2007 DCUK Championships Report
It felt very different driving to what was to be my 25th (!!!!) finals this year; a new format, new rules, new class structure, etc. This was hopefully the dawn of a brave new world for British drum corps.
I was unsure what to expect…. but, hey, drum corps is drum corps! I just wanted to be entertained… and I certainly was not disappointed.
There was no preliminary contest this year. But there were exhibitions scheduled for all competing corps. Naturally, I was there for all of the exhibitions so I could whet my appetite and get a feel for all of the shows prior to the showcase event in the evening.
I had not attended any contests so far this season, so it was great that my first experience of all the corps was in exhibition rather than in competition. I thoroughly enjoyed everyone!
Needless to say, I was drawn to the intriguing contest between Kidsgrove Scouts and Senators in particular. The exhibition performances suggested that Senators could edge out Kidsgrove for the title by a narrow margin based upon the combination of their musicianship, creativity, and performance levels. I was not writing-off Kidsgrove of course, but it appeared that they would have to achieve a level of execution, performance and effect that had been beyond them historically.
National Junior Class
Black Knights Cadets ~ ‘The Knights Go Mad’
The Knights Cadets started the proceedings, and they reminded us all that drum corps is meant to be fun above everything else. I was instantly impressed during the warm-up by some wonderfully skilled trumpet work, and this was a feature throughout their entertaining show featuring the music of popular ‘80s band ‘Madness’.
‘House of Fun’ was an appropriate opener to warm up the crowd, who were truly appreciative of this young corps throughout their performance.
‘Baggy Trousers’ increased the fun factor, with the corps strutting their stuff with the famous dance we associate with this tune. Many of you reading this might be too young to remember!
‘It Must be Love’ featured a talented young trumpeter along with a delightful solo guard feature from a very young competitor. Lovely ensemble work throughout the piece.
‘Driving In My Car’ had the crowd in raptures with the magnificent robot dance by the tiny young trumpeter. I, along with everyone else, simply could not stop smiling! Peter Crouch eat your heart out (if you are an international reader or not a football fan, you will not have the faintest idea what I am talking about regarding Crouchy!).
‘Our House’ up next, into a reprise, through to the conclusion of the show. They may have been the only corps in this particular class, but they were deserving of their 1st place with a score of 68.05. Well done Knights.
National Open Class
Staffordshire Knights ~ ‘The Music of James Bond’
The music of James Bond remains as popular as ever on the drum corps field. Staffordshire Knights set the mood with the drum majors in Bond style evening dress.
The opening strains coming from the pit featured the main theme with the brass soon blasting their way in. Shaken AND stirred! The very talented percussion line is soon driving the corps through a great rendition of ‘Live and Let Die’.
Not forgetting the brass line of course, who provide nice dynamics and tone throughout the performance, which is constantly evolving through their Bond repertoire including familiar and some not so familiar themes.
And of course the guard, who provided much of the Bond style imagery alongside effective traditional equipment work.
Nice swing feel to the opening section of ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, with great intensity from the corps as the piece developed. I felt this worked particularly well as it fully explored a musical theme as opposed to the medley feel of the opener.
‘For Your Eyes Only’ and ‘Nobody Does it Better’ were performed in a classic drum corps style, then taking it up a notch with a full on swing-style main Bond theme, giving the show the closer it demanded!
3rd place with a score of 71.40.
Poynton Commodores ~ ‘Frames of Mind’
An intriguing image was presented before the show even commenced with some large cube frames positioned across the field.
To commence the performance, the corps passed through one of the cube frames then expand, with the exquisite ‘Gloria’ by John Rutter providing the soundtrack. I was immediately struck by the quality of footwork within the visual performance, which was constantly evolving and exciting. The colour red being used to symbolise the warmth of home
This piece is a real favourite of mine and it seemed to fly by. No sooner had this finished, followed by some silent visual work, we were straight into ‘Concert de Aranjuez’…another firm favourite of mine; achieving the desired dark, foreboding and claustrophobic feel initially, but moving into brighter territory as the tune developed into the main theme, which was particularly striking in the manner with which the guard and brass utilised the cube to draw our attention.
‘Proof’ immediately achieved the desired effect of a mechanical robotic sound, mirrored visually by the brass and guard. I loved this old-school drum corps percussion feature!
