Two high school marching bands invited to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a massive stage for marching in terms of sheer viewership, showed their best stuff Saturday at the Bands of America regional contest in Orlando, Florida.
Twenty-eight bands took the field in competition, including groups from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, with a show entitled “The Living Seas,” and Tarpon Springs High School, also in Florida, whose show was entitled “URBN LGND.” Both bands were among the top 12 in the prelims and earned a performance in the finals based on their overall score from judges on the field and in the press box.
From Parkland, drum majors Kelley Taylor, Carter Block, and Bella Wong led the band directed by Steve Rivero onto the field at 2:15 and again at 10 PM. Musical selections included “Lux Arumque” by Eric Whitacre, “Savannah River Holiday” by Ron Nelson, “The Abyss” by Alan Silvestri, “Kingfishers Catch Fire Mvt 2” by John Mackey, and “Surfing Dolphins” by Hans Zimmer.
The performance highlighted the mellophone section near the end. Mellophones aren’t exactly light, and fast precision marching for eight minutes can tire out marchers toting any instrument, especially weighty ones like mellophones. By the end of the show, intonation and precision can suffer. Not so here. Rapid unison passages were executed with such precision throughout the show that Stoneman Douglas earned a fourth-place score among finalists in music performance.
Visually, the show expands across the football field, with a sort of “peel the onion one layer at a time” approach. Initially, you see pointy waves of the sea and other somethings hidden under tarps. But throughout the show, the on-field props reveal a more curvilinear ocean wave and other surprises, creating a unique and creative general effect. For example, props that resemble sea anemones hide marchers playing the role of fish, just like in the real ocean. The marchers’ uniforms undergo a similar “reveal” as the storyline of the show progresses, starting with a baggy-blue cape, which is removed to show the Eagle Regiment’s uniforms.
The Eagle Regiment from Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a three-time Florida state marching band champion and will perform in the 2023 London New Year’s Day Parade later this school year and in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November 2023.
From Tarpon Springs, drum majors Ethan Abercrombie and Nicholas Ramos led the band directed by Kevin Ford onto the field at 3 PM and again at 9. The music was composed for the band and inspired by the music of Don Sebesky, Don Ellis, Duke Ellington, Alicia Keys, John Coltrane, Béla Bartók, Eminem, A Tribe Called Quest, and Frank Sullivan. Spanning multiple genres speaks highly of the band’s polished versatility, and executing all of it as cleanly as Tarpon Springs did is all judges needed to hear to award the band the top music performance score at the show.
The Tarpon Springs Outdoor Performance Ensemble, known as “the marching band,” also earned the highest score from judges in the other two categories, which are known as “captions” in the marching world—visual performance and the important “general effect.” As a result of reaching the top score in all three captions, the TSOPE was named grand champion of the festival yesterday.
That’s a familiar place for the group, which was the Grand National champion in 2014 and has been named the Class 2A champion for Bands of America in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2012. Based on the performance Saturday, that trend could resume in 2022.
The band was selected to march in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next month, following an appearance in Indianapolis at this year’s Bands of America Grand National Championships, which cover a three-day weekend beginning on Thursday, November 10. Marjory Stoneman Douglas will also be there, but a reminder: MSD will be at Macy’s next year, so the Grand Nationals will provide just one more opportunity to see these two champions in the same show.