Post by boahistorybuff on Sept 29, 2019 4:10:49 GMT -6
...1997 SEASON REVIEW...
There were a few more prominent bands this season whose shows took on a theme that more directly told a story. Now this was not entirely new. My opinion is that this originated with the programs that took on Broadway. Back in the 1980s, when themed shows were in their infancy, there were a lot of marching bands and drum corps who started playing music from a particular Broadway show; the 1984 Garfield Cadets playing music from West Side Story comes to mind. Over several years, these Broadway shows started to attempt to tell the story that was being told in the musical; using things like drill design and guard costuming for instance; the 1988 and 1989 Santa Clara Vanguard's show Phantom of the Opera comes to mind. During the course of the 1990s, more of the themed shows began to be built around telling the story that was being portrayed in the music and not just shows from Broadway; Marian Catholics 1990 show Henry V and 1994 Westerville South's show comes to mind. Arising in 1995 with Center Grove's show (perhaps 93 Star of Indiana in DCI), the idea of coming up with a story line and then finding music to help tell that story started to emerge. That trend started gaining traction in 1997 and really took off in the 2000s.
Like the previous year, 1997 featured ten regionals. However, no regional was held in the western US this season. Instead, BOA opted to hold a regional in St Louis, MO. The St Louis regional has been held every year since. The first regional of the season was again in Cincinnati, Ohio. This early season regional was dominated by three Indiana bands. Center Grove (IN) won and took all the highest achievement awards, while Lawrence Central (IN) and Carmel (IN) were neck and neck in 2nd and 3rd. Westerville North (OH) took 4th. This was the first time in BOA that they beat their neighboring Westerville South (OH) who placed 7th. Marian Catholic (IL) was 5th. The Toledo, OH regional was a little closer at the top than I would have guessed. Lake Park (IL) won, with Prospect (IL) 2nd and Plymouth-Canton (MI) 3rd. The Morgantown, WV regional was won again by Kiski Area (PA). Just a little over a point down in 2nd was Webster (NY), their highest finish at a BOA regional. Then packed close together in 3rd, 4th and 5th were Westerville South (OH), West Genesee (NY) and Centerville (OH). The Houston, TX regional proved very competitive at the top. Winston Churchill (TX) won their very first BOA regional and despite the competition, they beat 2nd place Westfield (TX) by just over two points. Richland (TX), who won prelims, was 3rd with Spring (TX) 4th. The Johnson City, TN regional was won by Lafayette (KY), their second regional win. It would be 22 years before they picked up a third. Every judge had them first, allowing them to win by a very comfortable margin. Just a few weeks earlier they were tenth at the Cincinnati regional; they must of had some massive improvement. Settling for 2nd again was Irmo (SC) with Alan C Pope (GA) not too far behind in 3rd.
Norwin (PA) finished in the middle of the pack at the Toledo and Morgantown regionals earlier in the season. Given that the Piscataway, NJ was not nearly as competitive allowed Norwin to pick up a regional title this season. North Penn (PA), a relative BOA newcomer was 2nd and Piscataway (NJ) was third. Looking back on this, it seems very fitting that the first St Louis, MO regional was won by Broken Arrow (OK). They have since come to dominate this regional. BA actually was ranked 1st by every judge . McGavock (TN) would have to settle for 2nd. Many of us thought McGavock would win this as at this point in time, they were the ones that had had more BOA success in recent years. Lincoln-Way (IL) was not too far down in 3rd. The Atlanta, GA regional was won by Lassiter (GA). This was the first of two years that they did music of The Wind and The Lion. Just a half point down in 2nd was still relative BOA newcomer Tarpon Springs (FL). McGavock (TN) was a solid 3rd. The Indianapolis, IN regional was insanely competitive for the era and the top 6 bands all broke 88 points with two weeks still to go before nationals. Center Grove (IN) won comfortably with Marian Catholic (IL) just under 2 points behind them. Perhaps a little surprising was Lake Park (IL) down another point in 3rd. Packed very close in 4th, 5th and 6th were Lawrence Central (IN), Carmel (IN) and Prospect (IL). The final regional of the season was held in Waco, TX. Winston Churchill (TX) broke the regional score record at the time by winning with a 96.0 points, their 2nd regional win of the season. To be fair, the north/central Texas regionals at the time tended to be scored on the high side. Winston Churchill did however have an awesome show, playing Shostakovitch. Had they attended GN this season, their music scores would likely have been in contention with the top placing finalist bands. In some respects, particularly from a music standpoint, this may have been one of Winston Churchill's best shows. 2nd place at this regional with a score over 93 points was Haltom (TX), the closest this band would ever get to a regional win. The Colony (TX) was 3rd, Leander (TX) 4th and Sequin (TX) 5th all with a score over 90 points. A big surprise at this regional was Spring (TX) down in 9th.
