DCW On-Line: Bridgeport Review

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Connecticut Hurricanes victorious at "Barnum Festival"

June 27, 2009 – Bridgeport, CT . . . Twenty-seven years is a long time to wait for anything, but tonight the Connecticut Hurricanes’ long wait is over as they took first place honors at "Champions on Parade." The event was sponsored by the “Barnum Festival” committee, with fellow DCW staff writer "Ace” Holleran serving as emcee. The weather conditions were ideal and Kennedy Stadium was filled with fans who gave each corps in competition and exhibition their fullest attention and vocal support.

The Hurricanes’ storm winds blow Westward again in 2009 as they celebrate the period in our history with their "Gold Rush" program. The lovely Kate Socha returns to the drum major’s podium and won high honors as Best Drum Major this evening. The corps opens with "Call of the Mountain" as the drill pattern flows from left to center-stage in circular forms.

Last year’s DCA champion color guard breaks out blue and silver silks while the brass line uses rotating files which compress to a wedge form. Justin Mitnik has done an excellent job with the horn line and fans will be very impressed with what they hear this summer. The saloon doors swing open as the contra line starts the "Can Can" percussion feature with the horn line and color guard portraying some zany characters.

A hint of the corps trademark "Mag 7" is heard before trumpet soloist Chris Emong ends this production. Michael Klesch has arranged Aaron Copland’s "The Red Pony" extremely well, with the brass line playing to the backfield and the mellophone section set at center stage surrounded by seven sabers.

The brass duet of James Covington and James Haber is showcased in this number, while Whitney King is the solo yellow silk. The lush ballad "Grover’s Corner" features all aspects of the corps and Sarah Zello as the solo saber at the end.

Get ready for the big finish as the drum line enters the field from the far left corner with their trademark "Downfall" cadence. As their volume increases, so did the fans’ rhythmic clapping to the drum beat and then the big musical hit from the horn line in the closing number, "Silverado." Surrounded by purple and gold silks, the brass line moves in a line form across midfield before the big push ending to the stands as fans were on their feet with a huge standing ovation.

After keeping a low profile in the off-season, the Connecticut Hurricanes enter the field in 2009 with the storm warning flags flying at their highest point as they made a very strong opening statement to the DCA community that they are serious contenders this season.

Another strong season lies ahead for the Hawthorne Caballeros as their 2009 program, "Ritmos de Passion" (the Rhythms of Passion), is pure, in-your-face energy. Glenn Stevens is atop the podium as the horn line teases with "España Cani" before turning to the fast-paced "Amparito Roca," with the color guard using yellow and brown silks.

The percussion line is strong again this year, while the front ensemble is large and well- taught. The trumpet line may be one of DCA’s best by Labor Day as the Cabs have always been solid in this area. The color guard switches to large purple silks and pass through the horn line before ending at front stage with the horns in a block form behind them. I truly enjoyed "Time to Say Goodbye" as the ballad.
A strong saber section surrounds the brass duet, with the brass playing to the backfield before turning to the front in a powerful burst of sound. The brass line ends in a kneeling position to accent the visual presentation.

Arrangers Gary Gil and Dennis Argul wrote an original composition, "El Diablo Rojo," as the horn line displays many body visuals during the percussion feature. A very strong weapons section lends their support to this fast-paced selection. The closer of "A Mis Abuelos" is filled with energy, velocity and much power as trumpet soloist Mike Ferreira leads the way.

A large company front push by the corps is surrounded by yellow pastel silks as the trumpet trio of Mike Ferreira, Drew Wilke and Kyle Thompson is spotlighted before giving way to a large brass ending. The 2009 season promises to be another strong one for the Hawthorne Caballeros.

The fan’s favorite tonight had to be the CorpsVets from Atlanta, GA. After enduring a nine and a half hour delay arriving in Bridgeport due to a bus breakdown and losing a day of rehearsal time, the corps came to play and entertain, and that they did in a large way. DM Marvin Fontaine had the corps primed and ready to give fans their money’s worth with their "Southern Suite" program.

The corps opens in file forms as the big brass sound begins "I Got Plenty O’ Nothin”’ “ The color guard is dressed in solid pink uniforms and displays multicolored silks in the opening presentation. Solid third-place placings in all captions except percussion should be a springboard for the corps this season.

A much-improved color guard can only help boost the visual scores as the season progresses. The ballad "First Letter" was well-received before leading into "Miss Otis Regrets" which gave the ensemble time to shine. Hunter Moss is truly a pleasure to hear in his trumpet solo work and he has a supporting cast of soloists that any corps would be happy to have.

