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 Post subject: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA Long Beach PRELIMS
PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:46 pm 
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***PRELIMS REVIEW***

Bands of America Regional Championships presented by YAMAHA
Long Beach City College
Long Beach, CA
October 29, 2016

It had been a while since attending a BOA event starting early in the morning. Usually, these early morning events are reserved for the shows with 30 plus bands in the line-up. However, I think BOA was on a bit of a time limit for the facilities, given that finals started earlier than usual and ended earlier than usual. The weather was cool, mild, with the dark clouds just layering the blue sky with some blue to be seen. When I made my way through the ticket gate I greeted the old woman who took my ticket with a cheery, "Good morning! How are you?" She said, "Well, I woke up this morning, so that's a good thing." I replied, "Praise God you're here," and she agreed, and had a nice chuckle. The stadium looks ancient. The Men's restroom is hard to find, hidden behind the Women's restroom. (Lots of men were like, "Huh?") The field, however, looks brand new: beautiful green turf with end zones in bright red--home of the Vikings. I knew the bands would have to stretch their sound today, as there is quite a distance between the field and the stands--a track creating that space. I sat 2/3 of the way up--not too high but not too low. Dan Potter, long time BOA announcer, announced, and it was nice to hear a friendly, familiar voice, so professional. Things soon got underway.

My "disclaimer," if you will, is that I want to give you a peek at what I saw with my own eyes. My impressions, of course, are not the impressions of an actual judge--even though for the past 20+ years I have seen hundreds of band shows at the national level--but rather as a spectator with a blank slate--or accurately, a "knowledgeable spectator." Strictly for fun and personal amusement, I have assigned scores and ranked the bands according to my preference, keeping in mind BOA standards leaning heavily towards General Effect (music before visual). I share this with you to give you a different take on the performances, so you have the BOA professionals' take on the shows, and Alan Irons' take, and you may choose to agree or disagree with either. A little background on how I score the bands: I assign a number immediately after the performance of the band, and do not change it. I then use a grid spread sheet drawn in a notebook to rank the groups as the day progresses. I do not change my scores or rankings once I write them down, to be fair. If my score is close to the actual score, or is the same as the actual score, it's purely a coincidence. (Nothing more.) You might find what I write about some groups to be more critical than normal, or negative even, and you would be right. I try to find something positive about each group I rate, even if it is at a "drive-by" pace. However, I feel that if you choose to be in the national spotlight, you choose to be evaluated as such based on comparisons. More than anything, however, I want all the groups that come to a BOA event to have the best show of their lives, regardless of what KIND of show they have. Ultimately, I hope they get an educational experience out of this, and improve for "next time." I'm pumped to have the opportunity to come to a show like this and have the honor and priviledge of witnessing the pageantry, and hopefully sharing it with you in an accurate, unbiased manner.

Arroyo H.S.
El Monte, CA
Repertoire: "The Gift," Musical Selection is "Legend" by Jim Wunderlich
Comments: This band had brand new uniforms. Nice! Excellent contrast of red and blue across the field with the backdrops, and the showcasing of a cube glowing blue. Strong opening impact. The body movement to kick off movement two was not precise enough, I felt. That aggressive part seemed to end on a question mark and did not grip me as I had hoped. Excellent flute amplification, and well played solo. Okay, lots of fuzz. Low brass, the drums can't save you. Timing and technique seemed to deteriorate drastically near the end of their performance. Decent showing. Clarity of presentation was askew.
My Score: 66.60
My Placement: 12th
Actual Score: 69.05
Actual Placement: 14th

Chaffey H.S.
Ontario, CA
Repertoire: "Big Brother is Watching You" deaturing "Dystopia" by Kevin Shah
Comments: The narration was nice and loud, and clear. Sadly, I think this diluted the sound of the winds occasionally. Well done, rifle squadron. The percussion was sizzling, too. The winds did not blend very well. The soloists could not make up for what the ensemble lacked. Some of whay they played, quite honestly, was painful to listen to. Nice, mellophones! There we go. A taste of excellence, but just a small one.
My Score: 58.0
My Placement: 21st
Actual Score: 55.70
Actual Placement: 23rd

