DCW On-Line: Denver CO Review

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Blue Devils dazzle at "Drums Along the Rockies"

July 10, 2010 – Denver, CO . . . It was an almost cloudless blue sky in Denver as the 2010 “Drums Along the Rockies” opened.  The crowd was ready for an evening of drum corps entertainment and anticipation was heightened by the fact that the  two leading corps — the Blue Devils and The Cadets — would meet head-to-head in 2010 competition for the first time.

Another eagerly-anticipated match was between the Blue Knights and the Santa Clara Vanguard, as the Knights had topped the Vanguard in competition just three days earlier.  The stadium buzzed with excitement as people found their seats.

The evening opened with the second annual “Rocky Mountain Throwdown.”  This event, inspired by the movie “Drumline,” pits top high school drum lines in the Denver area in a rapid-fire showdown. The two finalist competitors for this evening were Legacy and Northglenn High Schools.  After two high-energy and well-executed performances from both drum lines, Northglenn took the prize.

Rocky Mountain Brass Works, a Denver-based, British-style brass band,  followed with four rousing works, including Sousa’s Semper Fidelis, to warm up the crowd.  By this time, attendees were ready for an evening of first-class performances — and they were not disappointed.

Blue Devils topped the judging sheets.  The 2009 DCI Champions presented Through A Glass Darkly, inspired by jazz orchestral genius Stan Kenton.  While the trend this season for most of the corps was minimalism with props on the field, the Devils made an impression as they wheeled 36 tall mirrors on wheels onto the field.

Combined with the motley and brightly-colored uniforms of the color guard, the field sparkled with reflected light and color as the music opened.  Clear brass notes, crisp drumming and tight, cleanly-executed formations accentuated by color guard movements, held the crowd entranced as the Blue Devils showed their mastery.  Throughout, the pit musicians supported the performance with perfect timing and execution.

While the repertoire promised dark tones, the overall effect was more that of upbeat, jazzy show tunes, with a trumpet solo that really pleased the crowd.  The mirrors were moved deftly around the field and provided a visual counterpart to the activity as musicians and color guard were reflected from multiple surfaces.  At the crescendo finish, the crowd jumped to a standing ovation, clearly excited by the masterful performance.

In second place were The Cadets.  Following the theme of Toy Souldier, they marched onto the field as if they were a toy army, led by “Little Jeffrey,” their playful, self-appointed drum major, who was dressed as a child in shorts and striped shirt.  Little Jeffrey capered around the field, interacting with his toy soldiers as the members executed precision formations. 

Fluid movements of the color guard  complimented the skilled brass, clean percussion and deft musicianship from the pit.  This was a highly-entertaining and creative program and the crowd showed its appreciation with a sustained, standing ovation that was almost as strong as that given to BD.

The Santa Clara Vanguard was the bronze-medalist corps tonight.  Their repertoire was titled Bartok. The overall effect of the performance was one of seemingly-random movements that suddenly and dramatically coalesced into complex, precise formations. 

The visual effects, combined with the intentionally-discordant brass and strong drumming somehow came together.  While the repertoire was perhaps more challenging than others tonight, it worked beautifully and effectively.  The audience again showed their appreciation for the complexity and deftness of execution with a standing ovation.

Santa Clara Vanguard
Drum Corps World photo by Francesca DeMello

The host corps, the Blue Knights, took fourth.  Their program, called Europa!, evoked classic romantic music and art.  The excitement of the crowd was likely audible for miles around the stadium as the audience from Denver showed their appreciation for the “home team” by stamping their feet and cheering as the Blue Knights took the field.  Three days previously, the Knights had topped Santa Clara in Utah and the anticipation of a possible repeat was palpable.

Brass and drums were crisp throughout.  Fluid, curvilinear formations accentuated the music and energized the crowd.  The famous BK drum line was in top form and was displayed front-and-center during the final number.  The standing ovation from the crowd reflected an appreciation not only of the mastery of BK’s performance, but also pride that such an accomplished, polished corps belongs to The Mile High City.

Coming in fifth were the Glassman, performing a repertoire based on the theme The Prayer Cycle. It opened somewhat sedately, with meditation bells sounding.  While the music built in volume and tempo,  rounded, curvilinear formations (another trend this season?) accompanied by strong brass and drums, wove the performance together.

The overall impression was one of contemplative, flowing music and movement.  While this did not generate the same excitement as some other performances this evening, the audience showed strong appreciation for its beauty.

In sixth place, the Colts performed True Colors.  With day-glo flags and rifles, the corps projected their theme visually as they entered the field.  A clown/acrobat interacted with the corps as tight formations and strong playing built to a crescendo by the end of the second number.  The clustered drums and precision drumming in the third number really got the crowd excited.  The Colts certainly captured and held the audience’s attention throughout their multi-chromatic performance.

If there is an adopted corps in Denver, it would have to be the Troopers.  They are sentimental favorites in the Mile High City and the crowd showed their fondness for the Wyoming corps as they entered the field to perform Wanted.  They opened with strong, forceful brass and drums, while their military uniforms and tight formations brought shouts of joy from the audience.  Finishing to a standing ovation, the Troopers had to feel at  home in Denver.

High Country Brass is an all-age corps that has just earned the right to compete in DCI tour events this year.  They performed Wishes, a Turkish-themed repertoire replete with tents on the field and an oversized Aladdin-lamp, with color guard costumes evoking harem dress.  Congratulations to High County and we look forward to seeing more of these experienced and accomplished performers on the field in coming years.

A final, romantic event completed an evening of stunning performances.  After competition ended and scores were being tallied, the Blue Knights took the field for an encore.  They formed a semicircle around the 50-yard line and began to play what at first appeared to be pleasant, time-filling music and drumming meant to entertain the waiting crowd.  But there was a hidden agenda here!

After the first couple of numbers, Drum Major Izaak Mendoza stepped down from his platform while announcer Joe Bartko revealed that there was a surprise in store.  Mendoza walked to a baritone player, knelt in front of her and placed a ring on her finger.  The bride-to-be flushed, but held her composure as Mendoza returned to the platform and led the corps in a wonderful version of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.”  Frankie Valli would have been pleased.

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

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Posted by on Thursday, August 5th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.