The energy of Spettacolo might sneak up on the audience, but its power never dies throughout the entire show.
The annual percussion show, whose name is Italian for “show,” features musicians of all levels—from elementary school students to parents.
The show opens with quiet narration from percussion director Michael A. Hernandez. As the lights dim, the percussionists rise from where they have been hiding behind their instruments. At an unknown cue from Hernandez’s speech, a select group begins to play. As the narration builds, so does the music, until the audience is introduced to the “Elyssium experience” and all that is left is the driving beat of a stage full of percussionists jamming out.
After a sparkling marimba solo by sophomore Matthew DiVoli, seniors Kurt Doty and Kyle Gallardo and the Plano Middle School Drumline brought smiles to every face with their rendition of “The Witch Doctor.” The young musicians are incredibly talented; they look like miniature versions of their Plano counterparts. They’re just as professional, with just as good attention to detail.
A timpani solo by junior Caroline Fuoss followed this. The sole red spotlight fit the mood of her solo perfectly.
The timpani solo led into a swanky number by Vines percussionists. Their tuxedo attire and colorful bow ties made the playful number visually appealing as well as audibly pleasant.
There was a slight pause as the next act got into place, but once they started, the energy was once again restored. Percussionists from Clark popped out of their places after a brief snare solo and played a hard-driving number filled with marimba melody and tambourine accents.
One of the coolest aspects of Spettacolo is the variety of angles from which the audience gets to see the performance. There are different cameras set up around the stage, and projectors show the audience what is being filmed for the final video of Spettacolo. The camera angles allow the audience to see over the larger instruments on the stage, because the setup never changes.
After the Clark performance, sophomore Josh Hirner performed a solo on the tenors or quads, which are often used in marching band. His stick work was impressive. At times his hands moved too fast to follow. Once, he even flipped a stick in one hand while playing with the other.
The Vines group returned to play another peppy number filled with the accent of bongos and a fast-paced high-hat cymbal.
Next, senior Carl Wu and junior Billy Quach entertained audiences with a short skit about Capri Sun. Wu promised Quach a drink if he “played something cool.” Nonetheless, Wu refused to give Quach anything more than an empty Capri Sun packet for his efforts. As soon as Wu left, Quach showed off his snare expertise with a showy stick-flipping number. It was apparently enough to impress Wu, because he returned to reward Quach with a drink.
After great applause, Doty, Gallardo and the Plano Middle School Drumline returned for another popular tune, “What is Love?”
Sophomore William Ou followed with a melodic and fast-paced marimba solo. The cameras captured an overhead angle for this, allowing the audience to see Ou’s amazingly fast mallet work.
Senior Drew Bresnahan then proceeded to lead the marching steel drum group, Pan Ragga, down the aisles of the auditorium. The group was met with cheers and applause from a joyful audience.
The Plano Middle School drumline returned to keep audience spirits high with “The Hustle.” Percussionists from other schools assisted by dancing in the aisles.
Plano Senior percussionists then introduced the audience to “The Golden Age of the Xylophone,” a complicated piece with a jaunty circus mood.
Their impressive work was followed by a loud, entertaining and adorable drumline performance by Saigling Elementary School. Both students and director were totally into their performance, and if it wasn’t perfect in terms of technique, it was at least fun.
After intermission, Elyssium returned with a rousing number by thirty-two Plano Senior percussionists. The pleasant and energetic tune set the mood for the next act.
The second act of the second half was a steel drum solo by junior Tyler Smith. His gentle drumming lent a mystical mood to the auditorium.
The number didn’t stop, simply flowed into the next section as Smith was joined on stage by members of the Jasper percussion section and the Plano Pancats. The Pancats are Plano’s resident steel drum band, a sought-after group of percussionists who have been hired to play at weddings and other events in the community in the past.
Then came the highlight of the evening, a number called “Krump’n” which was performed by Doty, Bresnahan, Wu and led by senior Stephen Lowry. After Lowry invited the audience to participate in “Krump’n tryouts,” the other three “made” the squad and the four boys proceeded to perform a number with sticks on wooden stools. They had fancy stick work, but the most impressive thing was their precision. On top of it all, they were funny and inventive. Their number involved pop culture references and impressive solos, as well.
Junior Zach Dewey followed the seniors’ incomparable number with a calming marimba solo.
The Clark percussionists and PanCats followed up with their rendition of Coldplay’s “Paradise,” continuing the cool, calm mood.
Afterwards, Hernandez joined his percussionists for a unique number. The percussionists played hand-drums while sitting on the floor, seen only on video feed from above. They played over a mystical underscore of guitar chords.
Jasper then played a driving full-scale number with sixteen instrumentalists. They were on varied instruments, from the typical marimbas and timpani to chimes and piano.
Doty returned for yet another impressive solo, this time, on steel drum. He was quickly joined by other members of the Plano percussion family to create a driving ensemble number entitled “Finish It.” The number included an impressive marimba solo by junior Natalie Demarest.
The lengthy, but abundantly talent-fillled marimba solo review followed. Featuring six different soloists, the number flowed seamlessly. Interesting lighting kept the audience visually entertained while the soloists kept the ear busy.
Vines percussionists danced back onstage with a rocking drum set solo, which turned into a rollicking group number titled “No Speak Americano.”
The Plano Senior drumline made a tribute to Monty Python with a singing lumberjack number. This quickly turned into a toolkit number, featuring seven drum sets being played at once by muscular teenage boys in tank tops and hardhats. It was performed under swirling rainbow lights, adding to the visual appeal.
This rousing number was followed by the fan-favorite of the evening, the PPPE (or Plano Percussion Parent Ensemble). Performed by thirty-six of the parents of the Plano drumline, this number was both entertaining and skillfully performed. Hernandez did a masterful job teaching these parents how to hold a stick, let alone play the “YMCA.”
Smith took over his father’s post on the drum set after the parent number and led into the next number with a strong drum solo. He was joined by the rest of the Plano percussion section as they performed “In the Stone,” followed by the dance-heavy “Tombo in 7/4,” which featured Doty in another astounding solo on drumset.
Finally the entire ensemble of Clark, Jasper and Vines percussionists joined Plano’s own to play the finale number, “Everlasting Love.” A slideshow created by Hernandez accompanied the music, thanking all of the seniors for their hard work and dedication to the percussion program over the past seven years.
The crowd completed the night with thunderous cheers and applause, all of which were well-deserved.