Fountain Valley H.S.
Fountain Valley, CA
Repertoire: "In Pursuit," musical selections include: "The Tower" by Ludovico Einaudi, "Silhouette" by Thomas Newman, "African Run Down" by Chris Cornell and David Arnold, "Voluntary Retirement" by Thomas Newman, and "Piano Concerto No. 1" by Keith Emerson
Comments: On the far left side of the field comes one of the guard running with a briefcase towards the 50 where there is a vertical line of backdrops, and as soon as she hits the 50 behind one of the backdrops a uniformed member of the back runs out towards the right side of the field. Voila! I really liked the bright white plumes, which contrasted nicely to the "darks" black-and-blue, and complimented the white, pink, and black ribbon uniform "sash" add-on. Excellent precision. I don't know about that visual where the winds hit the ground to roll into a pose, though. (Definition seemed lacking.) Wow, the hit of this show was the pianist. This group seemed to run out of gas at the end, but I think, overall, there was a lack of focus here and there, as timing and blend and other things that "should have been there" suffered. Connection to audience lacked, too, and no doubt the zest of this group did not go across the front part of the field, crossing the track, and reach to the top of the gently sloping cements stands. INVENTIVE show. I give them credit for boldness.
My Score: 68.10
My Placement: 9th
Actual Score: 64.70
Actual Placement: 17th

Chino Hills H.S.
Chino Hills, CA
Repertoire: "Chakras"
Comments: Wonderful far east sounds, and matching movement to the theme. The whole introduction of this show was like a WGI gold medalist percussion show. This group had a nice, full sound. The woodwinds nailed, nailed, nailed their feature. Ha ha! Awesome. Loved the jazzy dance that just seemed to take over. First goose bump moment of the day, and that is a very, very good thing. The ballad, although good, was a bit mechanical for my taste. Their drumline was too good--type A all the way. Well done! Fun show.
My Score: 74.80
My Placement: 6th
Actual Score: 73.65
Actual Placement: 9th

Ysletta H.S.
El Paso, TX
Repertoire: "Batter Up!," including Mvt. 1 "Play Ball!," Mvt. 2 "Seventh Inning Stretch," and Mvt. 3 "Grand Slam"
Comments: It took a long time for them to get started. Although not huge, they had a well-rounded sound. The mellophone soloist achieved. There was a lot of exactness to this group, which is nice, but they seemed somewhat restrained. Beautiful partner dancing by the male and female auxiliary members, including numerous lifts. Whoa, steady there, trumpets, coming in. This group kind of whispered as they slid into home and...SAFE! They took the words right out of my mouth.
My Score: 61.50
My Placement: 18th
Actual Score: 60.10
Actual Placement: 20th

Carlsbad H.S.
Carlsbad, CA
Repertoire: "Le Tour: Every Second Counts"
Comments: Awesome! A bike pathway form was made for bicyclists that sped through. Solid start! Ooh, the double-time with single-time was somewhat rough. They had an all-star trumpet soloist, but man did he have to work hard! I had to really search to find something remarkable about this show. I mean, the whole "stage-turning" stuff was nice, but it was predictable. Somebody "wins" at the end. So what? The drama was lacking. Standard show.
My Score: 63.20
My Placement: 15th
Actual Score: 63.10
Actual Placement: 18th

