DCW On-Line: Fairfield, OH Review

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July 6, 2009 – Fairfield, OH . . . The Cavaliers shot out of the gate tonight with a rousing performance of “The Great Divide.” Earlier in the day, I attended their rehearsal in Centerville, OH. With each set that was being perfected, I could tell that the directors, as well as the performers, knew they had reached another level of performance. Chris Wray, weapon tech from Indianapolis, had just returned the day before from a week away getting some business done at home. He said it has taken him all day to learn all the new changes that had taken place in the show in just one week…and he was still learning.

Throughout this show, there are nuances dropped constantly about The Great Divide. Much of it is represented in the guard, but is only completed with the help of the horn line. One instance is when a guard member, Tim, (I wasn’t able to get his last name so I just call him Tim the Mountain Climber) stands in front of a wall of horn players. A few horns at a time kneel in different directions while Tim climbs up until finally reaching the summit and jumps off. The colors of the silks throughout the show are breathtaking. The horn line and percussion have now stepped up and are playing some tough licks and runs to push this show into contention come August. Charles Combs, second year guard from Scottsburg, IN, said, “This is such a challenging show, that each week presents another level of performance in which we are being pushed. I love it.”

Cavaliers, Rosemont, IL
Photo by Harry Heidelmark
Courtesy of Drum Corps World

Phantom Regiment has also stepped up their game. Coming in just tenths behind the Cavaliers in music, one can not help but be impressed by the wall of sound that comes from this corps. Yes, the story telling of “The Red Violin” isn’t the dynamic story told a year ago about Spartacus that won them the championship, but this story is nonetheless powerful. With each viewing, the characters in the story are giving much more believable presentations to entertain the audience. The percussion is making a push this year for the drum trophy with quite a wonderful book. The horn line is coming across more dynamic with some changes in drill over the last week. But it is evident by the look on some of the faces of the instructors during the performance that there is still work to be done with the feet. It will be such entertainment in two weeks when everyone meets in Murfreesboro, TN, just to see who will come out on top of this close race for the top five.

One of the chasers for this top five spot is The Blue Stars. The changes in their show, “The Factory,” are making this show come to life with each performance I see. In the opening segment of the show, the factory workers are busy at the sewing tables sewing material. While part of the guard is spinning flags with scissors on them, another section is taking two sabers and crisscrossing them and pretending to cut material held by other members. From time to time in the show, all members of the corps, not just the guard, takes their turn in the factory and works the machines. Corps members stand on the chairs, dance around the tables, and dart in and out of the set, all while playing music or spinning equipment. The drill is fast and furious, but it is also subtle and pretty when it needs to be. Last year Blue Stars shot into that top ten for the first time in two decades, and I’m sure they are headed that direction once again.

Another familiar face in the top ten each year is The Glassmen. The concept of “The Journey of One” is presented so well that a novice drum corps fan can pick up on the idea. In the opening, there are several “one” performers spread out across the field. There is one horn, one drummer, and one guard member, all being directed by one field commander. When they all reach the first hit with a thunderous “one” note, the audience is bombarded with “one” terrific show. This is probably my favorite Glassmen show of late. Each flag the guard presents has a huge Roman Numeral I on it, each time a different vibrant color. Tonight the low brass seemed to stand out as the dominant force in the show. The mellow sounds of the mellophones during the ballad is beautiful. The percussion is doing some fine sticking while sometimes at a high rate of speed. But all in all, I believe this is the best guard they have fielded in a while. They are quite the performers, always projecting that great smile all the way to the top of the stands. People in Ohio tonight demonstrated their appreciation to their neighbor to the north with a standing ovation.

Striving for a spot in that coveted top twelve each year is Spirit. The audience is bewildered at first with one of the horn players barking out directions to the performers about getting ready, warming up, and taking their places. This is soon to be explained with the title of the show announced as, “Live in Concert.” With the first standstill in Rockford, I could tell this music would treat them well. Each week the music just keeps getting better. The execution of the drill is starting to come together, and the sets are hitting more solidly. The guard seemed to have an off night tonight with a lot of drops and just not up to the performance level they have had with my first two viewings. Because I have seen better, I know this was just an off night. I can’t wait to see them in a few weeks for them to wow me once again. The synthesizers in the pit come across with some innovative sounds and music that enhance the show and gives the audience the idea that they are truly watching a concert.

Ending up on top of the Open Class division tonight was Legend from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Even though they did not have an entire show finished and on the field tonight, what they did give the audience and judges was a sophistication that could not be ignored. The show is, “Incrementurn…Daphnis et Chloe” in four movements. The marching style is very avant guarde, and the horn book is difficult but played well. The guard uses their body with equipment well as they make a couple of costumes enhancements in the short while they were on the field. Once the ballad got underway, the guard was gone, no marching took place by the horn line or percussion, and the show ended after that. Even with such an abrupt ending, they still managed to pull ahead of the class.

Memphis Sound is struggling at the moment in getting the show on the field. The guard is not in uniform yet, and they are still using practice silks. The horn line is not marching the drill with any comfort, and the horns are out of tune at times. There are glimpses of hope from time to time when the ensemble horn line comes together and blends the sound wonderfully. The percussion really seems to have their act together. They play well; they march with confidence, and seem to just control the show. Their show is, “Celebrations…Rebirth of a Planet.” The second number is my favorite, “Appalachian Morning,” and once all sections get their act together; this could be a fine show by August.

The first corps on the field this evening was Cincinnati Tradition. This is an all-age corps with only sixteen members and no guard. They seem to love what they are doing, and they gave the audience a taste of what drum corps they would be seeing all evening. Their show is called, “Fun with Chuck,” music from Chuck Mangione. Once they began playing, “The Land of Make Believe,” they had the audience on their side.

Starting off the evening, the Fairfield Marching Band, in full dress, marched onto the field and played the national anthem. This should be done at every show. It’s nice to hear the national anthem being played live by musicians, instead of by a record. After all, this is a music performance. (Sorry for the editorializing.)

In talking with Michael Schaefer, a former Blue Devil from Evansville, IN, he stated that the new use of synthesizers in the pit is really growing on him. Having being used for several years by marching bands, this gives the corps another facet of music to explore. He said as long as it is not overdone, it does have its place in drum corps.

I want to personally thank Bruce Brown and all his workers at Fairfield High School for putting on such a wonderful show. He was gracious enough to supply my friend and me VIP tickets before the show to a sit-down catered dinner. It was delicious. Thanks, Bruce for the hospitality.

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

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Posted by on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009. Filed under DCW On-Line.