Saturday, September 25, 2010

Isn't it rich?

Reading JXun's post, I too feel like I wanna write something...

My first step into the band room during form 1, until my final beat of the drum in TIMBC. Words cannot describe that experience. After 3 weeks since TIMBC, the bittersweet feeling still lingers in me.

Remembering the times of sweat and seriousness, we grew up much during our time in band, going through the basic training years, to joining in the competition as a rookie.

Reaching to where I stand now, only immense regret that it is all over can describe what it feels.

Recalling the times spent in 2007, basic marching, playing technique and member disciplines. 2008, my first year in competition, going to KL naive and unprepared, 2009, going to Ipoh to taste failure, and finally to this year, where we made history for Nan Hwa.

Looking back all the criticism my seniors once gave me, the disagreements between my comrades, the things I taught my juniors. Brings down tears in my heart every time.

Form 5 @ TIMBC
Form 5 Percussionist

Bless my soul, I'm a lonely soul, cause I won't let go of anything I hold, but all I need is the air I breath and a place to rest. And forward I will move on, time to let go of the things I once hold dear.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Aging out with the Prince of Egypt 2

Continued from part 1~

4th September
Waking up to the day of the semi-finals, I was still a bit blurry from the previous day’s hectic activities. After breakfast, we headed to one of the campus’ field, with our instruments for the day’s practice. The sun in Thailand was rather unforgiving, and at 9am, the sun felt like it was already 11am in Malaysia. Some members couldn’t take the heat and had to pull out from the practice to get some shade. Luckily, we manage to finish 1 run-through along with a brief rehearsal on the march-in and march-out. By late morning, we were done with most of our practices and headed back to the hostel for some well-deserved rest. Members were given free-time from here onwards until 2pm. Some of them took the opportunity to explore the shopping complex right beside our place while the others chose to take a rest. By 2pm, most of the members retired back to their rooms to rest for the coming competition during the late evening.

At 4pm, some of the percussionist were up at the request of our Thai friends to do some tuning and final clean-up of our movements, and by 5pm, most of the members were already in their jumpsuits. Final warm-ups were done and by 6pm, we headed towards the national stadium. Many members were anxious as it was their first time competing in foreign land, I myself was doubtful whether we could live up to expectations from NATCOMP. After marching into the stadium, we did our brief and final warm-up while our staff team (the Thai friends to be exact, big thanks to them) quickly and efficiently set up our yard line marks and numberings. The competition field was in very good condition, and the marks were large and visibly accurate in measurement, so despite being the first time we stepped into the field for competition purposes, we manage to adapt quickly.

10 minutes, just like in NATCOMP, went as quickly as it came. We ended our show with a roaring cheer from the crowd, a sign which left me comforted, despite having nearly no supporters from Malaysia, we still grabbed the Thai audiences’ attention. Being the last team to perform, we marched to back of the stadium to join the other bands that just entered. Next, each band was to play an encore piece, and songs ranging from pop to ballad started coming out from other bands, so without fail we played our favourite march, “Pentland Hills”.

Right after that, Music Judge of the competition Mr John Fox had the honour to announce the results. 4th placing went to Blue Sky Regiment with a score of 70.75, 3rd placing went to Drum Corps Indonesia with a score of 71.88. The following moment left us breathless, we knew we weren’t a match with North-eastern Technology, but nevertheless, the score left us at the edge of our toes. 88.13 was announced, followed by our band’s name. A moment of shock followed by excitement came to me, as I nearly became deaf to the 1st place announcement, which went to North-eastern Technology, scoring 91.50.

Many of us expected nothing more than 85, obviously this was a big morale booster. To top up much of my excitement, while walking back to the hostel, I had the opportunity to meet a local former Cavaliers marimbist, whom performed in 2007. On the way, I found out much to my surprise it was only around 8:30pm because back in Malaysia, most competitions end around near midnight. Packet dinner was quickly served to the members, and given the time left, seniors and alumni held a brief post-mortem of the day with some of the Thai friends. By 10:30pm, most of us retired to bed to prepare for the big finale tomorrow.

5th September
I jumped out of bed the moment the my phone rang. Being the final day of competition, and not to mention a highly motivational score last night, I was definitely pumped-up to do my best today. Practices went on like yesterday, taking up most of our morning. After sectionals and warm-ups, we did a ensemble run-through. Finally by the late part of the morning, we did our last drill run-through, likely the last for this marching season too.

After having lunch, members as usual were requested to rest and charge up for tonight’s finals. Having heard that the judge comments of last night’s show arrived, I quickly seize the opportunity to listen. Many constructive critism were given and I quickly shared it with my fellow percussionist on what minor changes should be done. And indeed, without the judges’ comments, I believe we couldn’t have reached where did later this evening.