Perry H.S.
Chandler, AZ
Repertoire: "Through the Ages," including Mvt. 1 "The Ice Age," Mvt. 2 "The Dark Ages," Mvt. 3 "The Age of Enlightenment," and Mvt. 4 "The Modern Age"
Comments: Excellent staging of the guard, side A. Okay, it took a while, but now I can finally hear the wind players through all the dissonance. The monk chants generated by the pit caused some effect. There was not much to get excited about with this group. Where was this show going? Why are there sudden stick-outs here and there? And what's with the random synth sounds? Transitions were extremely poor. Wow, such an uneven show. The best part about them was their marching technique, but even then...
My Score: 55.70
My Placement: 23rd
Actual Score: 59.85
Actual Placement: 21st

Nogales H.S.
La Puenta, CA
Repertoire: "The Odyssey," by Frank Sullivan
Comments: Great use of field, with winds far off in the distance. Okay, maybe I wrote that too soon. This group kind of had an awkward start. They were hard to hear and their size did not help them. Eh, obligatory synth vocal to precede first opening hit? Not impressive enough. At times the brass seemed muffled. Ooh, slight timing issues. Again with the vocals from the synth. Not very creative. Come on, guys! All right, they rockd the ballad, at least. Nice. The percussionsts were locked in. This Nogales seemed to be on the "rebuilding" side, which is tough because I had high hopes for them.
My Score: 63.10
My Placement: 16th
Actual Score: 65.00
Actual Placement: 16th

Highland H.S.
Gilbert, AZ
Repertoire: "Mirror Mirror," including I. "Forest," II. "The Conjuring," III. "Sleep," IV. "The Awakening"
Comments: Complex choreography at the start works well, as the music helps draw you in. The excellence was lopsided. Okay, now we're cookin', brass. Uh oh. A mellophone player tripped on the tarp and fell down. Nice recovery, though. The flute soloist, amplified, was not well amplified. It's little details like that that separate the amatuers from the professionals. There were spatters of NICE throughout, but sadly it ritard'ed the overall effectiveness of their show.
My Score: 65.00
My Placement: 13th
Actual Score: 70.20
Actual Placement: 13th

South Pasadena H.S.
South Pasadena, CA
Repertoire: "Connections," by John Fannin
Comments: Okay, I'm intrigued. Excellent slow burn from the low brass to the flute duet. Individual technique is lacking, unfortunately, and audibly what started off strong seemed to deteriorate quick. This group seemed to know what they were doing. The creepy voiceover didn't do much for me in the way of interest. Clever staging of the drums during their feature, complete with winds encircling them and clapping their hands, and gears that turned on their slick backdrops. You bring out that beautiful robot prop at the end on the far right side of the field, but...why so late, and why so very far away? Agh!
My Score: 62.00
My Placement: 17th
Actual Score: 66.35
Actual Placement: 15th

Del Valle H.S.
El Paso, TX
Repertoire: "A Bad Hair Day: Demon Barber of Seville," music selections include, "The Barber of Seville," "Sweeney Todd," "Flower Duet" from Lakme, and "Hunting Wabbits"
Comments: Strong initial impact. Now that tension is gone and wanders off. The woodwinds have this moment where it's all about them and they did this simplistic head tilt and squat move...and then remain motionless for a lengthy amount of time. I was looking to be surprised, but...it didn't happen. The musicians are well trained, but this seemed more a design factor. They beat the horse dead, and then some.
My Score: 60.30
My Placement: 20th
Actual Score: 70.90
Actual Placement: 12th

La Canada H.S.
La Canada, CA
Repertoire: "Prayers and Mantras"
Comments: The mood was set by the pit and a somber tenor sax. My stationary time limit was exceeded, as it took some time for the sleepy winds to get up off the turf and move, losing me quite entirely. Whoa, that was cool. The tenor sax sustained a note while a girl with a saber tossed it hiiiiigh and then caught it at the end of the phrase. Uh oh--some trumpet issues. This group had their star performers, but that was all they had to sustain them. The drums were great. The guard was great. The trumpets...were not great when they were on the move. Their ending was lackluster.
My Score: 56.00
My Placement: 22nd
Actual Score: 58.05
Actual Placement: 22nd

