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

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