LLS of Central PA: hero moments happen here.

It’s a screenplay fit for a superhero movie. Eight teenagers race against time to beat a seemingly unstoppable foe. Those who fought before: guide them. Those who’ve lost the battle: inspire them.

The plot is real. The characters are among us. The adversary is Blood Cancer, and the battle doesn’t stop.

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I had the tremendous opportunity to tell the story of the LLS of Central PA 2017 Students of the Year. I was honored, excited, and…emotionally unprepared.

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From the awe-inspiring, spontaneous speeches,

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To the grand reveal,

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Meeting the everyday champions in the Harrisburg community was incredibly humbling. In total, the eight students who ran for the 2017 Student of the Year raised over $174,000 in just six weeks. This is their journey:

As with any production, there are some captures I just couldn’t squeeze into the final video. I’m calling them “Raw Hero Moments,” and assembled them below.

  • Annabelle, a Student of the Year candidate, receives the “golden ticket,” allowing her to donate the proceeds raised during the ceremony to the candidate of her choice. She makes a selfless decision.
  • Just before the SOY is crowned, Erika thanks the candidates who raised money to help her son Josiah beat cancer.

To the Campaign Managers with LLS of Central PA, especially Abby and Justine, thanks for what you do. It’s truly hero work.

#SomedayisToday

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REVIEW: Thrones Live Concert Experience, the North(east) remembers.

 

I’ll start by saying: I know nothing.

I know nothing about music theory. I know nothing about classical compositions. I know nothing about the obscure, sometimes 12-foot long instruments played during Wednesday night’s show in D.C.

I do know something, however. I know Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience is a maesterpiece. A spectacle. Mesmerizing and hypnotizing.

Truly, the Northeast remembers.

(SPOILERS) Can a concert still be epic, even on a Wednesday night? (SPOILERS)

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That’s the only time a concert can be epic.

Artificial fog filled the arena as a host of 10,000+ found their seats. House lights dimmed. Crowd noise diminished. The dull hum of hot amplifiers reverberated through the Verizon Center.

Looping on-screen at center stage, the familiar armillary sphere from the Game of Thrones’ main title screen. Crests from the nine great houses project on massive LCD monitors at stage left and right.

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Waiting with baited beer breath, free folk and southerners alike anticipate one of the most iconic opening sequences in television history. Often parodied. Always recognized. The obvious choice to begin the show. They HAVE to play it first. Right? …right!?!?

Almost inaudible against the still-murmuring audience, strings and keys begin in unison. Imagine the intro to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On Your Crazy Diamond” but less spacey, more medievally, and totally NOT the legendary open.

The notes are building, though. Rising to something. Tension climbs as an 80-piece orchestra emerges from shadow. Minutes pass. The crescendo peaks. The hammer drops.

Within seconds of hearing the introductory anthem, seeing the opening animations, you find yourself back in Westeros. Then Essos, and, for the next 2.5 hours, every realm in between.

 Ramin Djawadi: The Merchant of Moments

Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi proves himself a water dancer, masterfully weaving his intricate score through a running compilation of edited Game of Thrones scenes. The soundscape is a swordplay, when one audio source strikes, another parries. When they clash, the audience wins.

It’s within this dynamic, the “ohhh shit” moments are birthed.

Following the epic lead-in, a timeline forms. Starting at Season 1, the on-screen story tells the tale of the three main houses: Stark, Targaryen, Lannister. Each house: its own musical theme and accompanying imagery.

The video montage plays out like an elongated “previously on Game of Thrones” episode prelude, catering to the show’s most memorable one liners and realm-shattering twists. The recounting of Ned’s death, for instance, was particularly crushing.

The editing slowed down, playing the scene as it aired so many moons ago. As Djawadi’s ensemble reached maximum depressive overtones, the sound from the episode played full. Ned lost his head. The arena went black. The band went silent.

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The wild, whimsical dragon ride through Westeros continued, though, with some triumphant moments abound. My favorites:

“There are brave men knocking on our door, let’s go kill them!” Beautifully enhanced by the Lannister score.

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“A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell…and I’m going home.”  Swiftly followed by rousing audience cheers and the drummer guy giving it his all.

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“Hold the…” I cried. A lot. Let’s not talk about it. Except the violin soloist. She was on point, we can talk about her.

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And finally, the Season 6 ending, “Winds of Winter” complete with pyrotechnics and a choir performance so powerful it shook the walls of the Verizon Center.

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A fitting end to a fiery performance. Save for a few moments when a soloist was drowned out by the swelling orchestra, the show was flawless. My chief complaint and only gripe: the exclusion of perhaps the single most important scene and score thus far: “The Tower.”

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That said, hats off to HBO, the entire GoT Live production, and especially Ramin Djawadi, the brainchild of an event three years in the making. There are 15 concert events left across the United States. Go out there and watch them.

Seven blessings, Thrones faithful.