Homestead H.S.
Cupertino, CA
Repertoire: "Zero," including "Overture" by Bjork, "Symphony No. 5 Movements II and IV" by Sergei Rachmaninov, "Winter" from the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, and "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber
Comments: I felt like I was int he ice age with these guys. I loved the post-apocalyptic look of the field--their stage. Gorgeous horn solo--Bjork-ish, all the way. Wonderfully executed, winds--that great release. Hmmm, dragging much? The second tune was not quite as strong, for sure. Accelerando, now, excellent. Ooh! The last and highest rifle toss--dropped. Kind of a jagged moment to go hard and fast to Adagio for Strings, and then back to hard and fast again. (Let it sink in a little!) Okay, when they're hot, they're hot.
My Score: 77.80
My Placement: 4th
Actual Score: 78.20
Actual Placement: 5th

Covina H.S.
Covina, CA
Repertoire: "Daredevil" by Frank Sullivan
Comments: Stirring introduction. Understated wind entrance. I would have staged the winds nearer to the front. Nogales made the same mistake, I believe. (See "Clovis West.") Marching technique was not bad. Super job with those tosses, guard. I like how these forms are flowing during the pit interlude. Nice pistol grip, winds. Yeah, lots of improvement from San Jose. Well done! Ooh, careful. (Early trumpet player will not get the worm.) Don't fade out, crew! I like that they pushed themselves, even when they struggled.
My Score: 61.00
My Placement: 19th
Actual Score: 61.00
Actual Placement: 19th
***NOTE: Crazy that I had the same exact score and placement as the judges. That is a rarity!

Desert Vista H.S.
Phoenix, AZ
Repertoire: "ANThology," music from Bill Conti, Raymond Scott, and Hans Zimmer
Comments: This band had an elaborate set-up, with a gigantic ant hill made of draping tarps, grass blade props as high as 10 feet tall, and a red-and-white checkered "picnic blanket" tarp situated to the right. Ugh. Lock it in, brass. Well done, pit. (Not overdone.) All right, all: well played. Okay, okay. A bunch of scrambling. Splendid! That rifle catch was timed just right with the head tilt from the rest. Good stuff!
My Score: 71.70
My Placement: 8th
Actual Score: 79.05
Actual Placement: 4th

Los Osos H.S.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Repertoire: "Over the Moon"
Comments: This band had several photographic backdrops of the moon in different places, from sliver to full to sliver. The microphoned trumpet soloist--awesome. This band got off to a great start. Oops. Clarinetist took a tumble, there, but got up immediately. Some sections of their show seemed loosely held together. Ooh! Tuba played took a hard spill. The ballad seemed a bit...sluggish. Too sluggish. Nice shaping of the notes at the tail end of the ballad. The end of their show was a bit of a dead giveaway.
My Score: 67.50
My Placement: 11th
Actual Score: 72.80
Actual Placement: 10th

Saratoga H.S.
Saratoga, CA
Repertoire: Repertoire: "En Garde," including "Sleeping Beauty Waltz" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky," "Piano Concerto No. 2" by Sergei Rachmaninoff, original music by Frank Sullivan
Comments: There were some technical difficulties before their show began, unfortunately, which led to an extraordinarily long delay. Things got sorted out, though, thankfully...or so I thought! The horn soloist could not be heard. Mic problems. Bummer. Whoooah, one of the DMs almost had an accident climbing the podium to replace his counterpart. The auxiliary didn't seem to miss a beat, and carried the band some. Man o man, the mics did not work for the horn and clarinet duet, either. Meanwhile, the ballad was pretty strong, though the synth volume seemed too high.
My Score: 75.20
My Placement: 5th
Actual Score: 75.15
Actual Placement: 7th