There were 79 bands who attended the 1997 Grand Nationals. Heading into nationals, there was a lot of talk of Center Grove picking up a second national title as they had won two regionals this season, including the competitive Indy regional just two weeks earlier. Of course, Marian Catholic was in 2nd at that regional and not too far behind. Having Marian on Center Grove's heels with two weeks to go to nationals meant the title would be competitive as we all knew that Marian was capable of having insane improvement the last couple weeks of the season. There were 30 bands selected for Semi Finals this season. During the semi finals awards, Center Grove (IN) picked up the Class AAA title for the second year in a row, with Lake Park (IL) again 2nd. Carmel (IN) was 3rd in Class 3A. In Class AA, Marian Catholic (IL) won, which was expected. Marian actually won semi finals again, this time by a very slim margin. Tarpon Springs (FL) was second in 2A and actually picked up the music performance award over Marian. In a distant 3rd was Reeths-Puffer (MI). The Class A competition was very tight this year. Elizabethtown (KY) picked up the Class A title in their first Grand Nationals appearance. This would be their first and only GN class title. They were a strong small school Kentucky band during the late 90s and early 2000s. This may have been their best show ever as they actually finished in the top 20, the first time since 93 that a Class A band finished in the top 20. This also marked the first time since 82 that a Kentucky band won the GN Class A title; a state known for having some incredible small school band programs. In a close 2nd in Class A was Bellbrook (OH) and not too far behind in third was Adair County (KY) in their first trip to GN since 1990. Upon the conclusion of semi finals, it was clear there would be three contenders for the GN title; Marian Catholic, Center Grove and Lake Park. It turned out that the semi finals score for these three bands were very close. Before the announcement of the ten finalists bands (the last year they only selected a top ten), there was certainly a lot of tension. While 97 did not have as many power house programs at the top in comparison to most other years in this decade, you could tell that there were several bands who would be battling for just a few spots in finals. There were a couple bands who failed to make finals that was very surprising. Interesting to note, looking back at the 10 finalists bands, the top eight were all either past or future Grand National champions.
In a rare instance, the top three GN contenders were the last three bands to perform in finals (back in those days all finalists took a random draw for performance time in finals no matter what they placed in semi finals). I really felt that Marian Catholic (IL) delivered a stronger performance from every aspect compared to their semi finals performance. The judges obviously agreed as they won; this being their 6th GN win. Their show was titled "Images of the Orient" and included music selections: 'Heaven and Earth' ; "Three Japanese Dances Mvt 1: Dance of Pennons"; Music from 'Joy Luck Club; "Three Japanese Dances Mvt 3: Dance of Swords". Each movement was introduced by a narrator, not only setting the theme of the movement but also telling the story. The music, the drill (which had a ton of symbolism in it) and the guard all echoed the Asian theme. The music was slow and emotional at times and fast and intense at other times. During the movement which depicted a war or battle, there were some fierce and awesome drum features. The brass also did some impressive triple tonguing while the woodwinds were fierce and piercing at times. Of course they were doing this with some pretty complex drill moves. It was during this section that I thought to myself, they are going to win this. There was also a beautiful oboe solo, played by one of the tenor drums (talk about talented). Every music judge had Marian first in finals, giving them the music and general effect awards and obviously helping them win the title. While they were not first in any visual captions, they still scored quite well. This was a solid visual performance and had some rather unique drill designs. I also thought this was one of the better Marian guard performances.
