by Mallory Moad
On Saturday, April 2, I made my much anticipated return to the world of percussion. I rolled the window down and was greeted by that crazy cacophony as competitors filled the Clovis East High School parking lot, preparing to strut their stuff in the San Joaquin Valley Color Guard & Percussion Review Championship Finals. This was going to be a big deal and ‘the heat was on.’
Here’s a little history lesson for you. Percussion competitions were created to keep the drum corps busy after the marching band season has ended. Brass, reeds, and woodwinds have the opportunity to participate in honor bands and school orchestras, but those ensembles don’t have the need for over 30 percussionists. Off-season competition provides an outlet for performance beyond halftime shows and parades, as well as the motivation to keep in top shape. Depending on whom you ask, the idea for a percussion competition was born in the Central San Joaquin Valley in 1983…or not. Regardless of its beginnings, it has become a nation-wide event.
I expected to see some differences this time around, compared to the Classification Show I attended in January. Adjustments in some of the choreography tightened up the programs and made them run more smoothly. There was an emphasis on attitude, with physical and facial expressions having become a more essential component of the performances. The most noticeable change was in the ensembles’ appearance. Black pants and matching shirts, the most common look in the Classification Show, were replaced by colorful uniforms that helped illustrate a program’s theme.
One-shouldered jackets were particularly popular, as were LED lights. In “Van Gogh,” Clovis North High School even dressed up their cymbals with shiny tape that repeated the geometric shapes of their rolling set pieces. In addition to giving a more polished, professional look, these changes also helped clarify some thematic elements. The addition of a long, green glove, what I originally thought was just some kind of funky hand jive, became the movement of a snake in Clovis West High School’s “Charmer.”
Three of the programs I saw presented themes that were based on historical events, one of which was fictional. Visalia’s Mount Whitney High School examined the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII in the moving and sensitive “Behind The Wire.” Rolling set pieces depicting charming houses were transformed into camps by turning them around, while the musicians in the pit removed bright period clothes to reveal military uniforms.
Merced High School took a fierce look at racial tension through the eyes of the Hispanic culture in “Zoot Suit Riots” with a musical arrangement that incorporated Latin rhythms.
In “V,” Merced’s Golden Valley High School featured a cinematic theme, the overthrow of Britain’s fascist government in the film, “V For Vendetta.” Striking black and red uniforms, multiple Guy Fawkes masks, and computer screens gave the piece a creepy, yet powerful, feel.
Although I love marching bands, I’ve never played in one. The SJVCGPR was a new, somewhat foreign experience. Did I understand everything? Not completely. Did I enjoy it? One hundred per cent!
My name is Mallory Moad, and I’m off to explore more new and exciting things right here at home.