DCW On-Line: Rock Hill SC Review

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Crown rocks the house at their annual ?NightBEAT? competition

August 1, 2010 — Rock Hill, SC . . . Absolutely perfect weather.  For drum corps and corps fans alike, the clouds stayed all day nice and high, keeping temperatures down for rehearsals and a pleasant and cool atmosphere for the evening contest at the York County District Three Stadium on the edge of the campus of Winthrop University. Attendance was slightly down from last year, but the stands were still packed with enthusiastic fans, including thousands of students just finishing, in the middle of or on the verge of band camps for their own 2010 season.
While ?NightBEAT? continues to be a successful fundraiser for Crown, it also is a successful fund-raiser for the high school band programs of York County, SC.  The three programs received a total of $12,000 from the show proceeds, funds that are so crucial in this day and age of school budget cuts and a challenging economy.  Clearly Carolina Crown believes in reaching its beneficiary arm beyond the drum corps activity.  

Jersey Surf kicked off the competitive portion of the evening with their Americana production ?Living The Dream.?  Americana is certainly nothing new to drum corps, in fact, it is a pleasant reminiscence of the patriotic roots of drum corps that is highly accessible to audiences.  The horn line and drum line are tightening down considerably in the development of the production and the color guard work shows off some great talent within the corps, but there are concerns as the corps approaches the end of the season.  
The integration of the guard into the drill is questionable for the first half of the show that mostly keeps them stage left around tall red, white and blue pillars that add only a mild amount of color.  While very entertaining, the corps needs to address these and other design issues in order to rise up the competitive ladder at DCI Championships in Indy as they were over six points back from Crossmen tonight.
The Crossmen continue to work to polish their challenging ?First Circle? production that brings ?full circle? several tunes from past Crossmen/Metheny shows including First Circle, Heat of the Day, Letter From Home and Minuano.  However, the music is more presented as an original collage of Metheny?s melodies and rhythms rather than complete songs, which is one of the production?s strengths.  
The visual production has also become more focused in its circular imagery.  The color guard adds much to this show with effective work and color, and the drill has a nice flow to it.  The challenge remains in the tough rhythmic book on all musical levels in the brass and percussion, as anyone who has played Metheny will tell you.  If the ensemble issues can be worked out, then do not be surprised if the Texas corps makes a late surge.
The Glassmen continue work on their strong program, ?The Prayer Cycle,? and were over 5.5 over Crossmen and just 1.4 back from a strong Blue Knights corps.  This program has focus and a unique sensibility in how it presents a multi-faith look at prayer.  The multiple colors presented by the guard in the uniform layers, prayer shawls and silks light up the field and make a huge visual impact.  
The musical ensemble is very tight and comfortable throughout and the emotional content of the program is effective, but at times feels like the corps is holding back on its full musical impact, perhaps in favor of a more reverent tone.  It is also possible the corps is waiting to unleash finals week for its own late surge.
Drum Corps World photo by Harry Heidelmark

The Blue Knights? classical ?Europa? program has what it takes for true audience appeal this season.  Familiar melodies from Bizet, Elgar and Brahms and presented strongly throughout, making for effective engagement and the traditionally strong BK percussion section makes a large impact throughout.  This is a program more about finesse and sophistication, without the usual dark character the Knights traditionally take.  
However, pushing forward at this point past other corps of their strata will be difficult as they took straight fifth places in all major captions tonight and other corps like the Scouts, Crusaders and Blue Stars will prove very competitive in coming weeks.       
It was the Blue Stars who took the field first after the break with their intriguing ?Houdini? show, now featuring large digital prints up front of Houdini and imagery from his time period to help set a dark, quasi-victorian tone to the show.  True to form of the last few years, the primary visual elements have been in place since very early in the season and the music has developed more in the ensemble since then. 
The brass line has gained some impact, as well as percussion, though they were fifth behind the fourth-place Glassmen percussion.  The highest scores remain on the visual side, so it falls to the music ensemble to see how much they can tighten up their side of the sheets.  
Phantom Regiment?s show is one of several that has seen a lot of change and growth this summer, but the lead of the corps continues to be taken by its incredible percussion section which took first place tonight by a huge 0.6 margin over Crown and 0.9 over The Cadets.  The book is fast and furious, and the section in undeniably tight by any standard, helping keep the corps competitive.  
The visual side, while full of many moments of impact — not the least of which is the breathtaking opening when the entire corps runs on after playing the opening choral out of sight — is simply lacking in execution at the moment.  This is probably due to the numerous changes introduced to the show that have added so much from an effect standpoint, but need to be tightened down in performance.  It is a show that takes advantage of many striking moments, musically and visually, so placement between Phantom, SCV and Boston could get very exciting in Indy.  
The Cadets? show, ?Toy Souldier,? seems to have something new almost every time out and it appears there will still be more to squeeze in during the remaining two weeks.  New front panels, digital silks, sound effects and all kinds of corps ?gags? are popping out of this production that continues to entertain.  The ensemble has cleaned up considerably, both musically and visually, but as one fan remarked, ?There is so much going on, I don?t know where to look!?  
This is an asset and a problem. The program is entertaining, but lacks general focus and has been stated in previous reports, it is still difficult to know where one?s focus should go.  This corps is doing incredible things in the great Cadet tradition of challenging marching and playing, but at times the story of Jeffrey gets in the way or is it vice-versa?  This will be The Cadets? primary issue going into the final push.
Carolina Crown is finding its feet again after a tough couple of weeks competitively, winning its home show for the second time in history tonight to the delight of the home town crowd.  ?A Second Chance? has been compelling all season, but features a number of ensemble challenges.  The opening Mahler chart is a very challenging brass arrangement rhythmically and with lots of body movement, leading into a highly rhythmic Khachaturian 2nd, leading into a very difficult tango in Danzon #2. 
Clearly the corps still has it work cut out, but the show is full of impact and eye-popping moments that reach the audience and make for fun listening and viewing.  Crown is a considerably talented corps in every section, but their deficiencies in scoring continue to be in ensemble, taking second in visual ensemble, brass, percussion and music ensemble, but first in everything else.  
So it remains, that once the corps addresses these issues, they will continue to mix things up with the top four corps for the rest of the year. 

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Posted by on Sunday, August 15th, 2010. Filed under DCW On-Line.