DCW On-Line: Normal IL Review

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Crown keeps string going with another win at MFA/BOA event

June 25, 2010 — Normal, IL . . . Once again, the Music For All/Bands of America “Summer Symposium“ capped off their week with one of the Midwest’s finest shows to date at Normal, IL.  The evening began with approximately 120 marching band students from the symposium playing the National Anthem.  What a way to start the show!

Coming in this evening undefeated, Carolina Crown did nothing to tarnish that record.  I do believe they are in it to win it this year.  As last year, they never just march.  The horn players are constantly on the ground, back up, then on the ground again in their representation of “Second Chance.”  This makes for such super layering in the staging and adds so much variety for the observer in the audience.  

The curved line pass-through is one clever bit of drill.  This is in the opening minutes and the fans were ready to bound from their seats.  The gold and copper accents with the cream uniform blend so well with the all-new brass instruments this year.  The design team did a nice job. 

The fingering by the trumpets throughout the show brings out the great talent of this corps.  That, with the incredible color guard, could mean this is the year Crown takes the DCI title.  Stacy Cummings, first-year member from Greenwood, IN, stated that this has been a dream come true for her.  She marched Center Grove High School and is proud of the fact that she was well-prepared for this new challenge in her life.

The “drum corps moment” for me this year is Crown’s rendition of Nimrod.  It is totally beautiful, beginning with the horn line lying on the ground, up on one elbow, playing with one hand.  It ends with some beautiful crescendos before leading to the closer.  Once again, this corps is practically running their drill the whole show, right through to the end.

The Cadets spent the last several days adding their closing number, at least what the closer is for now, according to George Hopkins.  He said they will be adding things all the way to Indy. 

The show, “Toy Souldier,” begins with a cast member dressed as a boy named Little Jeffrey.  He is constantly dancing around the corps, making fun of them or, at times, he is striving to be what they are.  He eventually becomes proficient with the rifle. 
Each tune is something that brings to mind a toy soldier.  School for Scoundrel is my favorite piece because of all the body movements for the horn line members.  They are forever acting out as the toy soldier. 

The color guard is in top form for this early in the season.  One such wonderful moment is when they do an add-on flag feature around the back of the horn line.  I don’t think one flag was out of sync.  The percussion is strong this year as well, taking the top score in that category tonight.  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.

The Cavaliers have added even more “mad” movements by the horn line and color guard to begin their show, “Mad World.”  This production is getting increasingly interesting and it’s becoming more evident what they are trying to convey.

The color guard’s post apocalyptic uniform is so fitting for this show.  The long jacket in the first two numbers is almost like a piece of equipment in itself. 

The horn book is quite remarkable.  The members are playing so much louder this year as well.  Once they get a few more weeks to tweak it and make it what they want, I see them battling with Cadets even more night after night. 

People are still wondering what Smile has to do with the “Mad World” idea.  At the beginning of the number, the guard comes out of a huddle with one member wearing a clear mask with a painted-on smile.  I think the “smile” is not to be taken seriously — even guard members wipe their mouths toward the end of the number before going back to the hard-driving recap of several numbers from the first half of the show.  This is a very interesting show . . . I can’t wait to see it again in Minneapolis on July 17.

Everyone has been anxiously awaiting the debut of Blue Stars to see the new uniform and to hear and see what they have to offer this season.  Well, they did not disappoint.  The uniforms are basically gray and white, with a touch of navy blue.  I like them a lot and think they will make their marching look much cleaner. 

The show is “Houdini” and has all of the elements of what you would expect from seeing the magician Houdini perform.  The guard begins by being put into coffin-like boxes spread out across the field.  When they emerge, they are in straight jackets.  Each flag used represents something from a Houdini show: a key, handcuffs, etc. 

The music has a mystery feel most of the time and they do an excellent job pulling this off.  Musically, they are in top form.  The drill is difficult, but they are mastering it very well for this time of year, especially for their first appearance.  They were ahead of The Cavaliers in Visual General Effect this evening. 

The guard at one point is handcuffed and spinning sabres at the same time.  I can see this show evolving into something special by the end of the season.

Madison Scouts were once again one of the crowd favorites, but they have been for years.  This year their fans really have something to cheer about.  I can’t stress enough how unbelievable the opening statement of Slaughter on Tenth Avenue is.  It practically peels the skin off your face.  A man and his wife sitting by me who live in Normal and come to the show every year said that this was one of their favorite moments of the night.

Madison Scouts
Drum Corps World image by Brett Owens

Everyone in the crowd was buzzing about the 20 tubas.  Yes, there are 20 and they are wonderful.  The drill has them positioned in the best places to be utilized not only for sound, but also for general effect.

Another effect moment is when about 10 members of the guard pick up cymbals and use them as a prop on and around one of the construction platforms they have on the field.  But it is far more than a prop.  They really play them.

The one thing lacking that I mentioned in a previous review is that their drill needs to be beefed up a bit.  I do believe that would help in some of the visual statements.  The one visual statement that is my favorite, though, is the turn-around into the wedge.  It was done much faster tonight and had a greater effect.  It’s going to be a fun ride for the Madison fans this year.

The Glassmen’s “Prayer Cycle” is becoming one of my all-time favorite Toledo corps shows.  They have always been able to play and march well, but this year the total package seems to be there.  The essence in what they are trying to portray is so much clearer. 
I love the loud and brassy sound that immediately turns into a soft hush and gives you goose pimples.  They really know how to play with the music this year and make it so much more interesting.

The guard at one point is spinning a curved weapon with a flat black circle at each end.  I’m not sure what they represent, but it works with the music.  I love the tribal feel throughout and the guard outfit coincides beautifully.

The Colts’ debut of “True Colors” was a success.  One would expect the guard to be decked out with a multitude of colors for a show title like this.  But the antithesis is what we get.  The guard is like a blank palette donned in all-white uniforms. 

The corps members have switched to a white plum instead of the red one from previous years.  This matches with the guard so much better.  As the show progresses, the guard does bring in colors of blue, orange and purple. 

The solo boy dancer in the second number, Alone in the Crowd, moves about the corps, mimicking each section to the delight of the crowd.  He is quite the performer. 

The horn line is extremely powerful and the drill really seems to be spread out to cover more of the field.  The expanse and tightening of the drill is very eye-appealing and leaves room for the battery and the guard to move in and out of the drill with ease.  Good start to the season, Colts!

Pioneer just seems to keep getting better each night.  The sound was much stronger than when I last saw them in Louisville three days before.  The drill was cleaner, but some of the box turns still need to be tighter.  The guard is good when they spin; they just don’t have a lot out there yet.  It’s early, so I’m sure it will all come together soon. 

To cap off the end of this wonderful evening, the marching members of the “Summer Symposium” once again took the field, but this time it was with Carolina Crown.  The students learned one section of Crown’s show and played it with them.  What a treat for these young people to be on the field with some of their heroes in the music world.

I want to give a shout-out to Dan Potter, the announcer for tonight’s show.  He is well-known in the BOA circuit and a joy to have such a talent announcing this show.  Thanks, Dan.

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Posted by on Sunday, July 4th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.