DCW On-Line: Lewisburg Review

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Bucs continue winning ways at Lewisburg’s “Cavalcade of Champions”

July 19, 2008 — Lewisburg, PA . . . It was an outstanding night of entertainment — four current and former DCA World Champions in competition, coupled with exhibition units that spanned the drum corps idiom.

With powerful shows that excited the capacity crowd on so many levels, it was a widely mixed audience that included former drum corps members to first-time viewers that were here to witness the Reading Buccaneers extend their undefeated streak and score the latest highest mark for this DCA season and watch the Hawthorne Caballeros and Empire Statesmen slug it out for second and third, respectively, with the Harrison, NJ, Bushwackers rounding out the competition portion of the evening.

It does not happen often, but the Reading Buccaneers took the field first in competition due to a position draw that took place at an earlier DCA meeting (since all four of the competing corps were within the top four positions at last season’s DCA Championship).

Tonight the corps was absolutely brilliant, performing their exciting production of “The Pursuit of Joy” program”. Their highly-musical front ensemble sets a fast tempo, with the color guard’s exciting and powerful choreography that segues into the opening brass statement of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Jay Bocook’s arrangements are exciting and lush, with the layering of the brass voices of the rolling sounds bringing out goosebumps.

Never to be considered a wallflower, the Bucs’ percussion was a pinnacle of precision, with exciting dynamics and expressive performance. This Rich Hammond line is very talented and his arrangements are first-rate, with well-incorporated percussion effects. The front ensemble arrangements are by Mark Lortz and they compliment both the brass and battery beautifully. This was easily the most musical line in tonight’s competition.

It seems the program grows stronger with each outing. The Bucs have such a well- rounded musical and visual presentation and every section brings out their best performance. Tonight, the corps swept every caption with the exception of color guard which, rightfully, belonged to the Bushwackers on this warm evening. Best drum major for the evening was awarded to the Bucs’ Josh Decker.

It gets your heart racing as they enter the field — the Hawthorne Caballeros never fail to bring on an exciting, fast-paced, Latin program. Tonight they performed their “Sketches of Spain” production that was loudly accepted by this pumped up crowd.

The Hawthorne corps can always count on the Lewisburg audience as another “hometown” crowd. From their high powered opening number of Alfred Reed’s El Camino Real that gets your pulse racing and shortens the breath, it’s followed by the Chick Corea numbers Spanish Fantasy and My Spanish Heart which are fantastic with the quality of the Latin feel present from nearly every note. This is a true credit to Dennis Argul’s arrangements and his talented staff.

It is in Spanish Fantasy that we get our first good look at the corps’ percussion line that comes across with panache. The Gary Gill line is very crisp and comes through very clearly. Dimitri Saliaris’ front ensemble is a real bright spot; they are highly musical and support brass and battery with aplomb.

A.J. Kise’s color guard was a beauty this evening as they graced the field with a stylized performance. The guard’s uniforms look fantastic and it compliment the corps’ colors very well while keeping within the show’s visual program. The guard is battling for top honors as they are within five-tenths of the leader this evening.

The closer of Malagueña is just simply fantastic and it never fails to get people off their “Rumps” to a standing ovation during the big charge to the end.

Pure entertainment coupled with an outstanding tribute to the great Vince Bruni, the Empire Statesmen were like a refreshing breeze. This year’s program celebrates the corps’ 25th Anniversary with a program called “Our Way” and it is truly a program that should have Vince smiling down on the corps. It is everything he wanted in a drum corps production.

Under the baton of David Bruni, who is one of the most entertaining drum majors in DCA, the corps uses trumpet soloist Joe Pero to lead off the show while the announcer was introducing the corps. At the right moment the whole group comes together with an outstanding rendition of Moonlight Serenade.

Empire Statesmen – Rochester, NY
DCW On-Line Photo by Dan Scafidi

The show concept is to entertain the audience while celebrating the corps’ long history and their multiple successes during DCA Championship seasons all in their unique Statesmen style.

The brass this evening was magnificent, with their bold, open. The Jim Steele line is very artful and the program is very exciting.

The color guard is very talented, but it becomes somewhat hard to keep track of their performance when they are integrated with the brass and percussion as the guards’ uniform matches a bit too closely in color. Otherwise, the guard has some interesting effects that will garner great marks.

