DCW On-Line: Arlington VA Review

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Bluecoats winner at 2010 ‘DCI Salutes America’ show

June, 25 2010 — Arlington, VA . . . Bluecoats had a hugely exciting performance this evening that energized the audience and judges alike to win the 2010 “DCI Salutes America” competition over the Phantom Regiment.

Yikes, what a hot, humid and exciting evening of drum corps. Six World Class corps that included three of the DCI top-12 finalists from 2009 were all locked and loaded to entertain this near-capacity crowd at Wakefield High School. This show was one of many activities and events that made up the “Music Education Week” that began on June 24 and runs through June 29, held at several locations throughout the Washington, D.C., area, sponsored by the National Association for Music Education (MENC).

With the color guard dressed in primitive jungle outfits, Bluecoats’ production, titled “Metropolis: The Future is Now,” begins with the brass line lying on the ground in a huge “S” pattern that spanned the field near goal-to-goal. The quick-paced opening number from John Mackey’s Asphalt Cocktail has the percussion line and pit setting the tone and the guard performing choreography right over the prone brass section. When the brass is eventually included, it was turned up to a whole other level. Visually strong, the show moves seamlessly with great precision and it generated a level of excitement through the audience.

This is a breathtaking, high-powered program that kept delivering into the corps’ next number called AHA! written by Imogen Heap. Percussion had a great evening with a very strong visual presence and expressive performance.

Some very interesting audio special effects accompanied Bluecoats as they performed Death Theme from “The Untouchables” that led into a full-corps visual production during the very cool percussion feature — fans were bobbing with the tempo.

The final number, written by Hans Zimmer ,is called 160 BPM from the acclaimed movie “Angels and Demons” and it set a whole different tempo and emotion. Many special effects are seen and heard throughout the number and it had the audience up on its feet several times.

This is a well-coordinated and constructed program that is on target to be a fan-favorite to follow this season.

When Phantom Regiment enters the stadium, the audience starts to get very focused while the corps forms up for their 2010 production, “into the Light,” that is featuring a symphonic poem of Michael Kaman’s The New Moon in the Old Moon’s Arms.

The musical pre-show from the brass is outstanding in its own right; majestic and beautifully played, it makes a promise of an outstanding musical presentation. Along with the brass, the color guard adds choreography with wide-sweeping arm and body motion. It is all quite moving and highly-captivating.

I have stated this many times about Phantom — they do quiet fury like no other corps. The intensity and depth of the music and quality of the performance always leaves me breathless. I also want to vote Regiment as my sit-back-and-let-it-happen corps. I do not have much experience with this specific piece of music, but if anyone can introduce me to something new, it’s the Phantom Regiment.

Musically, the show takes you through all the highs and lows, the majestic to the frenetic, from slow and deliberate to high-speed and focused. It was a real delight and held my attention and my heart from beginning to end.

Phantom Regiment
Drum Corps World photo by Brett Owens

Brass has an impressively-hard book that they perform so well it seems effortless. Percussion was awesome tonight, a very intense and expressive performance. The color guard was delightful and well into their characters. With a visually-challenging program, they make the most of the visual effects. Overall this will be a good season for them if they can keep it fresh and interesting.

Boston Crusaders had a very good evening, especially with the fans this evening. They get the award for the most solid performance in terms of true drum corps-style programming and performance. The corps’ 2010 production is titled “Thy Kingdom Come,” with some outstanding musical numbers such as Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony and a very cool Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Variation 18) by Rachmaninov.

The show is well-thought-out, with all sections given their time to shine. The brass was a real powerhouse, with some of the loudest volume of the evening. Boston’s percussion was very dynamic and highly expressive.

The guard is strong and the overall visual package was varied and intriguing. In fact, the visual program and performance took the judges’ sheets this evening. This could be the Boston Crusaders’ best season if they continue to improve and bring all the elements up to the same level.

When it comes to the music of Pat Metheny and the Crossmen, it is like soda and ice cream — so smooth, creamy and sweet! The Xmen show is called “Full Circle” which is an apt name given the first and last numbers are of the same name, one is an original composition from Pat Metheny, while the other is an inspirational composition composed by Aaron Guidry.

