Placentia Percussion Finals Review

March 4, 2013
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By Alex Mendoza

Percussion Scholastic A

The Best Things in Life Are Free
La Cañada High School
5th Place, 55.4

Amidst a relaxing blend of opulent blue tones, a series of thin cylinder props serve as a unique element of focus for La Cañada’s swiftly paced program. The subtle mixture of electronic ostinato rhythms accent a series of exposed instrumental pairings, never shying away from incorporating challenging staging elements that require a solid awareness of the numerous tempo changes. The added use of sampled lyrics and other various effects further enhances the stimulating ambiance.

The Darkness Within
Baldwin Park High School
4th Place, 68.5

The minimalist approach to Baldwin Park’s dark and hard-hitting production presents itself through the forceful orchestration, as the battery meets the challenge of controlling the wavering stages of intensity supplied by the front ensemble - with textured rhythms utilized for one moment, unexpectedly followed by intense rhythmic patterns the next. Sampled narrative entices the performers, and perhaps even the audience, to embrace the darkness within us all; vocalized with a foreboding tone that emphasizes the primeval-inspired rhythms that appear to foreshadow the ensemble’s descent into darkness.

Live Forever
Temescal Canyon High School
3rd Place, 69.4

The members of Temescal Canyon accurately portray a series of daring explorers pursuing a legendary tree deemed to give the person who consumes its sap the opportunity to live forever.  The combination of turquoise and gold hues provides the feel of an ancient civilization concealed within the raging combination of impactful melodies, reminiscent of the same high-concept energy found within Darren Aronofsky’s film, The Fountain: a movie about the pursuit of the Tree of Life, and how it affects the individual pursuing its fabled gift of immortality.

Foothill High School
2nd Place, 74.55

Foothill High School regularly performs programs that seek to push the boundaries within the A Class category – serving as skilled performers with the talent to portray simple concepts in a contemporary manner that balance cutting-edge electronics alongside the ensemble’s controlled playing style that combines texture and velocity to an effective degree.  This season, crystal-clear samples explain the various definitions of togetherness, as well as the importance of cooperating with one another to succeed. The conceptual motif also calls upon threatening samples of transmissions describing natural disasters that require people to work together in order to rise above the challenges portrayed within the intense musical phrases and engaging sound effects.

Palisades Charter High School
1st Place, 77.5

The Kraftwerk inspired setting and feel of Palisades Charter’s mechanically focused program is a remarkable sight.  The members move with a clear-cut understanding of their dark and angular characters, stepping out of the shadows in the middle portion of their ballad – a welcome contrast to their powerful opening segment. During these delicate moments, the members switch emotional gears and effectively portray the sense of enhancing one’s character by stepping out of the darkness (represented by the shadow extending across the tarp) and finding a sense of discovery and enlightenment because of taking a risk - elevated further by the skillful hands of the entire ensemble every step of the way.

Percussion Independent A

Cornerstone Percussion
2nd Place, 66.25

A question greets the audience at the start, asking: “What do you believe?” The answer follows suit over the next three minutes, with fast-paced musical phrases leading up to an extended snare feature that incorporates sensational rhythms. Rapid tempos remain at the forefront of the visual design, as the drummers maintain steady control of the demanding passages, seamlessly transitioning from active ensemble moments to jaw-dropping displays of talent from each section during their respective features.

Vegas Vanguard
1st Place, 86.5

January 25th, 1986 – the 25th launch mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida – a reflective and historic stage for the 2012 PIA Bronze Medalists. Their program musically portrays the various stages of the rocket launch process, exploring a heart-racing series of compositions that accurately recall the anxiety, anticipation and sheer awe of a spacecraft launching into the boundless reaches of space. It then becomes clear that these are the moments before the tragic ascent of the Challenger Space Shuttle, with the ensemble further delving into the emotional and historic impact of the event through a gorgeous front ensemble feature. A triumphant closer follows, hopeful in tone and epic in scope and scale, using samples of historic speeches that pay tribute and respect to those lost in the mission.

