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Williamsport 2022

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I have no idea if anyone's looking, if anyone cares, but I figure I'd at least start to get the review up for the contest. It's the only contest I'm headed to this season, and I had concerns. I'll start by saying that a lot of things I feared didn't take place. 


The Hosts did an excellent job getting the reserved seats resolved and sold quickly. The food and hospitality were fine. The stadium can have a way of cooking the spectators due to sun angle and stadium facing but starting the show later in the day alleviated those issues. It was a very hard day to rehearse in, for which I offer all of the performers my appreciation and respect. 


I've not been feeling exactly well of late. I think the effects of COVID have hit on all of us in one way or another. I'll go through the show in order. When Listing estimated counts, if I'm off a bit, be understanding. I realize that certain people were missing in various corps in various sections because of positive tests and I hope their health is good.


The Skyliners (11 Front Ensemble, 9 Battery, 14 Brass, 6 Color Guard... NOTE: EVERY corps exceeded 35 total membership whether or not that is being enforced now. Just sayin' in response to some folks who carp on that issue.) are performing a show based on the classic "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue". I believe the brass book has a lot of very thoughtful and imaginative content. It looks back to the past yet is very fresh and contemporary to today's activity. The performance left me to believe there's still a final section to be added to the total package.


The corps is very young. Right now, the Brass is still in a process of gaining confidence and finding themselves and where they contribute. When everyone is confident, they project a solid sound for being so small. There seems to be a lack of feel for the continuity of the show, how each phrase and element flow into one another. When things are going right, one can feel a seamless transition as one idea hands off to the other musically, and right now, it seems the Corps understands each individual chunk, but not how each of those chunks flow into the next idea. 

The Snare section performed with confidence and excitement, which was appreciated.


There's a really fine Baritone Solo in the program, and I encourage the player to play with confidence. They know what they're doing, but I sensed some nerves and hesitations. They have the right stuff, play with self-confidence.


Once this show is complete, flows, and is performed with confidence, I believe it can really be a vehicle to really move the audience. I know the team is hard working, dedicated, and is capable of performing with all the details that are needed.

Edited by BigW
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looking forward to the rest. i didnt take any notes, i was enjoying 3 generations of Reams watching the show together

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Let's get back to business. "Chega de Saudade" by T-Bones Brasil, on....


Next Core, Fusion Core 2022 roster 7FE/10CG/15 Battery/13 Brass.


As a warm-up, I found the 2021 "Smile" show available for viewing, so forgive me for commenting on last year, but I'll start with a statement-

I've never been disappointed by Fusion Core. Ever. They have a way of lifting me by the shoulders. Always positive, energetic, fun-loving, and a sense of kindness pervade their performances. I have a dislike of the trite and corny as well on the field. "Smile" took some music that's usually arranged and performed cornier than the Jolly Green Giant and the Litle Green Sprout combined and did something very thoughtful and intelligent. There was a lot of thought and effort from Staff and performers put into that program to make it that cool and to overcome so, so many bad arrangements and performances of that same material from a lot of College and High Schools. Thank you to he 2021 Core!


What about 2022's "Royal", a tale of power and the effects of said power?


There's a lot to talk about here. The way the dialogue is written and performed between Battery and Brass so they both work together very well. when Battery numbers match brass numbers, there can be a lost battle from the brass in the balance of the program. There's a great dialogue and respect between the two elements. Both have their opportunities and have a real musical conversation that's very well staged and set up to allow the performers to shine, and shine they do.


Fusion Core could apologize for being smaller and sulk around on the field and people would be understanding, but that is NOT their way. They ATTACK.


13 Brass who can't be humans, they're ****ing tigers! None of them let the rest of the section carry them. Ever. Pound for pound, as tough as anyone in the circuit. I hope they realize how special they are, encourage one another and have respect for each other's talents. (but don't get too cocky!)

The two Tubas are likely kept secure, fed raw meat, and only turned loose for the show. I knew a couple of power players back in the day that were legendary for their raw power in the Westshoremen and these two are right there. There's a descending line later in the program where they drop the hammer and knock the listener out. 


Yeah, there are things that need refined. There's a month to go. It's a lot easier to dial back than beg for more. I tend to avoid talking about performance issues unless they're really glaring at me. My thanks to the Core.





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Next up, Rogues Hollow Regiment and "The Other Side of the Door". (7 Battery, 7FE, 21 Brass, 2 CG).


I'm diggin' the fat, split third, dense harmony Blood, Sweat and Tears/Tower of Power Funk vibe. All they need is my Grandma's Leslie Speaker to hook up to the Hammond organ. The Low Brass plays strong and fat, which sets up all the stuff on top. 


The narration sets things up well and doesn't dominate the conversation. Very 'Beat Generation' feel that works well.


I like the fast show pace. 


Now, Let's talk some turkey. I LIKE this show. I WANT to see this show taken to some serious levels because all the ingredients are there to take it there. What's gotta happen?


1: Clean all the low hanging fruit, especially off the battery. When the Lead Bari player hears dirt in the battery, there's a lot to clean. There's a lot of musical things that some of the brass are being rather cavalier with. Everyone has to be tight and consistent across the ensemble in terms of intonation and articulation to make jazz/funk work. When it works for Rogues' Hollow, it WORKS. But it's gotta work all of the time. When the battery cleans up, it'll also help the brass to stick the re-entries after the percussion features. Right now, there appears to be a bit of hesitation because of that issue.