To close was the classic ‘Appalachian Morning’, which was definitely happy and uplifting, as intended by the show concept. On a technical note the tempo shifts and time signatures were handled extremely well. Of course, the soundtrack was the star of the show with the intended mood being projected by the guard so professionally.
Just when you think the show is over, the pit provide an outro which takes the corps back through the cube, forming a block, before leaving the field to rapturous applause.
This was classic Commodore-style entertainment, but with a thoughtful twist.
1st place with a score of 80.20.
Concord ~ ‘Diamonds and Divas’
With Concord 2007, you are immediately struck by the pit member’s uniforms; black with bright pink in a diva style to add to the theme of the show. With the guard providing a similar look.
There is a classic Concord swing feel right from the start so the audience were feeling immediately at home. ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ was wildly exciting with many classy upper brass licks complimented by some solid lower brass support, driven by a solid rhythm section.
The guard uniforms, along with great positioning and equipment work ensured they were always part of the picture.
A haunting opening to ‘Autumn Leaves’ allows the corps to ready themselves for what was a full-blooded no holds bar swing production. Old school drum corps but not without plenty of technical skill as well.
The guard almost steal the show at times, but the musicians prevail by the time we are in to the essential park and blow section through to the end of the number. Great to have seen this piece on the field again!
‘Land of Make Believe’ allows blood pressure levels to return to normal…well, temporarily anyway. There is a lovely contrast throughout between the more subtle and louder sections; with the quieter parts generating a real warmth, and the louder sections pumping out the heat….or cool….take your pick.
Entertainment, excitement, and enjoyment? Mission accomplished from start to finish!
2nd place with a score of 77.55.
International Open Class
Southern Aurora and Legion Star ~ ‘Lord of the Rings’
These two corps formed a partnership in June 2007. Quite how they managed to put together a show and performance of this quality in such a short space of time is beyond me. And I understand that many (or most?) of the members have never marched drum corps before. Quite miraculous! I for one can’t wait to see how they progress from here on.
The show features music from Lord of the Rings, which is a testament to staff’s confidence in the corps as there is some tricky music within that film score.
As they enter the field, one’s attention, not surprisingly is immediately drawn to the 7 piece snare line. Nice!
Off the line, dark tones emanate from the brass, with a tom rhythm adding a sense of fear and foreboding, building to a company front featuring the familiar Lord of the Rings theme.
The ballad is introduced by a percussion rhythm and the slightly mournful sound sets the stage for the guard to feature, who I have to say always seemed to be positioned in the right place at the right time throughout the show.
Part 3 introduces a sense of fun and celebration from within the darkness, but the corps soon return to more familiar territory with Part 4 ‘The White Tree’. However, a wide range of emotions were experienced through the remainder of the show to an explosive classic drum corps conclusion, with sustained intensity never dropping off right to the final note.
What Aurora and Star have achieved this year is quite incredible. Good luck for the future!
4th place with a score of 68.10.
Black Knights ~ ‘Hiding in Plain Sight: An American Psycho’
The reigning DCUK champions set the scene with a percussive intro into a gentle and effective brass ensemble, which teases us into a level of musical and visual intensity the likes of which we have not yet experienced on the day. Also immediately raising the bar in terms of how guard and musicians can work as one.
‘On the Town’ maintained the dark theme initially, but soon injecting an edgy jazz feel, with the slower sections adding valuable further dimension with wonderful swells and some glorious flag work.
‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is always a welcome addition and within the familiar theme there is a distinctly Black Knights flavour with their unique interpretation, which is a tribute to the writers and performers alike. Nevertheless, remaining faithful to key parts of the piece, but never far away from a BK nuance!
Also switching from a horror film sound to a regal feel effortlessly and naturally, and occasionally quite romantic. Very versatile!
Through to the conclusion of the show we are taken on a truly dramatic and spine-tingling ride, with real edge of the seat intensity.
We think its over, but gentle strains of ‘Mad World’ pull us back with the corps forming a final stark visual image. In summary, a performance worthy of a reigning champion.
3rd place with a score of 81.70.