Several large panels display each of the corps’ winning themed shows that began with the intriguing 1997 theme program of “Miss Siagon”. This was followed by a segment from their winning 2004 program of "City of Angels".

Maria was selected to represent the corps’ successful 1998 production of “West Side Story” which features high rifle tosses and a suicide, head-chopping presentation by the cymbal line.

The final selections are a direct salute to Vince Bruni, complete with a large panel painting of “Mr. B” displayed on the backfield 50 yard line. This includes a salute to America and a big final push to the stands and the fans on their feet.

The Bushwackers have taken on a very difficult and original program called “Gypsodic” using original music composed by Key Poulan. The selections are influenced by Serbian, Lebanese, Bulgarian and other gypsy heritage artists such as Boban Markovic, Fanfare Ciocarlia, Kocani Orchestra, La Mystere des Voix Bulgares and Rabih Abou-Khalil.

The program is intriguing, exciting and very difficult, and Bush is making a real show out of it. Musically, it is a joyous celebration with changing meters and difficult synchronized patterns. A few more numbers in the brass line would help balance the overall performance.

The percussion line is also working with a difficult book and there are moments of real quality that should energize the section to continue on their track and this show will mature.

The real standout at this moment is the large and very talented color guard, deservingly taking the high caption this evening. They are an amazing bunch of folks who carry off the total visual package with their modern gypsy costumes. The visual effects with weapons and flags are a true joy to behold. If they stay on their game and continue to mature, they will be a hard group to top at the DCA Championships in Rochester.

The Bushwackers pack a large sound punch that at times makes one forget of the actual numbers on the field. When the corps is able to fill more of the holes and they get the opportunity to clean, this corps is going to surprise a few people. Bush has history of bringing it all together in the final weeks of the season.

While checking out the many corps concession stands, I met up with Richard King and his lovely wife Jean who had just arrived to the show. They are the proud parents of Sean King of DCI East fame and Executive Director of YEA! Richard and Jean will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next year.

Jean remarked to me that they were at the Clifton, NJ, show last week and that they have been around drum corps for almost 47 years. She did whisper to me that she was very confused about the Bushwackers’ 2008 program because, “it was a little too modern for my taste.”

The evening featured several exhibition corps that illustrated the musical and visual gamut of our drum corps community.

Forty-two years after its last appearance at the “Cavalcade of Champions” in 1966, Canada’s famous Preston Scout House Alumni Band marched back into Bucknell University Stadium. The group includes many members who marched on this very field in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The audience had a great time and was tapping their toes to many familiar Scout House songs.

The show begins with a percussion introduction to Waterloo Fanfare, then the band kicks off their marching program by playing Colonel Bogey March. A highly rudimental drum feature leads into Brazil.

The band does a traditional standstill concert featuring a medley of Broadway hits such as There’s No Business Like Show Business, Tonight from “West Side Story” and Music of the Night from “Phantom of the Opera”.

Next, the band marches out of the concert playing Oklahoma that is quickly followed by a percussion feature seguing into their most popular number, The Wayward Wind.

It has been years since many have seen them on the field, but the clear, crisp sound of six glockenspiels introduces the band’s famous Waltzing Matilda that was followed by the final selection of Wish Me Luck, then a reprise of Waterloo Fanfare brought the field show to a stirring climax.

Preston Scout House Alumni Band – Preston, Ont
DCW On-Line Photo by David Rice

When the infamous Jim Russo enters the field, the buzz started in the stands. These people love their Caballeros Alumni Corps and especially its drum major.

Tonight they took a different approach as they formed in the back field line in a tight semi-circle while Taps was played in honor of their fallen comrade, Eleanor Dube, who was killed in a recent auto accident. The audience waited patiently and respectively while the corps held a moment of remembrance.

Then the corps formed up again and Jim led them on to the field with his typical swagger and panache. It is absolutely amazing how this man can work the crowd. Three ladies near me were practically dancing in the aisle.

Soloist extraordinaire Frank Ponzo called the bulls and they came out charging to Pictures of Spain and the crowd was on their feet.

Following the corps’ very cool percussion feature, the trio of Frank Ponzo, Curt Hawkins and Duke Terrari set themselves at the front line to wow the audience with their outstanding performance of Flamenca Cha Cha. The crowd ate it up and wanted more. This corps knows how to sell their highly-successful program and they never fail to entertain.

