2015 East Midlands Showdown Review – by Richard Haw

Posted in: Latest News,Reviews

Following my now infamous ‘It’s that fine rain’ tweet of the previous weekend, it was a relief to be able to arrive in Grantham and tweet a photo of the main stand bathed in June sunshine.

It’s been over a decade since I was last at the South Kesteven Sports Stadium and to be honest my memory of the venue was far from great, thankfully it was also far from accurate. Yes, there is a running track (which is never ideal), but the positioning of the frontline area on the running track brought the field forward, this along with the elevation of the stand gave an excellent vantage point for judges and audience alike.

I should at this point say that I was not intending to be writing this review and had a volunteer nicely lined up to do the job, unfortunately however he was unable to attend on the day so it has fallen upon me not only to take the photos but also write a semi-comprehensible review!

Trinity SSB

Trinity SSB

Opening proceedings were Trinity School Show Band, who donned in flowing white capes brought their Hero’s themed show to the field, featuring music from Batman, Superman, The Incredibles as well as the film Armageddon.

Trinity gave a very credible first performance of 2015, however at times, because all their percussion were in the pit area, there were balance issues musically with the woodwind parts being lost and control of dynamic levels needs to be addressed to enable some very accomplished playing to shine through.

Visually there were some ‘nods’ towards the hero/superhero genre with the fist in the air, however much more can be made of this and I’m expecting to see this show develop thematically as the season progresses.

Losing the sound of the wind section behind the frontline percussion was not a problem for the next unit up; Dynamic Vibe Performance Ensemble

Dynamic Vibe Ensemble

Dynamic Vibe Ensemble

(formally Polesworth Pioneers). Unfortunately at times the volume was somewhat overpowering and harsh, and like Trinity use of the fully dynamic range would improve both musical interpretation and quality of sound.

Visually the show was very creative and I enjoyed the way contemporary music from Justin Timberlake, Keane and Alice Cooper was used to give a modern take on a classic fairy tale, with use of characters and tree props.

A little more attention to the way these ideas link together and this has the potential to be an enthralling show.

Ibstock Scouts

Ibstock Scouts

Wearing their distinctive black, white and orange uniforms Ibstock Scouts took the field, their production being a selection from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Wiz’. While still a little ‘rough around the edges’, this was a more dynamically balanced show than both Trinity and DVE and this was reflected in the final scores.

Visually it was a strong performance for a first show although attention to detail in terms of individual carriage and posture will add polish to the production.

With music from the Musicals including ‘All that Jazz’, ‘I dreamed a dream’, ‘Defying Gravity’ and ‘September 63’ from Jersey Boys the final of Championship Class were The Comets.

The Comets PE

The Comets PE

Musically timing was a problem for Comets particularly between frontline and field, something that can easily be resolved by following the lead of the Drum Major. On field there was a lot of movement led by a couple of accomplished guard members.

At times the movement and music seemed to lack a connection with more intensity required in both, but Comets have a young Corps and this show will improve rapidly as individual confidence grows.

You know how you leave a concert or band competition and there’s a tune stuck in your head? Well, the tune I went away humming today was the ‘Main Theme from Stripes’ by Elmer Bernstein provided by St Peter’s Whetstone CLCGB.

St Peter Whetstone CLCGB

St Peter Whetstone CLCGB

The only band in Traditional class Whetstones performance also included ‘Ticket to Ride’, ‘Nut Rocker’ and ‘Defying Gravity’. Looking smart in full Brigade uniform the band gave a very mobile traditional style show which featured each section of the band to full affect. Possibly some room for more expression within the music but a very solid musical and visual performance and a real credit to the CLCGB.

After a short interval we moved on into the Premier Class.

Phantom Knights

Phantom Knights

It’s been a good few years since Phantom Knights were in Premier Class and it was a delight to see them there again.

Being a father to twin four year old girls I’m well accustomed to the music of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ so I was interested to see how Phantom Knights could put this show on the field and knew my girls would certainly have an opinion!

As in the movie ‘Frozen Heart’ featuring the ice cutters started the show, leading into ‘Do you want to build a snowman’ with some intricate brass parts coming through.

‘Fixer Upper’ and my personal Frozen favourite ‘In Summer’ next, to be honest it all just felt a little laboured and needing some of the light-hearted feel of the movie soundtrack. This led us into ‘Mountain Siege’ and the ‘Let it go’ closer.

I expect this show to continue to develop as the season progresses and as with the music would like to see some of the emotional and fun aspects of the movie incorporated into the performance… oh and my girls loved it!

If ‘Frozen’ is my girl’s favourite then Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ is one of mine and this is the 2015 musical choice of Stafford Lancers.

Strafford Lancers

Stafford Lancers

Lancers were the only Corps of the day to use electronics and I can’t think of any music that more suits the electronic medium than Jeff Wayne’s masterpiece.

A pit introduction led us into the opening Richard Burton narration sample which was fine although I felt that a more impactive opening statement would create more effect.

Musical selections included ‘The Eve of the War, ‘The Artillery Man’, ‘Forever Autumn’ and ‘Thunder Child’, ‘The Artillery Man’ having ‘Monster’ by the Automatic interwoven into it which, for me at least, seemed a little out of place.

Some good confident narration was a little hard to hear from the stand so volume levels need to be checked and flow between music, sample and voice needs work as the show seemed a little disjoined at times.

The underlying musicianship is of a high level though with some excellent work from both frontline and field and the percussion section taking their caption award tells me that all the pieces are there for this show to develop into something special, and I look forward to seeing the finished product.

Revolution SC

Revolution SC

Final unit of the day were Revolution Show Corps, with their production ‘In the Name of the Queen – The Quest for Power’ which tells the story of a power struggle between two knights in chivalric times and the battle for the throne.

The opening statement introduces the Queens Champion, as the show progresses a Dark Knight is introduced who battles the Champion defeating him and claiming the throne.

The Ballad is ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and during this piece the Champion is restored to health and returns in the closer to defeat the baddie and return the queen to the throne.

I feel that there are some good ideas but even more can be made of the theme by the Corps .

Revolution were winners today but I expect the show to continue to develop and more attention paid to the finer details if they are to retain their lead over the two other Premier Class units we saw today.

Having seen all but one of the Premier bands it is clear this we are in for a fantastically exciting season!

I’m now looking forward to the Summer Rhythm show on 12th July which brings together five of the six premier class bands for what promises to be a very close fought battle, don’t miss it!