Rocky Hill High School held its 13 annual Royal Blues Invitational Saturday night.
The United States School Band Association classifies bands according to school size and experience. Schools are designated groups one - six by size and are assigned to either the A-Class for bands newer to competitive performance or the Open Class for experienced bands.
The invitational featured bands representing Groups one to five. Most groups had both A-Class and Open Class competitors. Eleven high school marching bands competed in the annual event.
Group one Class A pitted the East Lyme Viking Marching Band’s Cirque du Soleil-derived performance against the South Hadley Tiger Pride’s Henry V themed offering. Despite a spirited effort from the Viking color guard, the judges awarded first place to the Tiger Pride.
In Group three Class A, the Ramapo Raider Marching Band, who traveled from New Jersey, enlivened the crowd with an 80s rock-inspired performance. Their opponents, the New London Whaler Pride submitted a more restrained piece entitled “Dreamscape." The Raiders would return home with their category’s first place trophy in hand.
The Group three Open Class was contested by the Rockville Marching Ram Band who appealed to patriotic sentiment with their performance “Visions of America” and the Norwich Free Academy Wildcat Band who turned in an eclectic, classical set called “Epiphany." Patriotism carried the day as the Marching Rams took top honors.
East Haven, Robert E. Fitch, Enrico Fermi, Maloney and Wethersfield high schools all competed in their divisions unopposed. Nevertheless, all delivered winning performances. East Haven, Robert E. Fitch, and Enrico Fermi demonstrated why they have racked up awards at other shows. Maloney and Wethersfield electrified the crowd with their respective Irish and Mediterranean-inspired performances.
The Royal Blues could only perform in exhibition as USSBA rules forbid bands from competing in their home shows. However, following the final competitive performance, they debuted their alien-themed program “The Final Frontier.” The piece was surprisingly nuanced and almost seemed to aim for “artistic." The softer portions brought out subtle instrumentation not present in many of the other bands’ performances.
The US Coast Guard Windjammers Drum and Bugle Corps played the finale and instantly the difference between school bands and a military music corps became apparent. The combination of their dynamic horn section and regimented percussion made it clear why the Windjammers are a renowned performance group and how much the preceding high school performers could learn by watching them.