With the color guard outfitted in a beautiful bright blue, Crossmen hit the field performing a nicely-arranged First Circle that set the overall tone of the production. This is a complex number with many meter changes, making it very difficult to coordinate feet with music. It was evident at times with the corps this evening, but they did not fail to entertain the audience, in fact, it whet your appetite for more.

Crossmen’s handling of the other Metheny pieces that included Heat of the Day, Letter from Home and Minuano (six-eight) are handled well, but more work will be necessary to bring the show to life. They seem to play it fairly safe and it makes sense to build challenges throughout the season.

Brass shows talent and promise, but needs to let it loose on the volume. Percussion has a nice program and visual book, but many performance miscues marred the delivery, with time and cleaning making for an interesting August. The color guard started out great, but it appears much is still missing from the overall program. The total visual package has many very cool moments, but it leaves the audience wanting to hang with the corps through the entire show.

An early “wow reaction” from the fans was when Spirit took the field in their brand-spanking-new Michael Cesario-designed uniforms that really nail the total look for the corps that will easily work well into the future. The modern styling still keeps the traditional light blue, black and gray trimmed in white and topped off with a white shako and plume. The effect was professional, effective and well-received by all in attendance.

As these are early shows for all of the corps, it was funny to see some last-moment adjustments to the drum major podiums as they needed to be realigned to their proper space.

Spirit has a pretty cool show theme this season called “Forging an Icon” that is easily understood and well-supported through the musical selections and visual programming. It all begins with Keith Emerson’s explosive Piano Concerto No. 1 and Spirit’s percussion literally was running from the very start. It was frenetic, energizing and was pretty clean for such an early show.

The theme is well-instituted, with the use large sledgehammers and industrial stylized props that are used throughout. The total concept is confidently entertaining and an artistically-grounded production. Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in Bb Major was a good choice to follow the Emerson number. It showed off a talented brass line and equally-talented percussion section.

Though beautifully performed, the corps lacked a level of musical depth that the other corps had this evening. Visually, the program was fun to watch, but clarity was at times difficult, especially when all the elements began to merge and work off each other.

Spirit’s ballad was a haunting number from Bernard Herrmann Prelude (from the motion picture “Psycho”). The cool interplay between the baritone feature, coupled with the front ensemble, was a very nice touch.

Danny Elfman’s Serenada Schizophrana continues the show theme which is clear and the end is loud, having the guard spilling into the middle of the field with silver flags and the whole corps in a huge delta. The audience really loved Spirit this evening and was somewhat disappointed with their overall placement. The show has much to like and a theme that could take them far this season if more programming can be introduced and perfected.

The final corps in tonight’s extravaganza was Jersey Surf with their beautiful patriotic-themed program called “Living the Dream.” The New Jersey corps once again is trying to raise its own bar from a musical demand and visual excellence perspective.

Kicking off the show is Charles Ives’ Organ Variations on America which sets the stage and the corps delivers on all cylinders. Surf certainly knows how to wave the flag (reminds me of a line from the old George M. Cohen movie) with the stars and bars flag designs to the recognizable music, making them an instant hit with these eager fans.

Surf’s fantastic arrangement of Samuel Ward’s America the Beautiful included some variations on musical styling. The guard showed much promise, but the show was clearly not finished for them. Their final number, Dudley Buck’s Festival Variations on A National Air wraps up a fun and exciting program.

Surf had a solid performance and is equally talented across all performance elements. They have a locked-in fan base no matter where they perform with this program.

This competition was created to support music teachers who are in the initial, formative and advanced stages of marching music programming in their schools.

The schedule had workshops and discussions that included “Drum Corps Medical Project” with Craig Bales, Houston, TX; Jacob Levy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and Wendi Weimar, Auburn University, AL; “Design Forum” with Michael Cesario, Miamisburg, OH; Dan Farrell, Phantom Regiment, Rockford, IL; Myron Rosander, South Lake Tahoe, CA; J.D. Shaw, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; and Rick Subel, Atlanta, GA; and “Sectionals/Ensembles/Student Workshop” with a chance to work along with the staff and students of the Phantom Regiment

What an incredible opportunity to get to meet and ask questions with these drum corps experts and to perform with the Phantom Regiment. These were but a few programs available to the participants of the workshop.

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

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Posted by on Tuesday, July 6th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.