DCW On-Line: Wayne NJ Review

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Bucs maintain perfect record at “Grand Prix"

July 11, 2009 – Wayne, NJ . . . A packed house of drum corps fans witnessed the Reading Buccaneers keep their unbeaten streak going with a convincing victory at the 45th “Grand Prix” sponsored by the Hawthorne Caballeros. The threat of rain was in the air all night and fortunately it held off until the event was over.

The new facility at Passaic County Technical Institute was a positive change from Clifton, with more parking and the seating being closer to the field. The voice of DCA, Fran Haring, served as the emcee for the evening, bedecked in his famous Hawaiian tropical shirt. It was great to see his wife Barb, still recovering from her stroke but was in great spirits and enjoyed herself at tonight’s event.

The New York Skyliners Alumni Chorus sang the National Anthem under the leadership of Tom "Bucky" Swan to start the festivities.

The Reading Buccaneers served notice that their 2009 program, "Demons and Angels," has all the ingredients in place to carry them to a fifth consecutive DCA title. Large black panels are set across the left half of the front sideline to accent the dark side of the show’s title.

Drum Major Chuck Jacobs was on the podium as the first moments of music and visual design grabbed attention and didn’t let go. The color guard is at center stage midfield in a large circle performing a dance that supports the darkness and mood. The brass line powers through the opener, "Dies Irae," as the corps fires on all cylinders. Six large base drums are used behind the front percussion ensemble with nine talented rifles placed behind them.

A large brass block moves from right to left then changes to a jazz run push to the front. The use of body visuals and poses that the corps presents in "Simple Song" showcases deep body crouches while the low brass sets off the field set to the left. "Ritual Fire Dance" is action-packed with a strong trumpet duet and the color guard passing through the horn line . The yellow flame silks used by the guard accent the musical selection to its fullest.

The percussion line was on fire in this selection, moving at a rapid-fire pace across the field and was backed by a very strong cymbal section. The tenor feature may be the finest DCA has seen in many years. The closing number features high rifle tosses, exciting visual moments and a large company front push to the stands. The defending champions looked good tonight and will be hard to dethrone in 2009.

Life is good out West for the Connecticut Hurricanes as they presented another strong performance with their "Gold Rush" program. The front percussion ensemble begins the opening musical notes in "Call of the Mountain" as the brass line circles their way to center stage with a strong first musical impact. The color guard once again is showcased throughout the program as they use blue and silver silks in the opening number.

This year’s unit may be even stronger than last season’s undefeated squad at this early part of the season. Drum majors Kate Socha and assistants Scott Williamson and Phil Waselik led a much-improved horn line which is definitely the strongest section the Hurcs have had in many years. Night settles in and the prospectors head for the saloon to be greeted by the tuba section beginning the "Can Can" percussion feature. The role playing by the corps and color guard was effectively done with a splash of ‘Mag 7" thrown in for good measure by the horn line as Chris Emond on trumpet solo seals the deal.

Kara Fekete and Danni Lenoir are the featured silk and dance duet in the ballad of "Grovers Corner." The mellophone section displays their talents in the "Red Pony" at center stage circled by a strong saber section. James Haber and James Covington form a talented brass duet in this selection.

Hold on to your hats for the grand finale as the drum line begins their trademark cadence "Downfall" from the left corner of the field. The volume increases from the drums then the brass line smacks you with a big musical hit in the closer of "Silverado." The color guard fills the field with purple and gold silks as the Hurricanes storm to the stands to a large standing ovation.

The honor guard under the leadership of Rich Tardie and Joe Stefon captured high honors tonight even though some out of step members were noticed. Right now the Connecticut Hurricanes are a category 3 storm and with much hard work a category 5 storm should hit Rochester come Labor Day weekend. Proving that they are within striking distance of the Buccaneers, the Connecticut Hurricanes will make things very interesting in the weeks to come.

Tonight’s hosts, the Hawthorne Caballeros, showed a lot of emotion before their hometown fans with their "Rhythms of Passion" program. The opening musical statements are pure and classic Hawthorne with a hint of "Españi Cani" before turning it into high gear in the opener of "Amparito Roca."

The uniform of choice by the color guard looks great with a yellow and brown tone as they unfurl yellow and brown silks in the beginning. Many visual changes were noticed tonight by the brass line as the pass-through move with the color guard was highly visual and effective. The weapon line was solid tonight with high tosses and performed with a great deal of energy.

The ballad of "Time to Say Goodbye" begins with eight mellophones at center stage and Heather Lemley and Mike Giroud as the featured brass duet. This number is definitely a drum corps moment as the brass line slowly pushes to the front then ends in a kneeling position in a full-field spread form.

The percussion feature is exciting to watch as the color guard breaks out air blades while the brass line forms a file line on the right 30 yard line. The 10 snares move rapidly across the field while the four cymbals display their talents to bolster the visual presentation. The closer of "A Mis Abuelos" begins with a strong trumpet solo by Mike Ferriera who is surrounded by dancers displaying many different body poses.

The speed of the drill patterns pick up in velocity as the mellophones are once again showcased before giving way to a superb trumpet line. The trumpet trio of Mike Ferriera, Drew Wilke and Kyle Thompson will blow you away as the action on the field is in your face with a big jazz run finish to the stands concluding an excellent performance from the Hawthorne Caballeros.