The closer of "Maybe God is Tryin’ to Tell You Something" brought the house down for a huge standing ovation. The City of Bridgeport has always welcomed the CorpsVets and the reception and cheers they received tonight were well-deserved. The corps may be a sleeper to monitor closely as we move forward in the DCA season.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this year’s Bushwackers and their "Scenes from a Psychotic Circus" program. The write-up states that this is going to be a drum corps adventure the likes of which have never been seen. I agree with this totally as they portray the circus theme atmosphere from start to finish with many twists and turns sprinkled throughout.

Brass caption head Chris Killian leads the corps on the field during this unique production. The color guard is very large and as always will be in the hunt for top honors in Rochester. They use blue circular platforms with a yellow star in the center and utilize them in their weapons and silk work in their dance assignments.

The percussion line gave a solid showing. Although the front ensemble was small in numbers, they played with a lot of energy and talent. A nice mello phone soloist began the dark portion of the show, with members of the guard wearing white face masks to portray their roles effectively.

The closing number ties the program all together as "Thunder and Blazes" gives you the pure circus feel to a strong and effective trumpet section leading the way. The horn line builds in volume and weaves in and out of the drill forms, then pushes in a left-to-right wedge and finish for the fans.

The Bushwackers are always noted for starting out slow and finishing strong. This year is no exception. With only 18 horns and three in the front ensemble, the numbers game is the only thing holding this corps back at the present time. As the membership numbers increase, I know that the circus wagons will be rolling in high gear. Before tonight, I did not think that by the name of the program only I would not get into it. I stand corrected as I can’t wait to see it again in Wayne in two weeks.

As the Rochester Crusaders entered the field, the first thing that everyone noticed was the small size of the corps. Two snare drums, five color guard, five front percussion ensemble and 23 horns. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to business manager Dave Hobart who informed me that, due to graduations and other events, the corps marched 27 holes this evening! I totally commend the Crusaders for making the long trip down and presenting their program to the fans.

Their 2009 production is titled "Land and Space – the music of Gustav Holst" and opens with "Intro to Mars and Jupiter" from “The "Planets." The brass line is in files set to the left as they begin their show. "Moorside March" begins with the horn line playing to the backfield, then merges into a V-form wedge push to the front.

Rochester Crusaders, Rochester, NY
Photo by Moe Knox
Courtesy of Drum Corps World

The Crusaders have a very talented trumpet soloist this year who teams with a contra player to display their talents. The closing production of "Hymn from Jupiter" ends a fine showing by the Rochester Crusaders and DM Carol O’ Brien should be very proud of her corps for performing under these conditions. The corps has dedicated the 2009 season to percussion arranger and instructor Rick Rogers who passed away and to his memory. I look forward to seeing the Crusaders again at full strength.

The Park City Pride brass ensemble started the evening with a pre-show concert while the PAL Buccaneers presented their nautical theme show.

DCI Open Class contender Teal Sound from Jacksonville, FL, performed their 2009 program, "The Velvet Rope," in exhibition. The corps uses red velvet ropes between silver base stands across the field to accent the shows theme. DM Robert Duncan leads the corps as the 55 horns are fully balanced in all sections. For the first time on the field in 2009, you would not have known it by the performance tonight.

This corps is loaded in all sections as the color guard and percussion supports the brass line to their fullest. I wasn’t sure if I would like the small rock band (three guitars, drum set and electronic keyboard) but I really got into their performance. I was told later in the evening that Teal Sound would definitely be asked to return next year. The fans gave the corps a large standing ovation at the end of their performance.

To conclude the evening, the hometown corps, Park City Pride, gave an entertaining a powerful performance. Hall of Fame Drum Major Bob Findley leads the corps through their jazz theme show. "Start Each Day With a Song" opens with a working flag squad behind the brass line and eight rifles at center stage.

Sometime during the season you have to catch the rifle/cymbal/musical instrument sections that these lovely eight ladies can perform. Talk about multitasking!

The percussion feature had the fans up from their seats while John Donovan on baritone solo began "As Time Goes By." Mike Marella, Bob Bradley and Art Hylwa are the trumpet soloists in "I’ll Be Seeing You," which set up the grand finale that salutes our men and women of the Armed Forces. Red, white, and blue silks filled the field in "America" as Park City Pride entertained the fans in a big way. An encore of "Barnum" was then presented.

An Olympic-style retreat followed, with scores and special awards being announced. The Hawthorne Caballeros took High Brass honors, while the Hurricanes took Color Guard, Drum Major, Percussion and Visual.

Ringmaster Michael Niedermeir, a drum corps fan for 30 years, complimented all of the corps and the fans for being so respectful and cheering every corps. The Connecticut Hurricanes then performed an emotional and joyous victory concert before many of the remaining fans.

Thanks to Mike Marella and his Barnum staff for their superb hospitality. Special thanks to DCA officials Gil Silva, Red Corso and Glen Johnson for their valuable assistance.

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

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Posted by on Monday, July 6th, 2009. Filed under DCW On-Line.