2008 Academy Brass Show Review
What’s the worst thing about taking a year out? It’s taking a year out! What’s the best thing about taking a year out? If anything, the best thing about taking a year out is looking forward to the next season and getting back on the competition circuit. Doncaster Scouts will be back next year gracing the circuit with our unique brand of marching show and music. Anyhow that’s enough about Doncaster.
Academy Brass has become one of the premier shows on the circuit having several selling points: great facilities at Barnsley FC, located in the North where there is always a northern welcome and the superb weather…. well if you don’t mind the odd summer flood that is!
2008 Academy Brass boasted 24 bands & corps in 6 divisions, cadet, junior, div 3,2,1 and Associate.
10.00am the first band of the day would get the show going. As ever with the lower divisions the band members outnumbered the audience, this makes it all the more difficult with motivation but although few in numbers the audience gave each band a good loud reception.
Spalding BB/GB Marching Ambassadors marching a traditional show started with One Moment in time well played by the brass line this then gave way to an ABBA favourite Gimme, Gimme where the marching bells certainly made their mark. The percussion feature demonstrated the drums abilities very well. With King of the road and World in Union the band made a strong finish. The show was basic and without gimmicks a solid junior division performance.
Blazing Brass started their show emerging from the TARDIS playing Dr Who theme. They then went into Hedwigs Theme from Harry Potter with the marching bells taking the lead while the brass marched individual drill. Into the next element Superman the band explored using different voices there was a few tuning problems and a varying degree of nerves.
The drill was basic and members seemed lost at times looking to others in the band for direction. Red Dwarf and Star Wars theme was enjoyable. The show had good ideas, from an audience point of view there seemed to be clarity and confidence issues, what I would expect from a young band . I found the Dr Who, Superman and Storm Trooper character more distracting than entertaining. I think that a little more thought is needed to integrate the action with the music.
Halifax BB/GB, first on in Division 3, were looking splendid in their new uniforms. Halifax were to perform Jesus Christ Superstar, a Lloyd Webber classic.
Spread across the field the band started the show playing facing backfield then with a turn to face the audience they blasted out the main Jesus Christ Superstar theme. It was evident that we had stepped up to division three. The show content and design had that little bit more than the basic junior shows we had been watching.
The demand level was higher with the moves requiring more individual demand. I felt, at times, that the corps was going through the motions and not fully buying into the show designers ideas.
High steps in Hosanna were hesitant but the artistic push and pose at the end of “I don’t know how to love him” was fully committed. Maybe it is just down to building up more confidence. King Herod’s song which had the makings of a light hearted element to the show didn’t. The show was well presented but I feel needed to step up a gear, clean up the drill and make the transitions clearer and confident. Not wanting to be made Halifax’s enemy number one can you do something about the music cards it masks the players faces and looks untidy, spoiling the hard work you are doing with the show.
Lanesfield BB/GB, the only bugle band in the class. I was getting ready for the usual bugle standards, in the tradition of Eric Morcambe, all the same tunes but not necessarily in the same order. (I’m sure older readers will understand that one!) But, shock horror the show starts with a reveille to which the band assembles drums front brass behind, up goes the tempo and a swinging version of the reveille, fast paced and quite tuneful. Next the static bells take over with a rock style riff then back to the swing rock of the original tune. Transitions from one piece of music to another were excellent and full use of bugle drill was used. There was a feeling of great energy about the show, well rehearsed and what’s more the members of the band looked like they were enjoying themselves. The band changed tempo with ease and made good use of the bells to add the musical dimension that the bugles lack because of their limited note range. The tenor bugles helped giving that deeper voice to the band, both well played. The general view is that you can only do so much with a bugle. Lanesfield have proved this wrong by adding energy and confidence to present a very enjoyable show. I was talking with various staff and members of other bands and they all mentioned how entertaining Lanesfield had been, keep up the good work.
By now the stadium was filling up and the next corps received a rousing welcome from the audience.