Percussion Scholastic Open

That Sweet Little Voice
Valencia High School
6th Place, 66.6

The hypnotic opening segment of Valencia’s show is highly deceptive, supported by an eerie pairing of voices that signal towards an irresistible temptation. Seconds later, menacing vocals lend an awareness of the program’s theatrical gravity, leading up to a final declaration in which a voice cackles: “Join us!” As the voice fades off into a more delicate state, the subtle moments of this ballad highlight the skirmish between the inner voices of a male subject, who finally declares that he will follow. As the program continues, the opposing voice/identity concept works extremely well, offering several opportunities for contrast in both a musical and visual perspective.

Liberty High School
5th Place, 71.2

The ethereal presentation of Liberty’s program is all the more effective due to the unexpected path the music takes towards its opening ensemble impact – played with enough groove to have people moving their heads along with the performers. The good vibes immediately fade, though, as an anxious segment implies the choices made thus far have led to something darker in nature. The phrase eventually develops towards a pensive atmosphere, indicating the thought process behind the choices one makes in their lifetime. The piano melody from the Opener returns to signal a deep moment of reflection, all before moving forward and undertaking a demanding sequence of front ensemble flourishes and complex battery rhythms.

The Rose
Nogales High School
4th Place, 71.6

Nogales’ program is an emotive tale of a rose that serves as more than just a beautiful flower, but a symbol of hope and conquest. The intricately clothed performers represent a collective of warriors in hopes of retrieving the rose, all while dealing with the protectors designated to defend the rose at all costs. The cinematic nature of the music finds a profound emotional gravitas with its authentic string samples and poetic delivery of the narrative that details the importance of the rose and the conflict that stirs as a result, as well as the ensemble’s ability to deliver on moments both delicate and boisterous in nature.

Pacifica High School
3rd Place, 72.05

A picture generally finds itself regarded as something that is worth a thousand words. Drawing upon this concept, Pacifica’s program presents a brief and nostalgic connection to the importance of capturing a moment within the frame of a vintage sentiment. Then the tone shifts as it highlights society’s current obsession with technology and the need to have more power and more features – taking away from what makes the idea of a photograph special and necessary in the first place. The music scoring is idyllic and tense all at once, with the players effortlessly shifting between the varying moods, as well as exploring distinctive visual concepts that further support the idea of capturing the moment throughout the expanse of their charming production.

Into the Unknown
Great Oak High School
2nd Place, 74.3

The dripping shadows of the indefinite horizon serve as an appropriate vehicle for the performers of Great Oak, who trade in their usual sense of whimsy for a thoughtful musical assessment of the murkier elements of having to face the great unknown. In other ways, though, the show’s title also highlights the idea of having to explore other artistic and visual elements that have yet to appear in the activity, displayed through several section features staged on circular props positioned at the front of the floor. At one point, the performers move the props to form a visual focus for a complementary moment of relief, further represented through the ethereal melodies and epic battery rhythms accompanying this jubilant segment.

Shell Shock Episodes
El Dorado High School
1st Place, 77.35

After earning a promotion from A Class to Open Class, El Dorado earned top honors with their raw and aggressive production. Drawing from T.S. Elliot’s famous poem, The Wasteland, as a source of inspiration, the opening lines describe a society recovering from the devastation of World War I. As the show progresses, it probes further into the psyche of the soldiers themselves, featuring the sounds of gunfire, explosions and the personal recollections of the ordeal. Without a doubt, the dexterous performers capture the anguish of these soldiers through a demanding visual package and difficult musical passages that perfectly complement the production’s merciless pacing and distinctive fusion of historical events and celebrated literature.

Percussion Independent Open

The Elements
Pasadena City College
4th Place, 60.65

The opening seconds of PCC’s elementally charged program give the feeling of a calm, rushing river mixed with a graceful spring breeze. The effect is extremely soothing as the ensemble dashes across the floor playing textured rhythms and building towards the earth-shattering force of a nameless event. The result is grand and boisterous, hinting towards the power of the earth element and leaving enough intrigue for where the program and its musical selections can veer towards the latter end of the season as it explores the other elements that comprise the planet.

