DCW On-Line: Manassas Review

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Bucs sets new High Score Record at Sound of the South Show

July 5, 2008 — Manassas, VA . . . It was an incredible evening of firsts, extending win streaks, meeting up with old friends and seeing two very special DCA loved ones that were totally unexpected and an extraordinary delight.

The Reading Buccaneers were on fire this evening with their lush “Pursuit of Joy” drum corps celebration show as they bested their closest competitor, the Connecticut Hurricanes, who also wowed this enthusiastic crowd with an updated retrospective show that harkens back to the corps’ 1999 program.

This was Shenandoah Sounds’ third hosted competition since their inception and it was a resounding success for the corps, the fans and the competing drum corps.

It was a fantastic evening of drum corps. There was a rain shower in the area last evening and there were threatening lightning storms forecast all evening, but it was like the weather gods were smiling on Sean Peck (Shenandoah Sound director) since nary a drop was felt until well after the show concluded and most of the audience had already left the stadium area.

It was an amazing evening running into old friends not seen in several years and catching up with family and friends. While speaking to Ray Troxell (TOB Chapter 10 Coordinator), I suddenly spied Fran and Barb Haring coming into the stadium. Fran is the “Voice of DCA” show announcer and his wife Barb was the DCA I&E Coordinator before she was stricken with a major stroke that shocked the DCA community a couple of seasons ago. Tom Peashey (DCA PR Director) recently wrote a “Profile in Courage” message on the Drum Corps Planet forum where he described Barb’s remarkable fight and comeback when she was seen at her first drum corps show sitting next to her husband at the DCA season opener held in Wildwood, NJ.

Before the start of the evening performances, I spoke briefly with John Hoekstra who is the Sun Devils’ executive director and has 42 years of continuous drum corps experience. He staffed or marched such noted corps as Teal Sound, Minnesota Brass, Kilties and marched CorpsVets. He is also the corps’ co-program coordinator for the 2008 production, “The Last Samurai”, with an score composed by Hans Zimmer. The current show was developed by the corps’ brass arranger (and the corps’ other co-program coordinator), Mark Cole (soon to graduate with his PhD), who originally wrote the show for a high school band and “due to the short band season, felt the program did not reach its full potential”, says Hoekstra. Mark wanted to see if the show could come to fruition over a longer summer season.

The Sun Devil was an idea started in November 11 at a meeting last year and quickly matured to the group standing here this evening. With the brass, percussion, concession booth and truck donated from the former Heat Wave from Orlando, FL, the corps was able to secure a great deal for uniforms and borrowed front ensemble equipment from the Poinciana HS.

Many of the corps’ staff and members travel upwards of two to three hours to assemble in Kissimmee, FL, which is the home base. The corps is very grateful for the support and use of Poinciana High School and especially to the school’s principal, Dr. Peter Straker, and band director Amanda Bork.

The 45 members in the corps are a mix of both drum corps experience and local talent from around the Kissimmee area. Some of the members have performed with such corps as Teal Sound, Crossmen, Cadets and Phantom Regiment.

The Sun Devils have a highly experienced staff such as Trevor Rigby, visual caption head, who marched with the Blue Devils and Magic. He is assisted by Alan Mundy who marched Heat Wave, and John Johnson. Doug Beard is handling the percussion duties with his long experience in the Cadets, Santa Clara Vanguard and Velvet Knights. He is assisted by Ryan Hinton, former member of the Madison Scouts and Spirit of Atlanta. Other percussion assistants include Billy Dean (tenor tech) and Mike Feeley (bass tech). Assisting Mark Cole with music is Mary Ann Sickon who is also the Gainesville HS band director, and is assisted by Eddie Wong.

Writer’s note: In honor of the Sun Devils’ debut performance, this article includes a Japanese proverb selected especially for each performing corps. Hope you enjoy.

Reading Buccaneers, Reading, PA

“If one man praises you, a thousand will repeat the praise.”
– Japanese Proverbs

It was like they simply walked off the bus from the 2007 DCA World Championship and landed here in Manassas. The Reading Buccaneers took the field with such confidence and sheer performance power. The corps is on an early track to their 44th straight victory and to a possible fourth consecutive DCA World Championship title with a program called “The Pursuit of Joy”. It is a program of both classical and contemporary symphonic music that is truly heaven sent.