Revolution Show Corps kept the energy going with their Rock n Rail show. The bells started the show with Coronation Scot which was overtaken by the main corps playing a strong bass intro to Crazy Train. They traversed the field several times locking in formations then exploding in different directions.
A clean, crisp and strong wind performance had on occasion some elements of over blowing but the music gave itself to the full on power. The colour guard complemented the corps and didn’t mask them or distract from the main show. The pit percussion were integral with the band and added some delicate touches. Breadfan sounded good with the wind and mallets playing off each other. I’m guessing that Paint It Black refers to the black colour of the old BR steam locos. Whatever, it was played with plenty of vigor and gave a great finish to the show. I’m sure that this has made a good platform for Revolution to build on and will signal some more success in the future. I did have a few suggestions to extend the show if they go up a class. Love me Tender or do the Locomotion. But I was told to take the Last train to Clarksville and go Play Chicken with the Train. Charming!
Stafford Brigades followed on starting their show where Revolution left off playing Paint It Black. The limited instrumentation and slower pace demonstrated the sharp contrast between Revolution and Stafford Brigades. The show in comparison to Halifax and Revolution wasn’t as complex but was well marched with good ideas coming through. The percussion performed a good ensemble item whilst the Brass performed several intricate moves including circles, diamonds & squares. The start of Don’t Stop Me Now was brought in by a good trumpet solo followed by the entire band picking up tempo. The pit was working well with the main band but I felt that the band didn’t exploit the highlights in the music which left the show a little flat in places. I enjoyed Final Countdown and thought that if the band get more into the show and give it that little more commitment and flair then the show will really buzz.
Centurion Showband from York always have a good selection of music this year was no different You Really Got Me by the Kinks, Another Saturday Night by Sam Cook, Bring Me to Life by Evanescence and Monkey Wrench by the Foo Fighters. Adrian started the band and the music built up, but where it seemed that it should jump up a few tones it didn’t and stayed in the trumpets comfort zone. The percussion was well executed throughout with a no emotions, stern looks on all faces, the drums were there to do the business.
The trumpet solo was solid bringing the band to life at the start of Bring Me to Life. As for the design of the show, the drums seemed to keep left and brass right or drums rear & brass front moving for movings sake and seemingly repeating sets. The band seemed to get a little lost in the Monkey Wrench both with the show and the music. It didn’t have the Centurion Umphh from past seasons. The trumpets seemed to dominate the brass line which seemed as if it was missing a euphonium or trombone tenor voice part. The show like some earlier corps was flat and seemingly going through the motions. I know that Centurion and the other corps will have put a tremendous amount of time into getting the shows technically correct and it worries me that the fear of making a mistake is compromising the enjoyment of competing and of entertaining the audience.
The weather was holding out but the corps were having to deal with blustery conditions.
Stafford Lancers, on next, were putting on a full production of Evita. From the start with the funeral procession and launch into Evita the corps didn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders. The strong brass was not quite together on what was a demanding show with non-stop transitions and tempo changes. The guard performed the story well dressed in costume for full effect. I particularly liked the percussion feature and the arrival of the young Evita to the tune Buenos Aries Big Apple. By the end of their performance the brass were raggy and snatching at notes, this probably due to the demand placed on them with the high paced show and at times the equally high pitched music. The mallets throughout played exceptionally well and added the depth and sensitivity to the show. The show finished on a light quiet air, subtle and effective. I think on another day with minimal individual errors and an all round better performance the show will be stunning. The task of the corps now is to clean up the show. All the elements are there and I’m sure we will see the Lancers perform that great show in the second half of the season.
The Tallaght Festival Band had travelled all the way from Dublin to perform their 2008 production Jekyll & Hyde at the Magic Academy Show. A very smart turned out unit. The band had a high proportion of woodwind players this proved a challenge in the windy conditions. The band used the field well at times reaching the halfway line, this lead to staging problems for the clarinets , their voices were lost at times. The wind claimed two more victims when it blew over the mallets music stand this left them short of music to play, which was unfortunate as it cut out a valuable dimension of the music ensemble. There was and excellent solo which was lost to the wind. The colour guard was hard working throughout the show and at times they seemed to mask the band rather than complement them. It was great to see the baton twirling, generally left to the majorette bands in the UK, it added a little more to the guards arsenal of flags, rifles and other equally twirly things. Lets hope that we see more bands from far a field joining in the fun with BYBA.