The Sound of My Voice
Dark Sky Percussion
3rd Place, 72.75

The importance of the voice of the individual and its role in society serves as Dark Sky’s conceptual focus, represented through alluring musical compositions that draw upon spoken word, as well as the various sound effects humans can generate on their own, as a prime source of inspiration. The program also uses a series of vignettes that call upon opera, sound wave displays printed on the tarp, and the consistent reference to the importance of the human voice and its sense of uniqueness to each individual. Often times this sampled quote signals the beginning of challenging sectional features, presenting the members the opportunity to display their skillful “voices” and overall talent on more than one occasion.

From Pure to Evil
Valley Independent Percussion
2nd Place, 79.15

The impressive musical shifts in tone for VIP’s program are unique in the sense that as the show progresses, the musical selections change key signatures and the tone quality “darkens” – as implied by the shows eponymous namesake. The gradual pacing of the program had to have been a challenge onto itself, but the skillful hands of the performers – all dressed in white – emerge from the sparse opening moments all the way to an energetic battery ensemble feature towards the latter end.

At this point, the members sequentially unveil a dark square directly in the center of their chest, hinting towards a darker collection of sounds and far more intensity in the near future.

The Road
Orange County Independent Percussion
1st Place, 82.6

The 2012 PIO Bronze Medalists traverse a bold and creative path this season, focusing on the varying roads we travel during our lives and the various onsets of moods that we feel as we experience every one of those paths. The musical styles utilized during the program possess a contemporary air about them, employing an even balance of the astonishing moments that catch a person’s attention, along with more delicate moments that use rhythms such as complex triplet chord figures to portray the sense of traveling along the winding road of life at a brisk pace.

Through the ensemble’s remarkable skill sets, there is always a sense of forward momentum, along with the various tempo changes also indicate the different speeds at which life tends to move: sometimes slow, sometimes fast – but always progressing forward.

Percussion Scholastic World

Minus One
Arcadia High School
3rd Place, 77.0

The always-sophisticated approach of Arcadia High School has often resulted in truly exceptional music and visual programming in World Class. This time out, the ensemble takes the beloved melodies of Debussy’s Claire de Lune and translates them into an epic opening that requires the ensemble to travel at great lengths across the floor, all the while executing difficult movement segments that require more than just being nimble on one’s feet.

While still early in the stages of its conceptual development, the combination of classical melodies and styles within the frame of a contemporary musical face-lift is something Arcadia executes with a sense of style and grace. When the Western Regional Championship comes around, this program will be sure to carry Arcadia’s trademark for throwing down some of the most powerful and engaging musical content in the activity.

The Ten-Mile Day
Fountain Valley High School
2nd Place, 78.25

The sounds of the Industrial Revolution and the railroad boom of the late 1800’s drives the opening moments of Fountain Valley’s homage to the earliest roots of the nation and its industrial expansion.

The immensely talented demonstrations of skill from the battery are bountiful, as the visual design focuses on several moments of slow-burning momentum – musically and visually – with accelerating tempo figures and visual designs replicating that of a train traveling along the track. The accompaniment with the blaring train horn adds to the overall strength of the battery’s multifaceted rhythmic figures, pushing the intensity as much as they can before reaching the apex of their musical phrases.

Chino Hills High School
1st Place, 83.7

Set upon the backdrop of the most important events in human history, Chino Hills’ production is a textbook display of precision on all levels. The faultless integration of memorable events from human history and all facets of Pop Culture will be instantly recognizable to those people belonging to Generation Y, as well as those who are part of Generation Facebook.

As it turns out, last year was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of performance commitment, as the 2013 incarnation of the PSW Championship group draws from a reservoir of profound emotion and achieves numerous moments where you cannot believe they are pulling this stuff off. 

Whether it’s the entertaining inclusion of an intricate snare feature set to the catchy tune from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; to the massive (and talented) front ensemble performing one of the most memorable front ensemble features in history from the 2000 Blue Devils program, Methods of Madness; or the rousing speech given by one of the members during the emotional strains of Barber’s Adagio For Strings, it’s all executed at the highest level and once the program is complete, there is no doubt it will serve as a timeless example for the activity at large, and a clear cut example that the Huskies intend to retain their championship mantle with their charismatic sense of style and flair.