All sections of the corps brought forth the best in their performance. Pachelbel’s Canon in D is sheer brass power and brilliance of the plus 50 members. The performance and presentation was outstanding and the crowd showed their appreciation enthusiastically. From the rolling sounds of Canon in D to the aggressive, fast-paced Abram’s Pursuit by David Holsinger, the Bucs were off the chart with a visual program that reflects the lively and kinetic mood of the piece. The music is beautifully complex, with the shifts in time signature and with overall rhythmic richness.

It began with Walt Street’s stirring baritone solo to Giacomo Puccini’s Nessun Dorma (Let No Man Sleep) that this beautiful ballad simply comes to life. The richness of the melody was not lost to this audience as they listened intently to the rolling voices. When the Bucs hit the company front in Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (Ludwig’s Ninth Symphony) presentation you can feel the power build to a fantastic climax. With strains of Canon in D woven into the production, the corps charges the front line with the crowd rising to their feet.

The Buccaneers have another winning program with a corps of highly talented performers. Besides the color guard caption, they swept all captions in tonight’s competition.

Connecticut Hurricanes, Derby, CT
“Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse.”
– Japanese Proverbs

This is already shaping up to be one of the most competitive DCA seasons to date. Coming off a recent successful performance at the Bridgeport, CT, show, the Connecticut Hurricanes brought their excellent western theme show, “Journey West”, to this small hamlet 31 miles west of D.C.

The corps begins their visual show from the far-right corner of the field and using the sublime Aaron Copeland music of Billy the Kid Suite, they moved from right to left on the field, illustrating the journey westward. The music is beautifully performed and echoes the harmonies that give Billy the Kid its sense of emptiness and loneliness that was performed very subtly and artistically.

With Phil Waselik kicking it as solo baritone, the Hurcs’ rendition of Frank Skinner’s Shenandoah whisks the listener to another musical world with its somber qualities and lush tones. The transition to Frederick Loewe’s They Call the Wind Mariah (and the corps’ theme song) was beautifully handled.

The color guard was on fire this evening as they captured first in their caption. They are so well-integrated into the program and display a great deal of showmanship and talent throughout. Percussion has improved greatly under the tutelage of Kevin Murphy and his techs. The front ensemble was a real treat this evening as they had a great ensemble quality.

It is great that the Hurcs have reintroduced their trademark Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein. This year they start slowly using the contra line to feed into the momentum, then the trumpet of Doug Oravez sounds and the goosebumps are back once again.

Music City Legend, Nashville, TN
“Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.”
– Japanese Proverb

What an outstanding treat to see Music City Legend from Nashville, TN, so early in the season. With a show titled “They’re Playing Our Song”, the corps offers up some great musical and visual effects right from the start. The show concept is based around a boy and a girl who meet for the first time and their relationship blossoms. The show is an attention-getter from the start, with the front ensemble already performing while the beautiful drum major, Ashley Nilles, ascended the podium much to the delight of many in the stands.

The first number is a lively rendition of Henry Mancini’s Moon River which opens with a quartet of brass while the two lead color guard members first see each other across the field and come together and dance. Musically, a well-coordinated performance and they certainly know how to pump up the volume. The front ensemble is very talented and makes the segue between numbers.

Not to be outshined, the field percussion is very expressive and has a strong book. This will be a group to watch closely through the 2008 season as the production matures. One of the most notable pieces this evening was the version of Assassin’s Tango by John Powell; a very sensual, dramatic and well-staged production. This is where contra soloist Joe Murphy really sells his unique, stylized performance (dubbed the “screaming contra”).

The final number, Rock This Town by Brian Setzer, is a hoot even though the visual program is incomplete. The brass moves up front and makes a strong attempt to move the stands back three feet on the sheer volume of the brass. It is all fun, fun, fun and good, good, good. Watch this corps makes some serious waves at the DCA Championship.

Fusion Core, Morris County, NJ
“We’ve arrived, and to prove it we’re here.”
-Japanese Proverb

In a show that truly exemplifies their 2008 program called “Momentum”, Fusion Core came out of the gate smoking from the first steps of the percussion lead number, Kinetic Energy by Chris Kilian. The color guard was impressive from the very start with their well-constructed and expressive choreography.

When the brass makes their entrance, it was with great energy and nicely developed musical construction. This only set the stage for the next number which was the Jeff Beal tune Fracture Speak. This outstanding jazz piece was introduced in a brass duet that is quickly picked up by a quad set of trumpets. The effect was incredible and showed some very intelligent program writing.

The visual staging was nicely done and made for a highly enjoyable experience. The ballad of Sam Hazo’s Today is a Gift was excellent, with an entry of a solo contra that established a quiet, somber effect that was mirrored by the rest of the section showing off the musicality of the brass line.