“The Commandant’s Own” Marine Drum and Bugle Corps followed the combined high school performing their highly-musical 2008 field program, “Music in Motion”. The corps’ first half opens with an original composition by Chief Warrant Officer-4 Brian Dix called 1801. This was followed by a rhythmic and visual percussion feature with a funny titled called The Story of Mumble Happy Feet.

They close their first half with Malagueña. The second half opened with Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Finale, Allegro Non Troppo”, from his Fifth Symphony. This was followed by a medley from the Tony Award- winning Broadway Show “Jersey Boys” that featured songs from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The Marine Drum and Bugle Corps concluded their 2008 program with their signature performance of John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever”.

Starting off the program this evening was the combined Mifflinburg and Lewisburg high school marching bands. They performed America the Beautiful that was followed by a recording of the Canadian National Anthem where you could hear the sweet voices of the Preston Scout House Alumni Band. Then the band performed the National Anthem with the entire audience singing along.

Nestled within the band was a large honor guard contingent that represented each of the military services. This was used as a backdrop to the band’s military tribute that included the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Air Force. The band received a standing ovation for their inspired performance.

The Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium at Bucknell University was in fantastic condition and a near perfect environment for this outstanding show. The show benefited the annual Union County Veterans Fourth of July Parade as well as the Mifflinburg and Lewisburg high school marching bands.

Prior to the start of the festivities, I had a great opportunity to hook up with two members of the Preston Scout House Alumni Band including Diane McHutchion, a six-year member of the color guard, relatively new to the band! Ted McCreary joined the Preston Scout House in 1959 and last performed here at the “Cavalcade of Champions” back in 1961 (the band performed at this show nine times from 1956 to1966). He originally joined the band after marching with a small B corps called the Brantford Belltones.

“I never marched in a band or drum corps before joining Scout House,” remarked Diane. Her love for the corps was strictly from watching the band perform. “I loved the tradition and the style of marching and the legs on the color guard members,” she said humorously.

She went on to tell me that her decision to join Scout House was made when she went to see her nephew perform in Dutch Boy and Scout House was in the show. Afterwards, she started to attend many of the band’s practices and found out that she could be in the color guard.

They both agreed that there is a mystic with this corps that has always been there, wth the distinctive look and marching style. “Being called a band has always made the corps distinctive,” added McHutchion. The new version grew out of originally being a part of the scouting program of 1st Preston Troop back in 1938. They used B-flat bugles from their inception and this became a problem with American drum and bugle corps based on G bugles. Further, the distinctive marching style that was based on the British Military 96 steps per minute was too different than their American competition that was based on 125-150 steps per minute.

“I loved everything we’ve done with this band,” said Diane who also indicated she is with the Preston Scout House drill team. “We have an awesome show that we perform at G.A.S. every spring.” She added that she loved the camaraderie that exists with the corps. “We have so much fun on these trips,” and she lamented, “the workout is amazing!”

Ted joined and then went into the military for 10 years after his time with Preston Scout House. He spoke about how his experience with the corps developed his discipline. When he was discharged from the military, “I missed being a part of the band.”

Even though he is a member of the color guard, he is actually a horn player and was one of the first in the horn line to rejoin when the band reformed in 1993. However, he developed a throat problem that was serious enough to make him put down his horn for a couple of years.

The most intriguing aspect of our conversation was the level of affection in their voices as they spoke about the band, their fellow members and to the activity that has captured their hearts for so many years.

In the midst of all the excitement of the show, there was a somber note to the evening when it was learned that the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Corps was mourning the loss of one of their own. Eleanor “Ellie” Dube tragically lost her life after being involved in an automobile accident on the way back to Boston from the Caballeros’ “Grand Prix” on June 19. Eleanor was a member of the Cab Alumni color guard and was travelling as a passenger to her home in Haverhill, MA.

Accompanying Eleanor was Stanley Michalski who also marches with Cab Alumni as a contra bass player. Thankfully, Stanley Michalski escaped the accident with only minor injuries. We at Drum Corps World and Drum Corps Planet send our condolences to both the Dube family and the Caballeros organization on their loss, and to Stanley Michalski and his family with the hope of a speedy recovery.

"People know how wonderful of a family evening this is, and we get the best drum and bugle corps in the East to come in, so we are seeing more and more an increase of early ticket buys," said Graham Showalter, event organizer.

You may discuss this review on the DCP Forums. We’d love to hear your feedback.

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Posted by on Saturday, July 26th, 2008. Filed under DCW On-Line.