At 4pm, members woke up in preparation once again to appear on field. And by 5pm, most members were already in their jumpsuit. While we did some final instrument-tuning, the North-eastern Technology brass line did their visual-basic practices in front of our hostel, which was quite interesting to watch and at the same time an eye opener. Being told a few days ago by our liaison officers that most Thai bands have their practices from dawn till dusk, I can’t help but feel somewhat regrettable, since I actually complained about long practice hours before, but when compared to this guys, our practice times meant nothing to them.

We had one last ensemble run-through before heading out to the National Stadium. While waiting outside for our turn, many well wishers came to give us one pat at the back. And by 6pm, our liaison officers asked to prepare to march in.

Like yesterday, we had our brief warm-up while the Thai friends went on to set up. After that, we stood in place, waiting for further instructions.

‘Nan Hwa Drum & Bugle Corps, you make Malaysia proud. You may take the field for competition.’ Yeah, we were ready to make Malaysia proud, and with the salute of our drum major, we took our place for competition. As our perseverance in our dream through this 9 months poured into that night’s performance, that 10 minutes worth was all it took to seal the Prince of Egypt forever in my mind. Exiting the stadium that night felt so different from any other exits I ever made in the past, it was a bittersweet feeling.

Right after us to perform was the North-eastern Technology Drum & Bugle corps. Catching a glimpse of their show before fully exiting the stadium was already rather breath-taking, I could imagine if I stayed through the whole show live. Waiting outside the stadium was quite a different feeling, a feeling of anxiety and yearning to know our results as soon as possible. Several members succumbed to the pressure and actually passed-out. With all this tension, we entered the stadium nevertheless to await the announcement.

While waiting for the results, we had a very refreshing performance from a university band, so unlike our local performance I dare say, which usually would be a mass group dance performance. 1st song by them was a lovely ballad, followed by a very pumped-up rendition of the famed “Malaguena”, to which most of us enjoyed and got very pumped-up as well.And soon, the grand unveiling. We were literally on our toes when they moved on with the results. Taking 4th placing with a score of 73.19 was the Blue Sky Regiment, while 3rd placing with a score of 75.44 went to Drum Corps Indonesia.

And soon, we had our ears up, anticipating the moment. Coming up with a score of 91.19, Nan Hwa grabbed 2nd place as expected (You just can’t beat people who practice from 8am to 12am). What had us thrilled was how close our score margin was with North-eastern Technology, who scored 92.81, a 1.62 difference.

Among the cheers and shouts, fireworks once again roared across the stadium while the university band soon played “Auld Lang Syne” to follow. The scene had me almost in tears as many members started to break away from the line to shake hands with the neighbouring bands around us. Soon, everyone was running around to meet up with members from other bands. Pictures were taken as the judges too joined in the celebration. Blue Sky Regiment members didn’t even seem to care about their score and quickly run from one end of the stadium to the other just to meet up with members from different bands and to take pictures. Drum Corps Indonesia also didn’t mind much and tried to socialise amidst some communication breakdown. The bands from junior category didn’t shy away from the spotlight too and quickly join in the cheers. So it goes without saying that the champion of the night were already hysterical and at their peak of celebrations. The whole night saw all smiles and tears from laughter, not sadness. Soon after, each and every band exited the stadium in a fanfare of songs, and Nan Hwa once again ditched out their song for all occasions, “Pentland Hills” to march out in jubilee,Accompanied by the clap and cheers of the supporters they earned in Thailand.

Heading back to our hostel, I couldn’t help but feel a drop of tear roll down my cheek. We did it.

6th September
We went for the Pattaya one day trip in the early morning and it was an eye opener trip for us, learnt a lot about Thai cultures.

7th September
The day for us to leave this amazing country has come. After our buffet lunch at 12pm, members went to the train station to prepare their day-long journey back to Malaysia. The train batch left at around 2pm while the remaining from the bus batch left at 4pm.

Comments after all that:
Indeed, as our band director Mr. Tan mentioned, this competition ended with all winners and no losers. To have my journey with the band end in this grand undertaking, I can say I am definitely more than satisfied with the tremendous experience Nan Hwa Band had given me.

On behalf of all the members, I say a big thank-you to the many alumni who sacrifice much of their time just to be with us, to Mr. Tan who never hesitate to lend us his wisdom, to Mr Chang the teacher-advisor for organizing much of the band’s lodgings, to Ah Boon who helped coordinate and teaching much of this year’s show, to Junt and his team for giving us many vital lessons on musicianship, to all my band mates who made this experience all the more worthwhile, and to the organizers of the event for making it a huge success. Thailand, the land of smiles, indeed I left with a smile all the way :).