It was nice to see a corps that has already added so much visual body work so early in the season within the brass section. Percussion was nicely featured and has a nice book that will be a real standout once they clean up the performance a bit more. The final number, Sam Hazo’s Ride, picks up the pace for a strong ending. Like most of the other corps this evening, there is much to be added visually to complete the program, but what was presented is already a fantastic start to this highly competitive season.

Carolina Gold, Rocky Mount, NC
“One written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold.”
– Japanese Proverb

Returning to the competition field after a year off, Carolina Gold has a fascinating production called “American Holidays”. This show has original music from Dennis Argul and Jon Randall, along with several numbers from such notable composers as John Rutter and William Shuman.

The corps had a spirited performance from the first note of the original composition, New Year. The program is designed to lead the audience through the year in celebration of holidays, where Easter is introduced by John Rutter’s Gloria, followed by an Independence Day celebration through Shuman’s explosive and patriotic composition of Chester.

The rest of the production includes a Halloween medley and concludes with another original composition of Carol of the Bells and Five Golden Rings.

This was Gold’s very first performance along with Shenandoah Sound and Sun Devils. The corps put a very strong foot forward and it will be a great season for DCA fans as the corps pulls the visual performance to match up with the music. Much the same as the other three smaller corps, Gold will need to finish their production before they can work on perfecting it. Brass has some strong individual voices and will be superior if the whole line can improve on the ensemble elements.

Percussion is the bright element of the program at this juncture, with expressive attacks and some well-placed, dynamic phrases. Visually, the program is hard to read from such a low angle, but it is obvious a place that needs some work to complete. Color guard needs visual cohesion to match up to the overall production. The black over black outfits did not help convey the show concepts, but that is only a matter of time.

Sun Devils, Kissimmee, FL
“A fog cannot be dispelled by a fan.”
– Japanese Proverbs

With a show designed and titled “The Last Samurai”, the Florida Sun Devils made their 2008 DCA competition debut performance here in Manassas and it was a great success. The corps traveled well in excess of 1,800 miles to perform at several parades in Maryland and compete at this show.

The corps is outfitted in a stylish uniform of rust-colored jackets over black pants with the color guards wearing a pseudo modern outfit. They used the front ensemble to give the production a more Japanese styling with the members sporting Hachimakis (headbands). The Hans Zimmer original composition for the film is beautiful and highly dramatic and the corps represented the music well, but with some hesitation (heck it was their very first competition). It was a fairly well-balanced production delivered with style by all sections and it has much potential to be a show to watch come to the DCA World Championship.

Shenandoah Sound, Manassas Park, VA
“We learn little from victory, much from defeat.”
– Japanese Proverbs

As one of several firsts in tonight’s competition, Shenandoah Sound has successfully returned to the DCA competition field with an intriguing 2008 production called “Fresh and Live”.

It was obvious who the host organization of tonight’s festivities was as several people in the stands shouted out to the different members and also yelled encouragement.

The corps opened their 2008 jazz production with a Frank Sinatra standard titled I’m Gonna Live Til I Die which the corps performed with much enthusiasm. It starts fast and there is much to listen for, but there is a balance issue with the overall performance with the 14-member brass line so it may take some time to get it to a good competitive performance level.

The corps’ very pretty ballad is Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, with a nicely-voiced lower brass arrangement. The corps’ percussion kicked off the best number of the corps’ performance this evening which was Frank Sinatra’s exciting “Blue Moon”. The percussion section is highly expressive and the brass showed their musicality chops. This number truly shows what this corps is capable of as they pull the rest of the program together. The corps only played their final number, Queen Latifah’s Love Being Here With You, as a standstill so it will be interesting to see where they take this production.

“The Commandant’s Own” Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, Washington, DC
“To teach is also to learn.”
– Japanese Proverbs

Kicking off the evenings’ presentation was “The Commandant’s Own” Marine Drum and Bugle Corps performing the National Anthem followed by their highly-musical 2008 field program, “Music in Motion”. The corps’ first half of their 2008 program opens with and 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.

The corps closes their first half of the program 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 & 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.

The show, stadium and overall facilities here at Manassas Park High School were first-rate and the management, staff and volunteers of the Shenandoah Sound did a fantastic job this evening. It would be great if the corps can make this a permanent site for their annual show. The smiling faces of the audience and listening to the casual chatter gave all indications that everyone had a excellent evening.

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

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Posted by on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008. Filed under DCW On-Line.