I respect that everyone has their own opinions, but for those who post on the Internet that the Cabs don’t move on the field, the majority of the fans who witnessed the show tonight and myself strongly disagree. Once cleaned and polished, the Hawthorne Caballeros have a very difficult and demanding program that should reap huge rewards in the upcoming weeks.

Bushwackers, Harrison, NJ
Photo by David Rice
Courtesy of Drum Corps World

The more I see the Bushwackers’ show, "Scenes from a Psychotic Circus," I really get the feel of a circus atmosphere. All that’s missing are the animals, the three rings and the various other acts that go into it as the program this year is truly an adventure. Brass caption head Chris Killian leads the corps from the podium as the front percussion ensemble begins the musical charts of "Thunder and Blazes." As of this writing, the horn line still remains small in size, but large in talent. When the numbers increase, so will the brass scoring numbers.

You will enjoy the color guard as they are large in numbers and as always are one of DCA’s best. The segment uses circular platforms in support of their weapons, silk and dance work. The percussion line is strong at this point and played with a great deal of energy and talent. The dark portion of the show goes behind the scenes in the "Freak Show" as the guard wears white face masks to portray their roles to the fullest.

A strong mellophone soloist is displayed in this number before bowing to the closing number as "Thunder and Blazes" starts the circus wagons rolling to an exciting finish. A strong trumpet line leads the way as the drill pattern moves from left to right in a wedge form as the horn line builds in volume and concludes the program in a big push to the stands.

DCA fans know that the Bushwackers have been known for starting out slow, then steam rolling into finals in a big way. This year’s circus adventure is no exception to this known fact, so don’t ignore the Bushwackers as the season progresses.

Welcome back to the 2007 Class A champion Sunrisers as they return to the competition field in 2009. Performing in exhibition tonight, the corps gave a strong performance despite their small numbers. Although they performed only one-third of their program, all the elements are in place for a good year from the Sunrisers.

They open in a spread form on the field with the guard lined across the end zones and backfield which was highly effective and eye-catching. Drum major Cary Lynn Sipriani leads the corps this season and their ‘Homage: Three Tapestries" program. The brass line begins the show lying on their backs, while the color guard uses large copper silks. The five rifles are well-trained and add much to the written visual package. Once the numbers fill in, the Sunrisers will pick up momentum and hope for a successful season.

The pre-show exhibition featured Park City Pride from Bridgeport, CT, giving an outstanding performance. Hall of Fame Drum Major Bob Findley was at the top of his game as he also entertained fans with his many comical comments. The musical charts have a great deal of variety in them from arrangers Art Hylwa, Frank Dorritie and the legendary Joe Genero.

Fans will fall in love with the rifle/cymbal/ musical instrument section as these pretty ladies are a show all by themselves. The working flag line behind the corps was visually entertaining to watch as they use large circle props with streamers attached. The trumpet trio of Bob Bradley, Art Hylwa and Mike Marella is exceptional in "I’ll Be Seeing You." The grand finale salutes our country with "America" and a track-side push to the stands.

The New York Skyliner Alumni Corps gave the fans a stroll down memory lane with their familiar New York medley of hits. The horn line was very strong, with many talented soloists, while the percussion feature showed the talents of the nine snares. You will enjoy the six ladies of the cymbal section who really entertain fans and get into their performance.

"Little Old New York" and their signature "New York, New York" had the fans on their feet. An encore of "Elks Parade" had the brass soloists inside the track-side gate to the front row of bleachers to blow the fans away. Great job from the Skyliners Alumni.

The Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Corps concluded the evening with a very powerful exhibition and Jimmy Russo leading the way. Curt Hawkins was excellent on his trumpet solo for the opener of "Pictures of Spain" which saluted the Hawthorne Muchachos Alumni members in attendance. "Rio" had members of the horn line using the old G-D bugles, while "Malgueña" was the concert selection.

Fans will love "Perfidia" with a nice mellophone duet, a trumpet soloist and a six-member brass ensemble. The percussion feature brought the house down! The stick handling and visuals are outstanding as this line can still get the crowd up. The color pre of "Flamenca Cha Cha" continues to move the fans with a trumpet quartet reaching for the stars in their playing.

An encore salute of "Fanfare for the Common Man" honored the 50th anniversary of the Hawthorne Muchachos. To put the icing on the cake, the combined competing and alumni corps of the Caballeros performed the color presentation of "Flamenca Cha Cha."

In our economy, everyone is looking for the most value for their money. The 45th “Grand Prix” tonight solidified this fact. A great night of competition, exhibitions and renewed friendships were all that a drum corps fan could want. A drum majors-only retreat was held and the scores and special awards were announced.

I had the chance to speak with DCA I&E coordinator Dick Pronti who said all is well and good for another great night of free entertainment for the fans.

Thanks to Al Katz, Rich Warga, and the staff of the Hawthorne Caballeros for the great hospitality. Special thanks to DCA officials Gil Silva, Red Corso and Glen Johnson for their valuable assistance.

Finally, the highlight of my night was talking with Caballero President/General Manager Frank Gerris. As many of you know, Frank suffered a stroke a few months ago and will be undergoing a great deal of therapy on his road back to recovery. He asked me to pass along his many thanks for all the cards, e-mails, phone calls and prayers that were sent his way. The support from the drum corps community means a great deal to him and he knows that they will be by his side all the way through this setback.

Frank has been courteous, professional and always helpful with any names or information I needed over the years in writing my articles for Drum Corps World. He is a true friend amongst the drum corps activity and its many fans.

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

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Posted by on Sunday, August 2nd, 2009. Filed under DCW On-Line.