In conjunction to writing with Justin’s review
this is a report of TIMBC through the eyes of a participant

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Aging-out with the Prince of Egypt 1

How on Earth did I ended up being involved with TIMBC?

Here’s how:

Exiting Stadium Melawati 2 months ago, I felt satisfied about my performance yet unfulfilled in something, there was this yearning to put our show up onto the stage once more. Many members voiced out their desire to have a shot at the MWBC 2010, but our form 3 students were too near the PMR trials, so our instructor did not approve of the trip. I was preparing to call it our final year with the rest of my fellow age-out band mates after our instructor’s decision.

Then came the letter of invitation from the organizers of TIMBC. The dates were perfect, a week after our SPM trials, giving opportunity for practices, and with our own instructor and headmaster’s enthusiasm toward the competition, we were soon planning and preparing for competition. The irony of the situation was that many of us form 5 members did joke about the impossibility of being involved with this competition early this year when we were first informed about it.

And when the waves of exam trials were over, we sped up to polish our show, and to switch to the yard system which was standard in Thailand. Many things had to be done, passports were one them.

1st of September came very soon, as I recall being on the bus to Hatyai by noon. Playing tenor drums this year, I took the bus for the convenience of my instrument, along with the tubist and other heavy instrument players, unlike most of the other members who were taking the train from Butterworth to Bangkok.

The competition:

2nd September
Arriving at Bangkok the following day at around 9am local time, we transverse through the heavy traffic until we reached the Bangkok's Sports and Tourism University at around 10am, where our hostel was located. The stadium we were to compete in was only 5 minutes walking distance from our hostel, and not to mention there was a shopping mall, also walking distance, to the right side of our hostel. All this were my impression of the perfect location, we even had mini convenience-store at the ground floor of our hostel. So given the mental assurance that I had a good place to stay in, I was definitely prepared physically.

The remaining 2 buses arrived around noon, as we rejoin many of our members and helped them unload. Practices were scarce, we had one right after our arrival, but many members were worn down by the travelling, so it wasn’t such a pleasant practice the 1st day, and it lasted only for 1 hour. Percussionist though had no choice, we stayed back to clean-up our drum battle routines, as it was happening the next day.

3rd September
Drum battle, an event I will surely re-tell my juniors in the future. Many of the younger members did not have a clue what it takes to face drummers from other places (I mean those really good ones). Having heard that we were up against a Thai drumline was enough to confirm my prediction that we were likely to be kicked out the 1st round we performed. And indeed, when we finally faced them, Surasak Montree, I couldn’t help but laugh at our own futile attempt to outclass them, just as they imitate nearly all our best moves, and actually doing it several times better, but I was also very happy to witness such an amazing battery team competing against us.

Following that event, we headed back to the hostel to join the rest of the band in preparation for the street parade. On the way to our starting point of the parade, we got the chance to see many other bands, namely the junior bands, in a multitude of uniforms, even seeing one dressed like the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, which was pretty amusing, seeing how crazy some teams are over the DCI circuit.

Somewhere around 2-3pm, we started off our parade around the heart of Bangkok. Touring around this parts of town was rather enjoyable, given the shade we were under along with the scenes of everyday life on the streets. But the 1.5km journey proved to be a taxing experience to many members, where several of them succumb to fatigue during the end of our parade. We stopped in front of the National Stadium waiting for the official time of the opening ceremony to come, and during that time, many of us took the time to recuperate.

The opening ceremony itself was a rather entertaining one. No pop singers, no big group dancers, it was all about the bands, rather unlike our local competition dare I say? The speeches were given out to which unfortunately many of us out of Thailand fail to understand. Nevertheless, we could tell the enthusiasm of the VIPs towards this event. After the singing of the Thai Anthem, fireworks roared across the stadium, revealing a giant welcome banner. As one of the percussion groups, we were pulled out of the march-pass towards the edge of the stadium as to continue with the event of drum battle demonstration in front of the VIPs. 1 representative from each country came to the back of the stadium to prepare for the show. While waiting, we were pleasantly surprise by the appearance of 2 tubist from our band on the big stadium screen, we apparently had won 2nd runner-up for the street parade! After the awarding ceremony, it was our turn to perform.

At the end of the day, we all worn out and tired, but it was definitely a day to remember. After showering and cleaning up, we prepared for the Welcoming dinner.

To be continued