Savanna H.S.
Anaheim, CA
Repertoire: "Weight of the World," including 1. "Weight of the World," 2. "Longing to Live," and 3. "Atlas Shrugged"
Comments: Oh man. What a great disappointment. The synth work was strong, and then POP! No sound, except for the wind players counting out loud, carrying their geometric dome climbers. Well, well. What's this? They seemed to make quite a comeback with their brass. Boom! Loud! Good stuff. The mellophone and small brass ensemble did not sound confident, though. Okay, okay. Pretty good. Man, this was quite a mixed bag. Blat, blat. Big, brass...but not smooth. Oh man. No synth means more counting out loud again...to end their performance.
My Score: 68.00
My Placement: 10th
Actual Score: 74.70
Actual Placement: 8th

Vista Murrieta H.S.
Murrieta, CA
Repertoire: "Cinders," music from "Cinderella Suite" by Sergei Prokofiev
Comments: Surround-sound-ish pit. Whoo! Tick-tocking into excellent guard groundwork. Heavy-duty impact. Perfect. The woodwinds nailed all their parts. I'm diggin' it! They could maybe use a bit more synth sound effect after some of those aggressive notes, yeah? Stand out MORE. Hmmm, in the scatter part I'm looking for more angle--body shape, plume angle, etc. Trumpets, not as strong as you could be at the start of the last section, I felt. Watch leg spread length in percussion feature, battery. Otherwise, magnifique! A mighty show.
My Score: 81.90
My Placement: 3rd
Actual Score: 84.30
Actual Placement: 1st

Clovis West H.S.
Fresno, CA
Repertoire: "Rhapsody," featuring "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in Concert C-sharp minor" by Franz Liszt
Comments: I love it. This group does not play a single note before their show starts, except for the piano. What confidence! And then, KABOOM! There seemed to be some question as to when the feet come back together, it appeared, from at least one member. Hats off to the GRAND pianist. (So cool to see and to hear.) The saber jump toss was divine. They kids really can't be touched in music. Silky smooth.
My Score: 82.50
My Placement: 1st
Actual Score: 79.60
Actual Placement: 3rd

Corona Del Sol H.S.
Tempe, AZ
Repertoire: "Up in the Air," I. "Birds/Kites," II. "Balloons," III. "Aerial Combat," IV. "Taking Flight" featuring the music of Michael Pote, Jerry Goldsmith, and Michael Giacchino
Comments: Fly like a bird moment with the kids making their way down the field, arms out. Dat horn snap, tho! Eesh. Drum sounds to bring the rest of the group in on time. So-so. You could tell that some members struggled more than the others, particularly in individual strength. Ah, fun! Some balloons are let off into the air. Pretty nice work, drums! Everyone else: technique, technique, technique. (Come on!) This show drifted in and out, and that was that. Pretty basic.
My Score: 64.00
My Placement: 14th
Actual Score: 71.25
Actual Placement: 11th

Upland H.S.
Upland, CA
Repertoire: RISE
Comments: Solemn trumpet solo, followed by great visuals in a circle form. Scary moment, there, as the guard soloist nearly tripped off her chair prop during the flying rifle toss, but caught it anyways! (Awesome, and close call!) A lot of flat-footedness out there and this caused some distress in the core. I tried to get more into this show, but...it was hard. The ballad was immense, but seemed to overstay its welcome. Auxiliary--yes. Everyone else--meh. Some shining moments!
My Score: 72.00
My Placement: 7th
Actual Score: 75.85
Actual Placement: 6th

Ayala H.S.
Chino Hills, CA
Repertoire: "Shattered," including I. "The Mirror," II. "The First Shard," III. "The Search for More," IV. "Promenade," V. "The Mend," VI. "Back Home"
Comments: A distorted pop tune was played prior to the "start." A "whoosh" sound effect, followed by a heart beat sound and painting "escape" caused curiosity. Excellent, excellent. There's that college band sound. Boo-whip! Stellar. Rifles on target. Daring tosses. Wow. They take risks. Oh wow. Love it. Guard standing on snares to initiate a jump toss. Wy cool. We cruise on, swimmingly. Not sure if this was their strongest section, but it worked. Cerebral narrative.
My Score: 82.40
My Placement: 2nd
Actual Score: 84.10
Actual Placement: 2nd