Atherstone Cadets (7 cadets in total 2 snare, 1 bass drum, 2 bells, 1 sax & 1 trumpet). After a few podium antics from the Atherstone Support team the cadets got underway playing Pink Panther the bells and trumpet played very well oozing confidence. The drums had their moment playing very well certainly a hit with the audience. They rounded off with Batman from the ABC TV show Batman. Again well played for such novice bandsmen, boys and girls. It is a delight to watch our future players at such an early stage.
Black Night Cadets (10 total 2 snare, 5 trumpet, 1 euphonium, 2 guard). The theme was space Battlestar Gallactica, Planet Krypton, Imperial March. The cadets played for all they were worth. The drums gave us all a surprise by playing xylophones very well. The two guard cadets were very impressive and a credit to themselves.
As ever both sets of cadets were given rousing support from audience and older players from all bands, it was thoroughly deserved with such performances.
After the first muster it was on with the show stepping up the quality and quantity.
Before the division two got underway the Anchormen Percussion line treated the audience to a demonstration of their percussive abilities. A very young looking battery went through their route in a strict and well rehearsed manner. The audience showed their approval with a strong applause.
The judges returned from lunch and the second installment of competition was about to start.
Warwick Girls now playing up a class demonstrated why they had been promoted from Div 3 to 2. Their moves were well executed and very smart. Their interpretation of the Music of Mika was excellent. There were a few execution errors within the brass but the clarinet solo was excellent in Let Me Down Easy. The marimba complemented the solo well two good voices, especially the volume achieved by the clarinet without squeaking.
The guard was especially colourful in their mixed colour outfits using a variety of flags and streamers.
It was noticeable that the drum major really had a good control over the dynamics of the show, the corps kept a close eye on her which made all the difference.
I was caught out at the end of the show with the false ending, very good
Atherstone YMB were next on with music from Danny Elfman. The corps formed up behind scenery about the thirty line near the first hash. They marched out as a block to the centre line with the mallets creating the mood ready for a Nightmare Before Christmas the brass entered into the fast paced high pitched tune with vigour. The lone colour guard added to the show adapting to and promoting the different moods. The Batman Theme didn’t come across as sinister as I have heard it before possibly because of the individual errors with the demanding music. It seemed a little chaotic which might have been the desired effect. The brass lines performance seemed to be too loud as if trying to compensate for numbers. The bells certainly had captured the Elfman tone but I feel that the brass need to pick up on the Elfman feeling and tone. Highlights were lost due to the single volume of what seemed to be an excellent scored show. Beetlejuice finished off the show with plenty of vigour. The corps was certainly putting a lot of effort and it just needs a review of the dynamics and with that improved tones to really do Danny Elfman’s music justice.
Taking to the stage literally were Cheshire Cadets setting up their own stage on the right 45 line. It took a few attempts but their staff member eventually got the dots in the correct order. The cadets used colour material blocks to close down the performance area. After a body popping salute from the drum major the band started their show with music from Showgirls. A big show opening with some tuning problems gave way to a more controlled performance with plenty of movement across field to then muster on and near the stage for highlights near the end of the first tune. I didn’t think that the Cheshire cadets were as intense as the past two seasons. It could be that I wasn’t too familiar with the Showgirls music or that there might have been some key elements missing.
The field percussion were certainly getting it together, in particular the bass drum line were very good. The guard used the colour blocks as changing areas coming out with different silks and changing the show with splashes of colour. The solo and solo dancer was very effective especially with a well co-ordinated mallets section supporting the solo. The show as ever was extremely demanding and the Cheshire Cadets delivered a good show but I’m sure they want to make a lot of improvements to deliver an outstanding show.
