Yokohama Scouts Celebrate Twenty Years With Fourth Championship Title
The sun shined brightly on this cold Tokyo day as Drum Corps Japan (DCJ) hosted its Annual All-Japan Championships at Ajinomoto Stadium this past Sunday. Ten ensembles from around Japan came together in this unique (for Japan) outdoor event.
Adjudication for this event was a joint collaboration between Drum Corps Japan and Drum Corps International. Judging general effect was Jeff Harper in music and Michael Gray in visual. John Howell was judging visual ensemble, Allan Kristensen was judging music ensemble and Lee Carlson was in charge of color guard. On the field was Katsumi Okawa judging brass performance, Yoshiyuki Tanaka and Shinichiro Komori judging percussion performance and Masahiro Kato judging visual performance.
Competition opened with the Any-Key Division, a new division formed last year with the effort of extending DCJ participation to brass ensembles not using G bugles. Fukushima Sound Dream, making their first DCJ appearance, reminded the audience that size does not always equal sound as they filled the stadium with their full and well balanced sound. Dream took third place with their show, "Jekyll and Hyde," playing music from the musical production of the same name.
In second was the ever so cute, but nothing short of astonishing Shonan Dolphins, performing music from "Treasure Planet." The Dolphins, whose average age can be best compared with the Blue Devils C corps, showed a superb level of musicianship for their age while marching open class caliber drill . Their level of confidence fit right in with the adult groups, earning both the high color guard and high visual effect awards in their division.
Genesis made their second appearance at DCJ this year, earning themselves first place with their production, "Witch Land." The show was a twist in a new direction for Genesis, who have been known in the past for their successful and highly entertaining jazz shows, introducing four witches who represented four distinctive colors and elements. Though the concept itself seemed a bit hard to sell, their highly technical music and drill books earned them both the high brass and visual awards, as well as high percussion.
After a 15 minute intermission, the Sonic Lancers took the field with their show titled, "Escape." Mimicking the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the Lancers intertwined a number of traps that the couple mingled through as they desperately tried to free themselves from the clutches of the evil witch. This year’s production, showing a much improved and balanced horn line with a wicked clean drum line, proved to be their best performance since 2002 and their first win over the Cherry Blossoms in DCJ championships competition since 1998.
The Tokyo Cherry Blossoms, though hurting in numbers this year, made it up with a who’s who in classic drum corps with their show, "Jazzy Night." The Cherry Blossoms took the audience on a trip down memory lane, performing Spirit of Altanta’s signature piece, "Georgia On My Mind," "Open Up Wide," performed by the Saints, "El Gasto Trite," made known to the drum corps community by power house corps Oakland Crusaders and Reading Buccaneers, "The Way We Were," performed by the Bleu Raeders and Connecticut Hurricanes, as well as a few drum line excerpts from the Blue Devils and Bridgemen of the early 1980s brought tears to the eyes of the hard corps fans. The Cherry Blossoms mixed a well balanced sound throughout the small corps, making good use of props to expand their use of the field.
Phoenix Regiment (1991 DCI Class A-60 5th place finalist) put on a very well crafted and choreographed production of "Noble Element." A phenomenal color guard who demonstrated their skills in dance helped the Regiment to a second place finish.
Tokyo Phoenix, who moved down to Division II due to a smaller corps this year, earned their second DCJ championship title (2002 Division I champions) with their production, "Seascape." Their show depicted a number of water elements, including water droplets creating concentric reactions and a giant whale swimming across the field among other things. Tokyo Phoenix demonstrated very strong skills in their rifle line and a dangerously well balanced brass line, earning them the day’s high brass award. Their drum major also earned the high drum major award.
The defending division II champions Jokers from the western side of Japan found themselves in division I this year with a 61 member corps, their largest in the corps’ history, but one man too large for the lower division. Their show, "Crossroads," has been reviewed in previous 2008 articles (see: 2008 Kansai Regional Report), but every turnout sees this show get cleaner, better, and more entertaining than their last showing. Despite their third place finish, the Jokers are one in a few that can put a concept behind a show and sell it, and sell it they did this year.
After losing a seat in the Japan marching band national contest for the first time since 1988 (2007 was an exhibition year), the Yokohama Inspires (2-time DCA Open Class finalist) were finishing up what some local enthusiasts thought to be a dead year for the defending 2008 Division I champions after losing their entire show and creative staff, but ended up to be seen as nothing more than a transition year as the young and new staff began filling the large shoes left behind. In the end, the Inspires brought together a brilliantly choreographed show by Wesley Bullock to Vincent Oliver’s arrangements of the Mexican favorite, "Danzon No.2," complete with a full corps dance, and "Malaga," with a powerful horn line unlike any the Inspires had produced in its recent past. Along with its visually loud color guard, the Inspires production, "Nuevo Ritmo," is a fine and highly entertaining show to add to their history vault.
But alas, the visual ingenious presented by both the Jokers and Inspires could not match the size and cleanliness of the twentieth anniversary edition of the Yokohama Scouts (2-time DCI Division III finalist). With their show titled, "The Velocity," the Scouts 120- manned corps combined both a well written drill with a solid music book on all ends to give them their fourth championships title and first in three years. The Yokohama Scouts also earned the high percussion, visual, color guard and general effect awards.
2009 Drum Corps Japan All-Japan Championships Results
Any- Key Division
1 – 74.05 Genesis
2 – 70.50 Shonan Dolphins
3 – 63.85 Fukushima Sound Dream
High Brass: Genesis
High Percussion: Genesis
High Visual: Genesis
High Color Guard: Shonan Sound Dream
High General Effect: Shonan Sound Dream
High Drum Major: Shonan Sound Dream
1 – 85.75 Tokyo Phoenix
2 – 74.20 Phoenix Regiment
3 – 69.80 Sonic Lancers
4 – 65.05 Tokyo Cherry Blossoms
1 – 91.75 Yokohama Scouts
2 – 88.90 Inspires
3 – 82.95 Jokers
High Brass: Tokyo Phoenix
High Percussion: Yokohama Scouts
High Visual: Yokohama Scouts
High Color Guard: Yokohama Scouts
High General Effect: Yokohama Scouts
High Drum Major: Tokyo Phoenix
Full recaps are available at dcjpn.org (http://www.dcjpn.org/cgi-bin/dlcnt/dlcnt.cgi?file=f_ajc2009)
This year’s Drum Corps Japan All-Japan Championships brought together an array of show ideas that were entertaining from start to finish. Though the season had come to end this past Sunday, the fun still continues as Drum Corps Japan will host its annual Individual and Ensemble contest on Sunday, February 8, at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium. More information is available at dcjpn.org.
A special thank you to David Rice for his contributions to this review.