DCW On-Line: Eau Claire WI

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Blue Devils B continues firm grasp on the lead

August 4, 2010 — Eau Claire, WI . . . Despite intermittent rain showers, it was a great night for performances as the Blue Devils B continued to dominate the Open Class and the Oregon Crusaders moved up into second place.

Originally sponsored by the Eau Claire Boys Drum & Bugle Corps in the 1960s, the ?Drums on the Chippewa? has played host to some exciting drum corps performances and tonight was no exception.

The Carson Park Stadium was an interesting venue as there was maybe 10 yards between the official sidelines and the front-row seats, which for a number of corps meant the drum major conducting from up in the stands.  It provided a unique situation fans seemed to love.

As we come into the final stretch before finals week, the Blue Devils B corps seems to be unstoppable with their eclectic production, ?Space.?  The first half of their show is built around Amin Bhatia?s powerful Interstellar Suite.

??Interstellar [Suite]? is made for drum corps,? Director Rick Odello said.  ?We could have built a whole show around it.?

Its Overture and Battle provided some of the boldest music of the night that was laced with stunning impacts worthy of the best senior corps.

?Space,? however, is not just the world of star wars and science fiction.

?We also look at space in terms of time, music, visual representations — [the production] covers many dimensions.?

The 138 members have let the Concord corps explore some visual possibilities they haven?t had the opportunity to try in the past.  Maneuvers of expanding/collapsing blocks and cubes they have used in the past, but not on the scale seen this year.  In the ballad, Lux Aurumque, they expand the closing block formation out to the right and left 30-yard markers.

The biggest surprise of the night was the Oregon Crusaders as they stepped their performance up to a second-place finish.  The horn line is leading the corps? push and found itself within two-tenths of a point behind BDB.  Arabian Waltz was a good showcase for the versatility of the brass.  Especially strong performances came from the trumpet and baritone sections.

The closer, Kingfishers Catch Fire, seemed a bit different from the Crusaders? usual musical fare, but provided a good ending to what promises to be a strong contender throughout finals week.

San Antonio?s Revolution slipped down in the standings, a disappointment in the wake of a strong start on this leg to finals.

?It just means we have to work harder,? Director Johnny Rodriguez said.  ?And we will!?

From the opening push of Liberty to the closing drama mid-field, this year?s production, ?Fade to Black,? is a haunting concept that continues to stir emotions and leave audiences thinking.

?We put a lot of thought into this [show] . . . a lot,? Rodriguez notes.  ?It?s been a dark avenue for us to go down, but the kids, the staff — we are all having fun with it.?

The Texas corps? visual is best described as more a theatrical production than a drum corps show.  Their trademark aggressive design is still there, but it has been spiced up with added symbolism and a dramatic embodiment of an overpowering evil.

Drum Corps World photo by Jeff Sallee
Armed with one of the best Open Class color guards, the Raiders? 20th Anniversary is seeing the corps return to a position near the top of the Open Class ladder.  The visual ensemble was in rare form with some of the cleanest execution of the night.  Despite the lingering damp field from the earlier rain, the complex weapons routines in New Beginnings went off flawlessly.  And solo dancer Jen Douhue added the final touch to a commendable performance.

The long rehearsals of the past couple of days paid off tonight as the corps hit the second spot in overall visual caption against the Blue Devils B.  The ballad, Exhilaration, provided the musical highlight with their smooth theme hand-offs back and forth between the horns and keyboards that brought chills to the audience.

First-year corps Forte continues to keep up with the pack.

?It?s our intent to continue to refine the show so that we peak on Saturday morning at finals,? Director Chris Green said.

And to that end the night saw the addition of the teaser of Venus from Holst?s ?The Planets? in the opener, as well as a cleaner, tighter drill in Overture to a New World.  The color guard also enjoyed a good night as they squeaked past the Oregon Crusaders to a fourth place overall — their best placement for this tour.

The field entrance caused a stir in the stands as the performers come onto the field staring up at the stars.  Unfortunately, the day?s weather caused some to assume they were staring up at a coming weather band.

In Caelum Fero really came alive tonight with a stronger horn line that left fans breathless as they pounded out the closer of a collage of familiar themes from ?The Planets.?

The solos of trumpet Josh Jones and mellophone Gage Tellez led the way into one of drum corps? best arrangements of Philip Glass? surrealistic 1000 Airplanes on the Roof.

In recent shows Les Stentors and the Racine Scouts have seen a friendly rivalry going as the two organizations jockey for position.  But tonight it was the Scouts coming out on top as the Wisconsin corps enjoyed an almost three-point gain over their Rice Lake performance.

Some say the music is old and outdated, but put the popular selections of George Gershwin before a drum corps crowd and they come alive.  And there?s no better example than the vibrant fans the Racine Scouts found tonight.

The corps was one of those caught in the intermittent showers, but the weather only added to the ambience of Summertime and Rhapsody in Blue.

The solo work of Conner Heilen and Amy Chaffee were strong and clear despite the weather and the audience of umbrellas loved them.

The highlight of the Gershwin production was the soft shoe routine against the background duet of tuba Robert Cantu and keyboard Noah Lapierre.

It should be noted for drum corps history fans, the Racine Scouts won the 1966 ?Drums on the Chippewa? in competition with the Kilties and the Madison Scouts.

Sherbrooke?s Les Stentors are enjoying their best season in over a half a decade.  This year?s corps has an average of age of 15 years and 61-percent of the membership are rookies.  But despite the challenge, the design team has done a commendable job capitalizing on the performers? talent and presenting a crowd-pleasing show.

The ballad, Comme au Premier Jour (A New Day) continues to captivate the audience with its tenderness and emotional dynamics.

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

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Posted by on Monday, August 23rd, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.