Settling for 2nd place for the second year in a row was Center Grove (IN). They had an absolutely brilliant and innovative show design. It featured a semi circular tarp stretched across the front of the field with the pit spread out across the field at the edge of the tarp. The way the band weaved in and out of this semi circle was quite interesting. This was a type of staging that had not been seen before. The guard also had brightly colored outfits with a matching flag. When they spread out, they formed the colors of the rainbow. The guard staging was also pretty cool. It also helped that CG had a really good color guard. Their show was "Concerto for Orchestra". Very interesting and well played music (their music effect was second to Marian). Also loved the percussion in this show, which included some strong keyboards. Good thing as they were front and center on the field. This marked the third year in a row that Center Grove was seen as having incredibly innovative show design.
In third place, but just a tenth point behind CG, was Lake Park (IL). Their show was "Tchaikovsky Sketches". Very few marching bands back then could have delivered a music performance like this. Not just the rich sound quality, but they sounded so much like a wind symphony. This was wonderfully arranged with quite a few interesting percussion moments thrown in their as well. Much like the previous year, this was a clean show both musically and visually. Their solid marching technique earned them the visual performance award, the third time they had won this in GN finals. In fact, their combined music and visual performance scores easily had them in first. It was the general effect scores, particularly the visual effect, that dropped them to third. I personally just don't think this show had as much impact as say their 96 or 93 shows.
From what I understand, back in 1994 Kevin Ford became director of Tarpon Springs HS, From Tarpon Springs, FL near Tampa. I read that the marching band was small and somewhat struggling. Mr. Ford took over that band and in 4 years made them a Grand National finalist; amazing. This being only their 2nd year in BOA, they had done very well at the previous two BOA Atlanta regionals, being runner up this season. They were expected to be a finalists, but their 4th place finish in their first trip to Grand Nationals was surprising. Their show had a western theme and right from the start they had a ton of props (well probably a bit minimalist compared to what they have done this decade). They created an old west store front, where performers moved in and out of the doors and even stood atop the balcony. They also brought out a prairie wagon at one point. Amidst the props was a strong and interesting performance. I think they only had somewhere between 80 and 85 members in the entire band. This not only made them the smallest GN finalist this season, I think they just might be the smallest non-Class A band to have made GN finals. They would remain on the small side right through the end of the 2000s, although this season they may have been smaller than subsequent years. Aside from the use of props and their small size, another trait that they would continue through the end of the 2000s is that they did not march a drum line. All of their percussion instruments were in the pit. Despite their small size, the effect judges gave them high marks which solidly landed them in 4th.
I think Plymouth-Canton (MI) played it a little safe in semi finals, so much so that they finished eighth and were dangerously close to missing finals. They stepped it up in finals and ended up finishing 5th. Their show "Where the Wild Things Are" took a unique take on story telling. A narrator told us the story, like reading a children's book. The music, visual design, props and a character actor added to the story being told. This type of show concept (love it or hate it), where vocal narration told the story while the music and drill were used to enhance the story, become extremely popular during the 2000s. Even though I am not a big fan of that much vocal narration, have to admit the music and drill execution were really good; they actually placed first in visual effect in finals. They also went back to their signature bright yellow uniforms for this show.
In 6th place for the second year in a row was Lawrence Central (IN). This was a big season for them as they had won the coveted Indiana Class A state title earlier in the season. Their show was Romeo and Juliet, with the music and drill design used to tell the story. Really strong music, soft and subtle at times and loud and harsh at other times. I never saw their state championship performance but I had heard that many thought it was better than their GN finals performance. They would skip BOA competition the next season (98) before returning in 99 when they would start to really make strides in BOA.