Percussion Independent World

Return to Innocence
POW Percussion
3rd Place, 82.15

After last year’s promotion from PIO to PIW in two short years, along with a strong and impressive finish at the 2012 World Championships, the 2013 cast of POW Percussion made a strong debut in Percussion Independent World with their emotive program.

At the start, beautiful female vocals symbolize the wide-eyed wonder and beauty of experiencing a moment that a person eventually comes to treasure, or discovering/experience an event that defines a certain individual.

Lurking in the background, however, behind the varying white towers set around the perimeter of floor are menacing figures cloaked in blood-red uniforms and black make-up. Physical representations of the anxieties we experience as we grow older, with the members learning that some passions find disapproval in the eyes society and the world, and that people will be quick to tell you that your dreams are unattainable.

As such, the shift between the key female vocal motif and the usage of familiar movie quotes from Fight Club assist in developing the story as the members struggle to retain their innocence - battling the world and their own insecurities through a graceful display of fast-paced visuals and a mature understanding of musical sensitivity that constantly works in the ensemble’s favor.

State of the Arts
Riverside Community College
2nd Place, 86.5

Since 2002, RCC has tackled a range of subjects from how music affects everyone – even the deaf – to paying homage to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives as the ultimate gift to those to enjoy their freedoms.

This season, though, the ensemble takes it to the next level with their stylish production that highlights the grim reality of how the arts are slowly fading from public school systems - and even more relevant considering the Southern California ensemble hails from a state that leads the charge in cutting such programs.

The production draws inspiration from the highly popular TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson from Feb 2006:

…and should be seen in order to fully appreciate the extent of RCC’s program. At the start a school bell rings while the members remain at their desks, representing school children and showing a sense of incredibly sterile and blank faces – all of them moving the same while the other members hurry to finish school work. All until the stress becomes too much to bear and one player breaks away from the stressful routine by unveiling color on their uniform.

Thus, the remainder of the program uses other lines from the presentation as members leap on the props while performing challenging sectional features, as well as dashing along the horizontally positioned desks to reveal white beneath the black color scheme. Interestingly enough, the program is vaguely reminiscent of the visuals from Pink Floyd’s famous music video, “The Wall”, but with less dark underpinnings and various bits of humor from the speech that will surely develop towards the latter end of the season in dynamic and interesting ways.

Pulse Percussion
1st Place, 88.0

The spirit of rock ‘n roll has long been embedded in the sense of rebellion. Not just in terms of the sound of the genre, but what it has embodied and stood for in respects to the iconic figures that have used this style of music to inspire, or represent, the numerous historical movements that end up teaching that in some cases, rebellion is the only manner in which change can occur.

This is clear from the start of Pulse’s volatile 2013 production, as censored words lead the tirade of a man imploring the audience to stand up and overcome the oppression of those who seek to subdue particular individuals, or groups.

Yet opposed to delving into extremely dark and dissonant music all throughout, the members of Pulse focus on how the very act of rebellion can inspire others to take actions. Some instances involve particular members running at random times to break away from visual forms, while others call upon the entire ensemble to chant the enduring lines from Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna’ Take It” to rouse the crowd.

The rock-tinged compositions also implement unforgettable riffs from rock’s greatest artists, such as Metallica’s “One”, Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, placing these melodies through an robust musical filter that is unlike anything Pulse has delivered prior.

And that’s what is immediately striking: the stylistic change the group employs in comparison to the contemporary and modern based productions they have performed in the last three years. Representing a tone that strips down the spirit of rock ‘n roll to its emotional core, not having to resort to being dark for the sake of being dark, but rather taking a bold path and allowing the show to be full of unpredictable liveliness.

All the while, the courageous visual design and fearless display of accuracy from the tenor line’s countless features drive the VUs into the red – a clear testament to Pulse’s unrivaled energy and their pursuit of repeating their success from their storybook ending in 2010.

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