2: "White Rabbit". Everything is set up for the shout chorus... and everyone goes stiff. AAARGH! Only The Cadets do things like that and get away with it because that's part of their brand. Do I need to get some of the ole Westshore crazies to dance around you cats in rehearsal to loosen you all up!? Have fun with that moment!!!! Cut loose to help sell the moment!


This is a cool show. I love the fact that they have a very distinct sound and personality. All they gotta do is refine, clean, and push. 

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The Bucs' (Size, too many to easily count and big enough) "Alter-Ego" show was a rather fascinating and unique experience for a lot of reasons.

The aesthetics of the uniforms work, even though at first, I had doubts. Careful design of the uniforms themselves and the drill make it happen. If they want a certain amount of mental dissonance, they're getting it from that aspect. 

The show is basically a psychological drama and exploration of one's self, and this one is well done. I've seen some of these types of shows where it didn't work, and this one is laid out and paced well.

All I can say is that something different and unique took place. I'm going to try and describe it.

The Brass is as it's always been. They played hard, played well, compliments to the Low Brass who threw the punches they were asked to....

The Battery. Dear God, the battery. Why, how, I'm uncertain. Chip on their shoulders? A very intense and aggressive overall personality?

I didn't expect the battery to come out and be that insanely compelling-not too loud-not musically overbearing... but by sheer force of personality, they stole the program. They MADE me watch them. They threw down HARD. And we're dealing with a typical strong and very capable Bucs' brass section, not a bunch of apologetic sorry we showed up at the show milquetoasts that begged to get thrown under the bus.

What this exactly means, I'm uncertain. I've never seen a battery take a show over by sheer force of will like that. Maybe.. some of Rennick's lines in DCI? 


Does it mean that the Brass and Guard are going to have to push even harder to line up with that level of raw force of nature intensity? Dear God, how? I know they're driving hard. It's like, "We want you to be as intense as Godzilla is when he's stomping Osaka and flossing his teeth with the castle. For most of the program." They'll figure this out somehow. There are too many bright individuals who have been around for too long in the corps. 


I never worry about cleaning with the Bucs. They had their issues, but it will get done. 


I'm still boggled by the experience. In good ways, energized and excited by that intensity, but left wondering.



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Great stuff so far, W!!! Love the line about Fusion's tuba section!!! 

Edited by Fran Haring
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15 hours ago, Fran Haring said:

Great stuff so far, W!!! Love the line about Fusion's tuba section!!! 

The Westshoremen had some of those kinds of Tigers, Fran, one of them being a married couple. John and Julie Close could drop the hammer and make the bell rattle. I still remember John rolling into rehearsal on his Harley. I know both were ex-Y-R/Southwind.

in 1982/3, the hammer drop before the ending fanfare in "All the Things you Are"? Art Murray. The Contra at the beginning of Winnetka '82 and with the Alumni? Art.

In the 90's Nelson B. was one of those guys with Westshore and later, the Cabs. There's a pic somewhere on FB of Art, Nelson and I at a pre covid TubaChristmas in Frederick, MD. Playing "Mele Kalikimaka" with those guys at that gig on my Euphonium was a scream.

In 1979, the Contras had T-Shirts made that read "3+John=12". TRUTH. Those two cats at Fusion are doing some kind of new math where 2=8. 


Please bear with me, White Sabres and both Cabs organizations. I write when I have the energy and can give all of you the time and thoughts you deserve (In a good way, I hope!)

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Needed hype. A ton of it. Right here, right now.


The Cabs' "Timeless" program is another taken direction for the corps. It's different. How?

The horns had several out from positive tests, and I hope they're all well. Losing a friend to COVID hasn't been easy for me. It did make some subtle differences to the brass performance. They're really young, and when you're missing people next to you, it can challenge one's confidence or finding the ensemble balance. I believe they have the right staff in place to build and develop those young people. 

The music's varied. Swan Lake...Billy Joel, Meat Loaf... but it all works well together. Strong, thoughtful arranging is in place, and what's also interesting is how the Battery is used in this corps.

One usually expects the brass to carry the drama and passion for the Cabs, but this season, it's the battery that frames the emotions and excitement. They have a very different personality from the Bucs' percussion. How so?


I see the Cabs as Inigo Montoya, and everyone's killed their father. They fight with the rapier, as a swashbuckler, focused and elegant.


The Bucs percussion are like Toshiro Mifune, the OG Samurai in Part two of the Samurai Trilogy. 80 people take him on thinking the fight's in their favor. Up goes the body count. Brash, ferocious.


There's a particularly fine Flugelhorn feature that's quite artistically shaped in this show that I view as a strong highlight. There were some unsettled brass ensemble issues that I think will easily work through once everyone gets more comfortable with the pop style pieces at the tail of the program and with the brass ensemble getting more time together. Thery just need some time to build their trust in each other to deliver the goods throughout the program.





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The White Sabres' show "Heavy Metal" has a unique Timbral palette. That's a good thing. What's the point of sounding like everyone else when you can develop your own sound that the fans will enjoy and appreciate?


They have a darker tonality which fits the material. and they're only fielding 3 Tubas- who are getting the job DONE. The Bari feature in "Nothing Else Matters" is right on- they get it. The battery is small but gutsy, and plays musically and well.

They seemed a bit tired at the end of the program, and gave away some low hanging fruit, but with reps, that should clean easily. The show was quite enjoyable.

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