East Coast Elite were going back to their roots with their show From Heaven Above. The staging included crosses in varying size used to close down the show area, three stained glass windows and 4 pews and a lectern. The theme was the church and well known hymns and choral pieces.
The show begins with the brass seated on the pews playing Canon in D the soloist takes position behind the lectern then the brass players move to centre of the field leaving the confines of the church. The percussion feature Heaven on their minds leads into Jesu Joy of Mans Desire with a hymn sewn through the arrangement. The corps displayed some neat drill using all the space available then the crosses were moved by the brass section to create a powerful image. The crosses were then returned to their original places in time fore Ode to Joy.
A thoroughly entertaining show making good use of standards from the hymn book and the more classical elements. The show finishes on a high with the brass returning to their pews.
During the show the wind caught one of the pews smashing it to the ground but the intervention of Show Director Paul Cartwright and Corps Director Tony Jex ensured the pew was fixed and the members sat down in safety. I believe for a small fee Tony and Paul do fitted kitchens, wattle tent pegs and can knock up reasonable shelves!
Upton Youth Band Started their 2008 show with their backs to the audience a quick about turn then into the Old Spice tune or is it the tune from Excalibur? To give good dynamics the corps faced the rear of the arena and turned to the audience to give a real blast of the opener. Into Flight of the Bumble Bee the corps had certainly taken on some tough compositions. More classical hits followed with it came some shaky notes not sure whether nerves were kicking in or adrenaline was at play. Hall of the Mountain king was very dynamic with the corps making the most of the variations on a theme. All parts of the corps seemed to work well together with a smashing finale.
Phoenix Rising from Ireland were to perform their show The Children of Lir a story of four children doomed to spend 900 years as swans but they kept their beautiful singing voices. There were four acts Chlann Lir, Cath, Caoineadh and The Children Of Lir. The large corps filled the field front to back. Very similar in make up to Trinity if you excuse the comparison. The woodwind was in force enough to be heard and good staging meant that they weren’t lost to the elements. Although I couldn’t make head or tale of the show the pieces were well played and the marching show well written. I thought the guards interpreted the swans actions very well. As an original show it was a pleasure to watch. I was impressed with the control and musicality of the show.
Pacemakers brought the show back to a more drum corps feel with large bold chords to start their show. Aracing pace had corps members jogging to positions on the field dropping back to the second hash. This gave the corps opportunity to play Nature Boy towards back field then swing round with an impressive blasting chord in the audiences direction. Bells softened the atmosphere leading into a horn duet of the Queen hit the Show Must Go On. The show had gone from breakneck speed to park and play. Strains of Bohemian Rhapsody were complemented by the cymbals in the pit giving highlight crashes. The corps was locking the shapes pretty well throughout the show.
Trinity School Showband, looking good in their revamped uniforms started off with Don’t Rain on My Parade. Making good use of the voices in the band they moved quickly around the field with an air of confidence. For the Bjork hit the guard introduced staging to the field and gave a great interpretation of the music with a wind up music box ballerina. Having such a variety of instrumentation and the excellent musicianship the corps gives a big band feel to the production numbers. Memories was terrific with all sections listening to each other. The guard were none stop and full of energy adding another element to the already full visual show. The Trinity members seemed to buy into the show giving a lot of passion as well as getting the show right. It seemed only a short time and the show finished on a high. As with their Swing When You’re Winning Show it left you wanting more and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Staffordshire Knights started with Nessun Dorma very expressive and full of light and shade. They then took us into the Hall of The Mountain King with contra leading and mallets accompanying going upbeat the arrangement was accompanied by a fast paced marching element. Mercury the Messenger was a well played solo which was then accompanied by the full corps then the solo was passed around the vices before again being taken on by the full corps finishing off with gentle mallets. Jupiter introduced a well scored percussion item then more music from the Planet Suite. The corps then built up to a dramatic ending with crashing cymbals, violent waving red flags and strong well controlled last push by the brass. Not the easiest of shows it was well presented by Staffordshire Knights and was a pleasure to watch.