For the second year in a row, Carmel (IN) placed 7th in finals. I personally thought the semi finals performance was a touch better. Nonetheless, Carmel stepped up the difficulty a bit in this show "Fragments: Conversations in Rhythm". Props on the field and some color guard props I think were creatively used to echo the whole fragments theme.
I personally thought that this season we would see Centerville (OH) miss out on finals. While they were still good, they were just not quite to the level of previous seasons. They proved to be very determined the Saturday of Semi Finals and Finals. They gave a solid show in semi finals to nab the 10th spot (by a mere tenth of a point) and then ended up finishing 8th in finals. It was actually their music performance scores (they were 2nd in music performance) that propelled them into finals. They performed music of Blood, Sweat and Tears. They had several colorful tarps on the field to add some visual interest. We would see tarps become more common over the coming years.
Although they did not pick up a regional title this season, McGavock (TN) still walked away with the coveted MTSU Contest of Champions title earlier this season. They would still need a strong performance in semi finals to nab one of the ten spots and they managed to do it. They finished 9th in finals. This was their 5th BOA GN finals appearance and first appearance since 1990. Sadly this would be their last appearance in GN finals. While they remained a Tennessee power house into the 2000s, their performance level slowly declined over coming years. They still made BOA regional finals several more times over the coming decades.
After a relatively rough 96 season where they finished 22nd in semi finals, Webster (NY) came roaring back this season. A very strong semi finals performance (which I think may have been their strongest show ever) landed them solidly in finals as they placed seventh in semi finals. In finals, they finished 10th. Their show was Holst "The Planets". As was typical in the 90s, there was a ton of symbolism in the drill that echoed the whole planets theme. This show also had some interesting percussion moments, including near the end where something like a dozen cymbals were marched onto the filed. This was Webster's second and last GN finals performance. In fact, this was the last time a band from New York state has made GN finals. In the 2000s, Webster split into two high schools, but I believe they kept just one marching band. They remained active in BOA into the 2000s. During the 2000s, their performance level slowly declined. Even though they are still a competitive band active in New York competitions, they are just not yet at the level of their 1990s glory years.
This year it was again the unlucky number 11th spot that would not be in finals. This year it was Pomona (CO), who was just a tenth of a point behind 10th place. I was stunned, not just because they had placed 5th and were so good in 96, but I thought they still had a strong show this year and was sure they would make finals. Their show "Rite of Spring" was awesome. Maybe not as clean or powerful as 96 but still very good. I thought the judges had missed the mark and that they should have been in finals. So did many others. I am not sure if this is the reason (or if it that many thought just having 10 bands in finals made it a bit too short), but the next season they would go back to top 12 bands for finals.
In 12th place in semi finals was Westerville South (OH). 13th place went to Prospect (IL). I was very surprised that they failed to make finals. Both 96 and 97 were strong seasons for Prospect and they did very well at BOA regionals. From prelims, it seemed they would be a sure bet finalist band. Even after semi finals, I thought they would be in. If you added all of their scores except visual effect, Prospect would have easily made finals. Their visual effect score, however, was so low that it dropped them to 13th place; a huge disappointment for them. In 14th was Richland (TX), their first trip to Grand Nationals. After their success earlier in the season at the Houston regional, they were certainly a finalist contender. They too were disappointed. The judges were split with them, some had them in and some thought they were just not quite ready. Northglen (CO) wound up 15th, their highest finish at GN. Westerville North (OH) was 16th and Norwin (PA) was 17th. This would be Norwin's last trip to GN until 2011. Elizabethtown (KY) was 18th, Reeth-Puffer (MI) was 19th and Mona Shores (MI) was 20th. Also of note, this was Avon (IN) first appearance in semi finals. They have not looked back since.
All of the 97 finalist bands are on YouTube. However, I believe all of the performances are from semi finals; with the exception of Lake Park. I will include links to the top three bands. Note: Marian Catholic's finals performance was stronger. Their semi finals show is still worth watching.