DCW On-Line: Hillsboro OR Review

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Blue Knights dazzle in the Northwest, Spokane Thunder returns

July 3, 2010 — Hillsboro, OR . . . The Blue Knights performed an entertaining and well-executed show to lead the “Portland Summer Music Games.”  The Troopers and Cascades also performed in World Class competition.  The Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets led the Open Class corps, followed closely by the Oregon Crusaders. Spokane Thunder made a comeback after being off the field in 2009.

The Blue Knights performed a show that begins with the familiar L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2: Farandole by Bizet and features signature Marc Sylvester drill moves.  Elgar’s Enigma Variations form the middle and later parts of the show.  The ballad shows off the talents of the brass line and throughout the show there is nice equipment work, including some difficult rifle tosses.

Overall, the show has high entertainment value.  The Blue Knights likely will not disappoint fans this season.  The only question is whether show has enough “staying power” to be strong at the end of the season.

The Troopers made finals last season for the first time since 1986 thanks to solid logistics, a well-crafted show and excellent execution.  The corps is continuing on the trajectory of last season’s success.  Their show is titled “Wanted” and it includes a mixture of modern and traditional music.

On the traditional side, they perform some music by Copland from Our Town.  Watch for the color guard uniform change that causes them to blend in visually with the rest of the corps. Tonight the Troopers scored just a few points behind the Blue Knights and as the show develops over the season, that gap will no doubt close.

Last season the Cascades returned to the field after taking the 2008 season off.  They placed last among the World Class corps in 2009, but this year promises to be better.  According to Director Sal Leone, about half of the 100-strong corps are returning vets from last season and the staff is essentially the same as last year.

The corps is more experienced and it was evident in their first performance of the 2010 season tonight.  Their show, titled “Silver Lining,” consists of images of summer in the pre-show warmup: picnics and playing in fields. Then a storm comes to disrupt it all.

The ballad River Flows in You by Yiruma is a sensitive piece that will test the control and expressiveness of the corps.  Finally, there is hope for the future as the corps plays Tomorrow. The Cascades are well on their way to a successful season, scoring almost five points higher than at the same time last year.

Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets
Drum Corps World photo by Francesca DeMello

In many ways, seeing the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets is just as exciting to see as their A corps counterpart.  Their look, their posture, their carriage and their sound come from the same source. This season’s show is titled “Chakra,” which is original music by staff members Key Poulan, Murray Gusseck and Nate Bourg.

Musically speaking, the show is modern, but it also feels familiar as it seems to have been especially designed for performance by a drum corps.  In the early season, the percussion is strong and the large brass section is sure to catch up by the time their season ends in San Antonio in late July.

The Oregon Crusaders this year have a show titled “Dance of the Flames.”  The corps put 77 performers on the field, including 40 brass.  They have increased the level of sophistication and execution each year since they began 10 seasons ago.  They make extensive use of body movement and the show features a nice percussion solo.  Although their show is not yet complete (about four minutes short), they look like they are on their way to dong well in August.

Spokane Thunder took the 2009 season off to help the Seattle Cascades rebuild.  Now that the Cascades are back on the field, it’s Thunder’s turn to return to the field.  Their show music is an original composition by Nick Golding called Resurrection and it is a fitting title to the corps’ comeback.

Fielding 43 performers, the corps sports black, white and gray uniforms.  This year the pit section is placed left of center.  Half of the corps is battery and pit percussion and that is the area where the corps excels in the early season.  Visual caption head Martin Anderson notes that because of a variety of adverse events, the corps put together the visual program in juste two weeks before the season.  They will have a limited tour this year that will end in mid-July.

A larger issue is the growth of drum corps in the Northwest.  Continued growth and development of the competing corps in the region (Cascades, Crusaders and Thunder) is an important short-term goal.  Sal Leone has a longer-term vision of drum corps in the region that involves corps at different locations regionally and potentially different missions.

Some of these, in addition to being corps in their own right, could play the role of feeder corps to the larger corps.  Whether this vision becomes realized is, of course, uncertain, especially with the current discussions initiated by the G7.  Tonight’s audience clearly appreciated the performances of corps at all levels.

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

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Posted by on Friday, July 16th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.