Onto the last four competing units. The weather was turning for the worst dark skys to the left gave the promise of rain and possibly thunder.
Associates Div & Div 1
Poynton Commodores took to the stage with their show Tapestry Of Life playing the music of Samuel Hazo Ride and Walt Disney album Millenium Celebration . The centre piece being a globe the corps used the element to march around much like the planets round our sun.
The music is rousing and varied it is technically very difficult and to some degree this removes entertainment and replaces it with awe value. As would be expected from a top corps the show was intricate and artistic with lots of posturing and body movement. Watching a well performed show like this gives me goosebumps knowing how hard it is to get band members to learn their moves the hours, toil, sweat and I’m sure tears that go into these shows is of great credit to the dedication of the corps membership. After a whirlwind of Earths creation adding the elements the show comes to an end with the corps across the field 40 to 40 as though the show wasn’t complete yet.
This seems the way of many top corps developing the show over the season with the complete show in time for finals, trading off the fact that the other elements are so good they can stand the lower display points.
6th Hove Scouts in a sharp uniform started with a corps front fanfare start then went into their first piece of music. The show consisted of Gloria, Make His Praise Glorious, Wolaver, Rhythm of Life, Oh Happy Day and Amazing Grace.
I thought that 6th Hove didn’t have their usual accuracy on brass which was evident in the Rhythm of Life with split notes and squeaky passages. This was made amends by the tuba solo in the spiritual before Oh Happy Day. I really enjoyed Oh Happy Day especially the trumpet reprise very well played with feeling. With the strains of Amazing Grace I could see the slaves in the cotton fields singing their way out of the misery with their brand of gospel music.
The guard were wearing outfits that really complemented the corps and as such they blended with them during the marching sets complementing rather than contrasting. Maybe East Coast Elite and 6th Hove could host a Songs Of Praise style show with all this religion being promoted by two of the country’s top corps.
Black Knights were to give us a Young Musicians Guide to Rock. With three drum kits on the go and a fast paced show the knights were really rocking. The energy in sweet child of mine was unlimited both from band and guard everyone getting fully immersed into the show. There was no ”going through the motions” here every member was giving 110%. It might be the fact that they really enjoyed the music or the show was well written it seemed to be an enjoyable experience for the members. I found myself buzzing with the energy they had given out and shared
with the audience. Although the Knights didn’t do anything anarchic the music interpretation left you feeling that they had captured the raw power of rock and the anti-establishment element of rock.
The final corps of the day Distant Thunder calmed things down with a more sedate show playing their show Awakening of the Elements based on music from Blue Horizon. The elements Earth-Majesty of Mother Earth, Air-Flower Duet, Water-The Storm and Fire-Firebird Suite Finale.
They certainly did Awaken the Elements in particular Water as half way through their show the heavens opened and drenched the entire corps. Being true professionals the show went on with members hardly batting an eyelid as they continued with their controlled, well executed performance.
It’s a shame that as band & corps progress up the ladder of success their shows become more and more technical. Very seldom can you sit a tap you foot along with the music being played by higher corps. Because the demand is so high many of the marching shows look the same it’s just how well they are performed which makes any difference.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of all the 24 units and the demonstration from the Anchormen percussion line. The views in this article are my mine and not influenced by results or any third party with an agenda. I would like to have written more in-depth about each performance but by finals you would still be waiting for the article. At the end of the day the best way to see a performance is on the day with your own eyes and ears. Many thanks to everyone who
contributed to such a successful day and the thousands of hours worth of hard work put in by the young people to create such a spectacle.
If you agree or disagree with my comments or observations feel free to send your version of the events at Academy Brass.
Here’s looking to a great 2nd half of the 2008 season.
BYBA would like to thank John Green of Doncaster Scouts for the above report, and also Drumcopsmedia.com for the photos. Photos of the day can be viewed and purchased at www.drumcorpmedia.com.