do well with it. This year is no exception. I thought they sounded wonderful. They played the music from Styx, and it was a very good reproduction of this great band. They had a great Woodwind section, they really blended and projected well. I was pleased with this show. I would have given them 5th.

Bloomington – Bloomington has been getting better and better for the past few years. This year they really have stepped it up. They are playing an original piece called “Not the Ninth”. It had references to many famous ninth symphonies of various composers. I noticed their forms were a little off the mark. Some lines and blocks were wavy. The low brass was a powerful force in this band, and really brought many good things to the performance. As a whole, the band was well balanced. At one point, all the woodwinds set their instruments to the sideline, and picked up flags and joined the guard in their routine. This made a huge impact, seeing as there where more flags being twirled than people playing horns. It was quite a sight to see. I would have given Bloomington 4th. They actually received 3rd.

Danville – Danville played a selection called “Conquest of Gold” It was an interesting piece as much as I could tell. My biggest gripe with this show is it was all 1 dynamic…and that dynamic was mezzo-piano. The entire show had no pop, no flare…it was just soft. It was well blended, but soft. My theory is that they were taught to blend well, so each is trying to play under their neighbor…and that caused a chain effect to make the entire band seem soft. If they can ramp up the dynamic changes, and clean their sets…this will be a great show. I would have given them 6th.

Galesburg – The streaks did James Bond music also (along with Dunlap). The difference here was the memorable themes were not as prevalent. You had to really listen for them. The music was still great. They had great dynamic contrast. For a band that big, loud is no problem…but they were able to get waaay down in the soft range. It was truly a musical experience. Their forms were also very good, but I did notice a little foot stamping. I would have given them 3rd place.

Downers Grove South – DGS did Symphony Fantastique by Berlioz. This is a great choice for a show, and I really enjoyed it. I have in my notes “powerful brass”, “good tone”, and “toes”…each of which are circled many times over. Needless to say, this was DGS’s biggest asset to the show. These items were amazing in the performance. They also had great dynamic range. I did notice the music was muddy in places, but the music was also very complicated. I would have given DGS 2nd. The actually received 2nd.

United Township – UT played Latin American Dances. Not much to report here, besides the usual amazingness of UT. Their sound and forms were top notch. I noticed great diagonals. Also the mellophones were exceptionally powerful, and that is a good thing. They countered the trumpets very well, it made for a very harmonic sound. Needless to say, I would have given UT 1st, and they did recieve 1st.

Morton – Well, the host school performed a great show, as usual. Morton’s show was Out of the Dark, which as a concept is really cool. All the woodwinds had lighter colored uniforms, compared to the brass. (they were already out of the dark it would seem). One word accurately describes this show…cleanliness. Their feet and music were really clean and together, especially for this early in the season. One thing about their show is their lack of ‘Wow’ factor. While the dynamic range is good, and its all very musical, Im missing the part thats like super powerful, or a move that is like, wow that was amazing. A great show don’t great me wrong, just not as exciting as Anasazi Reflections.

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