Kidsgrove Scouts vs Senators
I was looking forward to this head-to-head contest and, on reflection, it reminded me of some DCUK battles of yesteryear; 1983 and 1988 in particular, with Senators taking on the role of the (arguably) more technically gifted Dagenham Crusaders, and Kidsgrove taking on the role of the effect-laden Green Lancers (1983) or Southern Knights (1988). I am showing my age but those who were there to experience ’83 and ‘88 will know what I mean. The results of those crazy nights ‘back in the day’ offering a clue to what happened this night.
Or another analogy; imagine a vintage Santa Clara Vanguard vs the contemporary Cavaliers.
So, on with the ‘shoot-out’ (pun intended!)……
Kidsgrove Scouts ~ ‘Once Upon a Time Out West’
I have probably said it before in previous reports, apologies if so, but I have often viewed Kidsgrove as being something of an enigma, often not getting the credit they deserved, but conversely, stuck in the void between ‘great’ and ‘greatest’. Tonight they would have to surpass all that has gone before to compete with a corps (Senators) that has re-designed its own creative blue print.
The 6 contras offer a visual insight into the brass sound we might enjoy, and the western-themed guard uniforms giving a clue to the theme of the show.
An expansive opening form includes the literal interpretation of a lone gunman stalking the plains to a soundtrack of Copland’s ‘Promise of Living’. The delicate sound immediately raising goosebumps.
A western musical theme and increased tempo generates delicious tension as we approach the push….the wonderful, tear-jerking, mesmerising push. I could write pages about this moment alone! A truly beautiful drum corps moment where I was briefly unaware of anything else that was going on around me.
That was Part 1: ‘The Morning Calm’, now into ‘The Busy Town’ which see the Scouts really start to explore the western theme musically and visually. Different to usual Kidsgrove musically, but typically Kidsgrove at the same time.
Classic Kidsgrove visually, but with greater authority than previously witnessed. And what a full bodied brass sound! Believe me, loud is good!
For ‘The Gunfight’, two gunmen now lurk the field. One of which is most unwelcome in Kidsgrove territory!
‘The Aftermath’ kicks off with familiar American film and TV themes into classic Kidsgrove musical territory, whilst never backing of with the western musical and visual imagery.
The conclusion has a truly celebratory feel to it as the stranger is banished from town. Needless to say, the crowd feed off this readily as a classic British drum corps performance sadly draws to an end.
Have they done enough?
Senators ~ ‘Shuffle Up and Deal!’
The Senators enter the field with an aura that is unmatched by all. They looked simply invincible.
I understand that this is predominantly a completely original show (including mainly original scores). Only the Senators have the skill and experience to pull off a challenge such as this.
The first suit to be represented visually is ‘Diamond’, and we are soon into the classic sound and skill of movement we almost take for granted from the Senators. Also, some of the percussion licks are outrageous!
‘Spades’ are represented next, and with the new visual theme introduced we see further musical themes introduces but working as a cohesive whole.
‘Hearts’ are introduced as a heartbeat from the front line percussion, and this piece not surprisingly has a more emotive human feel to it, which is much needed amongst the madness. And we could bathe in the delicious sound of a beautifully balanced brass sound!
A percussion groove signals the introduction of ‘Clubs’, and there is a jazzy club groove going down! The percussion feature is simply stunning and there are further fantastic drill moves through to the end of the show; the rapid evolution through the 4 suits deserving of a mention in particular.
Even on 2nd viewing, the show is quite bewildering as so much is happening. Nevertheless, it is a British drum corps masterpiece. In recent years, Senators have sometimes taken a step back in time to go forward in terms of musical style and identity, possibly influencing many other corps in the process.
Now they have taken a huge leap forward in terms of creativity. Of course, all the Senators trademarks remain intact, but this is not Senators as you know them; more horse power under the bonnet, yet more refined and aerodynamic.
But have they done enough tonight?
The captions are split evenly between Senators and Kidsgrove……the scores are 88.85 and 88.95 for 2nd and 1st place respectively. Only 0.1 between 1st and 2nd!
In 2nd place…….. Senators.
Kidsgrove have finally achieved their ambition…..a fitting end to what has been a fantastic day!
Well done to all corps, staff, support staff, judges, and fans for a great season and a great night. I look forward to 2008. In the meantime, good luck to all corps competing in DCE.
I would like to dedicate this piece to the memory of my mother, Eileen, who shared many memorable drum corps moments with me, but who recently passed away peacefully.
Thank you for reading.