The Sheldon High School Marching Orabs placed fourth among five bands in their class in the group’s first contest of the season Saturday, Sept. 17, in Marshall, MN.
Sheldon band director Cliff St. Clair said some students were disappointed in the result at the Pursuit of Excellence Marching Band Festival although they were glad at the improvement they showed throughout the day.
“We had a really good clinic in the morning and some very helpful clinicians and judges that worked with us,” St. Clair said.
The Marching Orabs performed their routine before an audience for the first time the previous night at Sheldon’s home football game against Okoboji. St. Clair said the Saturday performance in Marshall was “a significant improvement.”
“It’s not how we begin the season, it’s how we end it,” he said. “We just have to keep improving and working on the things that the judges highlighted for us.”
The band started rehearsing this season’s show, titled “Stolen Time,” on Aug. 1. Practices continued into the start of the academic year, with the musicians meeting in the morning to hone their routine.
The show consists of three parts: “The Gift,” “Despair” and “Reunited.” The story on which the music is based tells of a conflict between two siblings, one of whom is given the gift of time and the other who isn’t.
“The musical content is supposed to reflect the emotions of that conflict. ‘Stolen Time’ also refers to the fact that, because of the hard feelings and jealousy, it steals time away from the relationships for everybody,” St. Clair said.
The story resolves with the second child eventually receiving the same gift of time as the first.
Musically, St. Clair described the performance as a “steampunk-style show” with elements of punk rock and classical music.
“I can’t say that our show has got a lot of what people would recognize as a rock beat in much of it, but some of the melodies are similar to what you would find in punk rock,” he said. “Yet there’s still that classical style as well.”
The first and third movements have up-tempo rhythms while the second is a contrasting slower ballad during which soloists perform.
The music for the routine was arranged by Patrick McCarty, with the rhythm arrangement by Marques Eckhoff. St. Clair said Eckhoff has done the percussion section for the show for several years and has long been a reliable resource for the Sheldon marching band. He recommended St. Clair reach out to McCarty — a band teacher in Kansas — about doing the show this year.
“The students that are in band are just really enjoying it. The percussionists add a lot of the color to the whole show,” St. Clair said.
Sheldon’s marching band this year consists of a handful of seniors with the rest of the group made up of younger students. St. Clair said the band graduated a large number of students last academic year and did not see as large a number of incoming freshmen join this year.
As a result, he said the group is “noticeably smaller.”
Another setback occurred this summer when 10 students dropped out of marching band before band camp started. That prevented the rest of the band from learning drills since the routine needed to be adjusted for fewer people.
Although St. Clair has fewer marching band members than usual, he praised the work ethic of the students who are participating.
“They’re really cooperative. They’re working at it. So, it’s been a good season in that respect,” he said.
He also said the Sheldon School District was fortunate to hire Peter Carlson as its new 5-8 band instructor following the departure of Jeana Larson. Carlson, who previously taught band in the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District, assisted St. Clair with summer marching band practice.
“It’s just been great to have his perspective and his expertise,” St. Clair said. “He’s a percussionist, and we’ve for years needed somebody who can be here consistently, daily, to work with our percussionists and now Peter’s doing that. It’s paying off in spades.”
The Marching Orabs will be back in action Sept. 24 at the StarFest band competition at Morningside University in Sioux City.