…And The Pursuit Of Happiness
This year’s Cadets program is essentially an episode of “This American Life” distilled into 11 1/2 minutes. The pre-show setup even includes radio “promo” announcements telling you to stay tuned for tonight’s episode. The corps begins along the sidelines and end zone lines of the field with just a living room set in the middle of the field.
The opening vocal is a direct quote from the Declaration of Independence stopping right before the line from which the show title is taken. The corps starts backfield , slowly swelling the music until they turn front and perform the main theme from “American Elegy”. It’s not a hit, per se, and the corps turns backfield once again as the radio narration returns. Unfortunately, it’s hard to pay attention to both the narration and the music, especially as the narration demands more attention. The narration is well rehearsed and the best Cadets have used since amplified vocals were allowed.
The second piece also starts backfield but is much faster featuring brass fanfares. The percussion enters the show for the first time as the horns turn front and gives the crowd the first real musical hit of the show. The drill is very clean and the Cadets should vie for Ensemble Visual this year along with Cavies, BD, and Crown, as well as others I have yet to review at this point. The music, while played well, does not distinguish itself much compared to other shows I have seen.
Section three of the show features back-and-forth moments between the brass and percussion, brass on the left, precussion on the right. The piece is another high energy selection with the tenors receiving the most crowd reaction to their solo. The audience also enjoys the screaming trumpet soloists which pop up throughout the piece.
While each section of the show deals with the protaganist’s “pursuit of happiness” in different areas, the music does not change enough to reflect those different pursuits. Except for the opener, each piece is essentially a variation on a theme – fast-paced, tense, with lots of notes for both the brass and percussion. Eventually, the music blends together to the point where it’s difficult to distinguish which piece of music is which. What’s more, since there isn’t enough time to do a true radio show, it’s hard for the interview narration to convey more than just the intros into each section. Sarah Jones talks about what she was pursuing, but doesn’t have the opportunity to go into details.
Despite these issues, there are great musical and visual moments throughout the show, including the end of the fourth section, the last full musical selection of the show. The closing moments have the brass and percussion form a smiley face (think “Eat ‘n’ Park” cookies) and, as with the opening, the horns playing backfield.
Unfortunately, the way this show is designed, the narration is given the chance to shine at the expense of the rest of the show. There are great moments for the brass and percussion, but they are just that. The rest of the time, the music is either filler between narrative moments or background underneath those moments. As a result, this show could suffer from a performance caption standpoint. Also as a result, I do not see this show placing higher than third as shows like Blue Devils and Cavaliers have a more balanced and complete package at this point.