DCW On-Line: Kalamazoo Review

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Cavaliers winning streak in Kalamazoo

July 5, 2008 — Kalamazoo, MI . . . Clear skies and a blazing sun greeted performer and spectator alike for the fourth installment of a DCI regional competition at Waldo Stadium, where eight World Class corps and four Open Class corps competed for the first time this season to a full slate of eight judges, including judges for visual performance, brass performance and color guard, instead of the abbreviated slate of five judges that had been adjudicating competitions for the first week of the season.

Many touches of Japanese culture accented "Samurai", this year’s production by The Cavaliers (71 B, 17 FP, 12 PP, 35 G, 2 DM = 137), beginning with what was likely the first use of katanas as guard equipment instead of mere props. The corps ended its first number with the ritual bow used at the beginning and end of kendo matches.

One set of flags consisted of short Japanese banners used in battle. The corps later stomped like sumo wrestlers. The guard then used flag poles as bo staffs. Finally, the corps formed the kanji for "Samurai" and the few Japanese in the audience recognized the characters and squealed with delight.

The corps integrated all of these elements into an athletic, creative and entertaining production that astonished the spectators, who were completely gassed by the performance and responded with an ecstatic standing ovation.

The past two weeks have seen a lot of "training" go into the “Knockout” by the Bluecoats (70 B, 17 FP, 12 PP, 38 G, 4 DM, and 2 “other” = 143). The guard, which began the season wearing boxing trunks and tank tops for the entire show, now start the show in warm-ups, which they only remove for the final selection to reveal the trunks and tank top.

The jump ropes have been replaced with actual speed bags, which the guard punch and the snares play like ride cymbals. Also, the drum major now announces the narration from a wired microphone on the sideline instead of a wireless mike from the center of the field.

Finally, the boxing match at the beginning is echoed by a rematch at the finale. All of these changes made for a more intellectually, asthetically and emotionally satisfying show. The audience loved it and gave an impressed full-stadium standing ovation.

The Glassmen (65 B, 16 FP, 14 PP, 41 G, 2 DM = 138) began their "Kar-ne-val" show with a bang, as musicians played the opening fanfare at full force and the featured guard performer popped out of one of the twelve magician’s chests right at climax of the fanfare.

Glassmen – Toledo, OH
DCW On-Line Photo by Dan Scadifi

After the corps played a rip-roaring selection of circus tunes (along with "The Breakfast Machine" from "Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure"), she disappeared back inside one of the chests, to delighted applause from the audience. Those chests bore watching, as not only the featured guard performer returned to the stage to the accompaniment of flags depicting merry-go-round horses, but equipment galore later pored out of the chests — fans, sabres and extra rifles, all of which the guard used to entertaining effect at the end of the show. After a colorful, high-energy ending, the audience leapt to their feet with an excited standing ovation.

The Colts (69 B, 22 FP, 12 PP, 36 G, 2 DM = 141) put on a very energetic and engaging performance of "Night and Day", beginning with the namesake Cole Porter classic, which they played with old-school drum corps power, drawing spontaneous excited applause from the fans.

The artistry and showmanship continued with a medley of Leonard Bernstein songs about the Big Apple, including a seamless transition from "Fancy Free" to "West Side Story" that drew a standing ovation –and the show continued! After several minutes of drill pyrotechnics and a costume change by the guard (adding circle skirts to add a touch of elegance), the show ended in an old-fashioned company front. The audience responded with a second enthusiastic full-stadium standing ovation.

If any of the readers who remember pre-DCI drum corps have ever wondered what an old-fashioned entrance off the starting line would look like in the 21st Century, wonder no more. The Blue Stars (64 B, 18 FP, 11 PP, 40 G, 2 DM = 135) began their "Le Tour: Every Second Counts" show exactly that way — with the brass and guard on the old starting line. Only the marching percussion started on the field, spread along a line that stretched from end zone to end zone between the hash marks.

The corps then raced out off the starting line to "La Vie en Rose." For the rest of the show, the corps solidly performed their sophisticated program of French music from 19th Century concert favorites to late 20th Century pop. They ended their show with another tip of the hat to tradition by forming the corps’ trademark five-pointed star, earning a slow-rising, appreciative, full-stadium standing ovation from the impressed audience.

