DCW On-Line: Hillsboro, OR Review

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SCV wins easily, Cascades return to the field

July 3, 2009 — Hillsboro, OR . . . The Santa Clara Vanguard improved its scores from the previous weekend in California at the “Portland Summer Music Games” to win easily over the Blue Knights, Troopers and Cascades. In open class, the Oregon Crusaders performed for the first time this season in a judged show.

Santa Clara”s show, “Ballet for Martha,” is probably the most faithful production of the Copland piece ever put on the drum corps field. Even though individual shows are products of the time they are created and performed, one cannot help but make comparisons to this year’s offering to that of the Garfield Cadets of 1987. Both designs use essentially the same passages from Appalachian Spring and have essentially the same intention of putting a ballet on the field. SCV’s show even has hints of a disappearing company front.

However, there are some key differences. Whereas the Garfield show was a “drum corps-ized” version of the music, SCV’s musical book is more subtle and sounds much more like the chamber music the original was. The SCV pit has more of a role in providing musical color. The color guard uses more dance moves that typify the Graham style.

The net result is a show that looks and sounds more like the original production than any drum corps audience has seen before. It is a quiet show. No doubt the design for this kind of show is made possible in part by changes in instrumentation. It is a beautiful show that will likely be one for the ages.

The Blue Knights have gone from being dark last season to being cold this season. Their production, “Shiver,” conveys musically the themes of winter and cold. Starting with a blast of wind that blows the corps across the field, they use their characteristic body movement and relatively abstract music to take the audience on a journey that only the Denver corps can lead. Look for the guard in winter ski outfits spinning ski poles. Their show is one that Blue Knights fans will feel comfortable with and enjoy.

The Troopers are fielding one of the biggest and strongest corps in recent years. In terms of numbers, they are nearly full. Their show, “Western Side Story,” is an interweaving of familiar “West Side Story” songs with others, from a jazzy version of passages from Russell Peck’s Cave to Copland’s Billy the Kid. It is a musical production that fans will likely find fresh and a little unexpected from the corps from Casper, WY.

Visually, the horns and percussion still wear the familiar cavalry uniform, in contrast to the guard wearing a Native American-themed outfit. Musically, there is much energy, making for a highly entertaining show.

The Oregon Crusaders are in their tenth year of existence and this season’s show, “Equilibrium,” represents a continuation of a rising trajectory for the corps. The music consists of two movements from Michael Daugherty’s Philadelphia Stories. The show moves from an aggressive opener, to a more contemplative section, to chaos and then to resolution. It is an exercise in orientation, being in balance and being out of balance.

The horns begin the show on their backs, facing skyward. Watch for the players who balance themselves on seesaws while playing solos. According to program coordinator Todd Zimbleman, “The musical book takes these weird turns and completely takes you from where you think you are going and goes completely in the opposite direction, getting you out of balance again.” With challenging music, an experienced staff and a talented corps, the Oregon Crusaders have all the ingredients for another successful season.

Executive Director Philip Marshall is involved in a new way to get fans at band and drum corps events called “VolcanoScore.com.” The idea is that fans can rate the corps by texting in a score and the results are reported on their Web site. The system is owned by the Oregon Crusaders and debuted at the exhibition show in Eugene on July 2. Fans waited in the stadium for the results after the show was over.

This season also marks the return of the Cascades, back from a year off. Last season at this very show, Sal Leone promised that the Cascades would field in 2009 and that promise was fulfilled this week. The new Cascades organization is the result of a combination of the Seattle Cascades and the open class corps Spokane Thunder. Executive Director Leone and the Northwest Music Youth Association has a longer term vision of growth of the activity in the Northwest. The open class Spokane Thunder will be back next year and the plan is eventually to have an open class corps, winter guard or percussion group in Seattle and Spokane, WA, Portland, OR, and Boise, ID.

Each staff member would be primarily involved in one of the organizations, but the staff of all groups would have a stake in the entire operation. In other words, rather than competing for resources, each group would work cooperatively for the benefit of all groups. To rekindle interest in drum corps in the area, Leone envisions publicizing and recruiting at all levels from World Class to Open Class. “It starts from the bottom up. What we are doing could be a model for the activity,” explained Leone.

Their show this year continues on themes that the Cascades have chosen in the past related to the Pacific Northwest, especially nature. This year’s production is called “Beyond the Forest.” Musically, it is energetic and challenging. With only a handful of Cascade veterans this year, Leone hopes this season not to come in last place. He has also asked his staff to make a five-year commitment to the organization. His main goals this year are to field a corps and stay within budget. The Cascades are on track to achieve these goals and much more. Drum corps in the Northwest is once again on the rise.

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Posted by on Wednesday, July 15th, 2009. Filed under DCW On-Line.