[End of Prelims Performances]

>>>Actual Prelims Results:

Class A
(No Class A Bands Attended)

Class AA
Music - Saratoga H.S, CA
Visual - Saratoga H.S., CA
G.E. - Saratoga H.S., CA

3rd - Covina H.S., CA
2nd - South Pasadena H.S., CA
1st - Saratoga H.S., CA

Class AAA
Music - Clovis West H.S., CA
Visual - Clovis West H.S., CA
G.E. - Clovis West H.S., CA

3rd - Del Valle H.S., TX
2nd - Savanna H.S., CA
1st - Clovis West H.S., CA

Class AAAA
Music - Ayala H.S., CA
Visual - Vista Murrieta H.S., CA
G.E. - Vista Murrieta H.S., CA

3rd - Desert Vista H.S., AZ
2nd - Ayala H.S., CA
1st - Vista Murrieta H.S., CA

>>>My Top Ten Bands in Finals (Random Order):
Homestead H.S., CA
Upland H.S., CA
Fountain Valley H.S., CA
Ayala H.S., CA
Savanna H.S., CA
Saratoga H.S., CA
Clovis West H.S., CA
Vista Murrieta H.S., CA
Desert Vista H.S., AZ
Chino Hills H.S., CA

>>>Actual Top Ten Bands in Finals (Random Order, as Announced):
Chino Hills H.S., CA
Vista Murrieta H.S., CA
Savanna H.S., CA
Los Osos H.S., CA
Desert Vista H.S., AZ
Ayala H.S., CA
Clovis West H.S., CA
Upland H.S., CA
Saratoga H.S., CA
Homestead H.S., CA

Post-prelims Thoughts:
On the whole, Alan Irons was not impressed with prelims. There were careless errors, technical difficulties galore, and shows with lame or repeated ideas. There were a few glimmers of hope. I was most impressed with Clovis West, Desert Vista, and Homestead. I think the judges put the right bands in finals, on second viewing. I did not necessarily agree with the placement of some of the units in the first half of the show. This might have been a chief judge thing, consistency-wise. (All-star Gary Markham was not there.) And then there was this sort of odd ordering with 9 out of the last 11 bands making finals and scoring substantially higher than the rest, which seemed a little fishy, though I did agree that these most of these bands were better, even though it would have been nice to see the mix more random instead of a pseudo-finals (based on the order) and finals performance. Perhaps next year Vista Murrieta will have the guts to say, "I'd like to be the first band on," to challenge themselves or promote interest. Or perhaps bands like Arroyo will get their fees and paperwork in early so they're not the first band on (again). This year, Chino Hills was the only "early band" head-turner. Another thing I'd watch out for, and this goes out to directors and instructional staff AND the BOA judges: be careful with how you present yourself and who you associate with. I will not name names, because I am not in the business of conspiracy theories, but there was someone on South Padadena's team (yellow badge) who seemed to have a connection with one of the green shirts. It could have been a wave or a wink or a smile, but it was obvious. Again, this could be a chief judge thing. I understand that the activity is quite small, from band to WGI to DCI, and it could have been harmless, completely overblown, so I will not harp on this too long. I simply say, "Be mindful," and, "Go on with your business." Lastly, I want to end this on an extremely positive note: big kudos to BOA for keeping the contest on schedule, and for being the best in the business both PROFESSIONALLY and ORGANIZATIONALLY.

Sincerely,
Alan Irons


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 Post subject: Re: Alan Irons Review: 2016 BOA Long Beach PRELIMS
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:55 am 
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Well done Irons on another accurate review of BOA. I agree with fountain valley being in top 10


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