In "Per-if-4-ry" (pronounced "periphery"), Spirit (56 B, 23 FP, 10 PP, 38 G, 3 DM = 130) played music all about people on the edge of society (the psychiatric patient in "Equus," the mute piano teacher in "The Piano" and even The Dark Knight in "Batman Begins") while marching a drill that was very much about the boundaries of the form and what is on the inside and outside of that form.

Four members of the guard dressed in maroon even spent the entire show demarcating the limits of the brass section’s sets. The result was a very intellectually interesting and aesthetically satisfying show, if a bit distant emotionally. The audience respected both the artistic intent of the program and the solid, crisply marched and well-played performance of the members and responded with a scattered slow-rising standing ovation.

While Madison Scouts (70 B, 24 FP, 12 PP, 24 G, 3 DM = 133) "Night of the Iguana" had a high-concept title, the core of the program was really "we’re the Madison Scouts, this is what we’re known for and this is what we’re good at; we’ve just updated it."

All the trademark elements of a Scouts’ show — the brass pyrotechnics, rocking drum line, athletic guard, big drill moves and crowd-pleasing repertoire –were there. Despite a bit of roughness in executing the large showy drill moves, the corps had the audience hooked and elicited a respectful full-stadium standing ovation.

The Troopers (65 B, 16 FP, 10 PP, 14 G, 1 DM = 106) earned roaring applause just for the end of their warm-up as they opened up World Class competition. That presaged an entertaining and ever- more-polished program, as America’s Corps has added more locomotive effects to their "Iron Horse Express" program.

To cap off the slapstick moments in "Sasparilla", the brass imitated a train whistle while the members mime pulling a cord. The crowd enjoyed the moment thoroughly, giving the corps a standing ovation after the second number.

During "Song of the Gandy Dancer", some of the sopranos mimed hammering spikes into newly-laid track. Finally, during the build into the sunburst, the musicians again evoked a train arriving at the station. The audience loved the performance and showed Wyoming’s Musical Ambassadors a thrilled, full-stadium standing ovation.

The last corps on in Open Class, Revolution (28 B, 16 FP, 9 PP, 13 G, 2 DM = 68) was defending a winning streak in their division. They extended that streak handily. The brass produced a mesmerizingly luscious sound in the opening that managed to be paradoxically soothing during a build into a dramatic finish of the opener.

The percussion played complex licks cleanly while standing on one leg, much to the delight of the audience. The guard had a presence larger than their numbers. The entire corps confidently performed a subtly written drill with seamless transitions. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance and rewarded it with enthusiastic applause.

Dutch Boy – Kitchener, Ont
DCW On-Line Photo by Harry Heidelmark

The members of Dutch Boy (16 B, 13 FP, 11 PP, 14 G, 1 DM = 55) formed little three- and four-person boxes to begin their "Boxed" program, including a cube formed by four limber members of the guard. The motif continued throughout the show, as the first and last set of flags had squares printed on them (the first set a stark white on black, the last red on a bright blue and green background), the guard soloist performed in a box made of frame rifles (when she "escaped" through a gap in the box, she placed her saber in the gap to complete the box) and there were box drill sets interspersed throughout.

The brass gave a very controlled performance of a sophisticated program, which at times hindered their ability to produce the power some moments required. As for the guard, they were a bit more uninhibited and earned first place in the color guard caption in their class. The corps finished strongly and earned respectful applause from the audience.

Long known for fun, accessible and entertaining programs, the Colt Cadets (31 B, 20 FP, 10 PP, 22 G, 2 DM = 85) delivered all three in this year’s "New American Signatures" to the delight of the spectators. The corps picked up confidence and energy throughout the program, which was consistently written at a level of complexity appropriate for the members.

The brass in particular performed strongly, earning a second place in Open Class over Dutch Boy. The audience responded with strong, sincere applause.

To the whooping of the hometown fans, Legends (19 B, 16 FP, 8 PP, 5 G, 1 DM = 49) took the field in their first-ever competitive performance. The powerful, energetic opening gained a good response from the audience. The small guard performed gamely and eeked out a third-place finish in Open Class over the much larger guard of the Colt Cadets. Despite some rough spots later in the show, the corps finished well to warm applause.

After the show, Legends departed to join the last week of the Mid-America Competing Band Directors Association (MACBDA) tour, where they will perform in exhibition at the circuit championship in Traverse City, MI. The corps will rejoin the DCI Open Class tour on July 26 in Buffalo, NY.

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Posted by on Thursday, July 10th, 2008. Filed under DCW On-Line.