DCW On-Line: Riverside CA Review

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Western Corps Connection another big day for Southern California

July 5, 2010 – Riverside, CA . . . It’s a warm, sunny day, with a packed house for this year’s Western Corps Connection,  considered to be the gateway to the East for the World Class DCI and DCA world championships. 

First up, we had the all-age division with So Cal Dream.  “Necrology,” the title of their 2010 show and a beautiful piece written by composer Dr.Gary Powell Nash, entails a plethora of difficult tempos throughout.  Being a corps that has earned the high brass caption award, SoCal Dream is in the midst of perhaps capturing that title again at DCA here in just a few weeks.

The newest Open Class corps to hit the circuit is City Sound of Los Angeles, CA. This is one of those corps that come out of nowhere and the next thing you know they’re knockin’ at your back door.  In this case, that’s exactly what happened.

Being only their second time on the field in competition ever, and playing music from the rock group The Who’s album  “Tommy,” City Sound came within two points of a major upset with one of DCI’s previous open class finalists.  Director Nathaniel Lewis has been working his kids extremely hard, but extremely smart.

With hot new color guard uniforms and flags, City Sound actually has the largest Open Class guard in Southern California.  Their show tonight was a drastic change from their first time out (understandable) and I have to say, City Sound is on a definite mission to let everyone know that there is a new kid in town and “there ain’t no stopping us now.”

The Velvet Knights from Pasadena rocked the house with their 2010 program of, “Magical Mystery Tour.”  Being known for their wild and crazy antics on and off the field, VK didn’t disappoint.  Being fortunate enough to stand on the sidelines with Director Mayra Iraheta, I found my self in the middle of VK’s show, dancing with Mayra as well as several in the audience “shakin what their momma gave ‘em.”

I have to say that the Velvet Knights’ show this year engages the audience to participate in one of the best interactive performances out there and leaves you wanting nothing but more!

Impulse from Buena Park is a corps that’s completely “United” and, as the title of this year’s program.  “United” follows the classic American musical tradition, along with the American landscape.  The musical journey the corps chose this year starts on the Eastern Seaboard, then swings down South, up to the Midwest, then a final resting place in the ever-popular American Wild West.

Composers of this journey are Samuel Ward, Christopher Earl, Robert Smith, Morton Gould and American composer of concert and film music, Aaron Copland.  The show is a beautiful change for Impulse, focusing on American tradition and a noticeable change in the actual maturity of the overall drum corps, both physically and production-wise.

With a great new corps director, Carolyn Richardson-Parsons, the changes made in the day-to-day operations of the corps and of the show itself are absolutely amazing.  With a fantastic staff and incredible possibilities, the future of this corps could change to World Class at any moment.

Revolution had a resolution . . . to come to Cali and show everyone who’s boss!  This Texas drum corps I have to say is surprisingly . . . GREAT.  With their show titled “Fade to Black,” Revolution opens with an upbeat and very melodical interlude, then venturing over to the dark side, but only for a brief moment.  Just long enough to capture your attention and take you on an emotional roller coaster ride.

This show and drill is very well-designed and fits this corps perfectly. There’s been a lot of progress made since the last show, over two points cleaned up in just two days.  I found that simply amazing.  Revolution, I look forward to seeing you in the Open Class finals.  Johnny Rodriguez, great job!

Gold from San Diego again came out smoking.  With some of the coolest new uniforms I’ve seen in a long time, black pants with a black tunic and red trim, it’s very “modern” looking.   Gold is obviously determined to bring home gold with the 2010 production of “Primary Colors.”   Looking much larger than previous years, Gold’s recent move from South Bay Los Angeles County to San Diego was a step in the right direction according Director Dr. Donald Flaherty.

Drum Corps World photo by Francesca DeMello

This year’s drill and music shows a much deeper change in overall corps style.  Very fast, loud and not afraid to “bring it.”  If tonight’s show is any indication about the future of this corps, I can see them doubling in size by as early as next year . . . easily.  This group is definitely to one to watch out for.

The Mandarins from Sacramento continue their World Class stride to the top.  Their 2010 program, called “To Dream of Far Away Lands,” is catching people off guard.  A slightly complex show, but all you need is about 30 seconds and you’ve fallen into their lair to be taken on a journey to the Mediterranean, Arabia, Persia, India, China and finally Indonesia.

This show is the quality of performance you would see on Broadway, but with the Mandarins’ brilliant staff, they brought the Broadway stage to the drum corps field.  A beautiful show, concept and I can’t wait to see them at DCI.

Pacific Crest from Diamond Bar — what can I say, I love this corps.  The maturity level emulating from this year’s program titled “Maze” is utterly fantastic.  The music is difficult, the drill even harder, the director . . . hmmm let me think . . . lol.  Actually, Corps Director Stewart Pompell is one of the best around.  The direction that he’s taken this powerhouse of a drum corps to says a lot about the future of his organization.

As far as the overall scenic view of the 2010 show, as I’ve said before, pure class.  Each time I watch this show it gets more visually dramatic and musically sound.  Tonight was no exception.  PC presented their best performance to date.  Surf’s up, so now let’s go in for those barrel rides!

The Academy from Tempe, AZ, is inching their way to the top and surprised everyone with their aggressiveness in tonight’s show.  The 2010 show, titled “Strangers in Paradise,” is fast and loud.  It just became even louder tonight.  For some reason The Academy was not taking no for an answer and was so powerful that I think the stands shifted a little like a 5.0 earthquake.

Gaining a couple points overall, their show flowed much smoother, yet continued to be strong and aggressive, as well as the improvement in cleanliness of their overall production. 

Bartok is the title for this year’s show performed brilliantly by the Santa Clara Vanguard.  This group never ceases to amaze me.  The difficult but melodic phrases and passages played from different corners of the field were magnificent.  Each corner looks as though the Vanguard had several mini-corps on the field.

With the sound of a film score from a Martin Scorsese production, “Bartok” played by SCV could be listened to over and over again, but  fans may still not get the same picture in their head each time.  This is a truly remarkable show, both visually and musically.

The quirkiness and slightly obscure music is reminiscent of the old Vanguard we all love and remember from the 1970s and 1980s.  But this drill is that of today, thus mixing the old with the new, all the while creating a classical masterpiece.

“Through a Glass Darkly” is what you see when this year’s Concord Blue Devils take the field.  Of course sporting their 35 giant mirrors, the opening of this show is way too cool. Standing in front of each mirror is a guard member in a bright, multi-colored, 1970s-style outfit, totaling about 35 in all.  This fantastic opening number sets the pace for the rest of the show and what a show it is. 

“City of Glass Suite” offers Conflict by Pete Rugolo, Mirage by Pete Rugolo, Trajectories by Franklyn Marks, Incident in Jazz by Bob Graettinger, Laura by David Raksin, La Suerte De Los Tontos by Johnny Richards.  This show depicts the skyline of a city of glass and mirror that is changing continuously.
The Blue Devils seem to have taken the entire idea and ran with it, to where the skyline on the field is always changing, but done so seamlessly you don’t  notice until they’re ready for you to see it.  Yet at the same time, the horn line is giving you an uppercut of sound, in the key of Kenton, while performing one of the fastest and hottest shows on the planet.  When BD marches off the field, you’ll be spent as well, because this show is absolutely phenomenal.

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 30th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.