2011 DCW On-Line: Hawthorne, New Jersey

| |

by Bill Flaker, Drum Corps World staff (wrflaker [at] aol [dot] com)

July 9, 2011 — Wayne, NJ . . . Passaic County Technical Institute was jam-packed as the Reading Buccaneers kept their long undefeated streak intact while sailing to victory at the 47th annual “Drum Corps Grand Prix” sponsored by the Hawthorne Caballeros. Weather conditions were perfect as famed DCA trumpet soloist Frank Ponzo played our National Anthem.

The voice of DCA, Fran Haring, served as emcee for the evening and did a fabulous job keeping fans entertained with his funny comments along the way. It was great to have him back with us tonight as all who know him expressed heartfelt comments on the loss of his lovely wife Barbara few months ago.

The Reading Buccaneers swept all captions this evening except color guard with their 2011 program, “A Dancers Dream.” Their show is a celebration of dance and dance movements that blends in with a powerful music and visual package. The corps displays many different body poses in the pre-show opening set and the horn line garbs your attention immediately with their power at the first musical hit. The use of the muted horns is a different approach in the opening number as the large weapons and silk tosses add much to the visual package.

As always, the Bucs use many different body visual moments throughout and have several uniform changes by the guard. Percussion remains strong as the front percussion ensemble is large and displays a great deal of showmanship. The battery has new snares this year and I will leave it up to the fans whether they like them or not. They are very different. The cymbal line is a show by themselves and is well-written into the drill.

The ballad of Swan Lake was nicely done as the guard uses purple and white silks set to the right side of the field. The field then changes into a large dance hall as the front percussion section introduces Maria and the jam session begins as Mambo from “West Side Story” starts the percussion feature accompanied by high rifle tosses. A big, loud and full of volume park and play fills the field with sound as the horn line pushes to the stands in a company front.

I know the season has just started, but the surprise corps so far has been the Connecticut Hurricanes with their very fan-friendly show featuring the music of George Gershwin. First-year Drum Major Vidal Orduz is starting to connect with fans through his conducting. The upbeat number On My Way showcases the color guard using briefcases to accent the musical selection and give you the feeling that you are actually “on your way.” Fans will also hear a tease of Mag 7 in this number.

Guard designer John Lemire and his staff have a color guard that is drawing rave reviews from fans and judges with their performance each week and, after the first two shows, have established themselves as the ones to beat. The horn line is starting to fill in holes and is getting stronger. Trumpet soloist Paul Beaumont is one of DCA’s best as his feature in But Not For Me will get your attention quickly.

The drum line is young, talented and very aggressive in their playing, while the front percussion ensemble is larger than the past few years. The corps sells their production number, Fascinatin’ Rhythm, with different and funny body and facial visuals being displayed. The closing number, Blue Concerto in Paris, blends in many of Gershwin’s musical selections as the Hurricanes are what may very well be the sleeper corps in 2011. They captured high honors in color guard while the seven-time world champion honor guard also took home the trophy tonight in their caption. A very loud and well-deserved standing ovation from fans greeted the corps from Connecticut as they trooped the stands.

Celebrating 65 years, the Hawthorne Caballeros honor their heritage with “The Days of Future Past” program. Hometown fans were definitely behind them tonight as Drum Major Glen Stevens had the corps fired up and ready to entertain. The big opening statement from the brass line with a trumpet quartet lets you know right away that the horn line is trademark with its power and quality sound. The corps displays many different and talented soloists in their program like famed DCA soloist Frank Ponzo who has returned to the competition field in 2011.

The color guard is the most improved section of the corps complete with their striking new uniforms. A solo dancer is on the field and, while she is extremely talented, she sometimes gets lost visually in the drill. One highlight this year is a tribute to the corps’ founder, James J. Costello, Jr., in the ballad. The horn line forms the letter “C” to the left back side of the field while the percussion line splits to the back right side.

Fourth generation grand daughter Shea Costello age, 17, is a first-year cymbal player. Strains of Mr. Costello’s favorite song, Don’t Cry for me Argentina, are heard. Fans, this is truly a drum corps moment! The horn line then regroups for their reverse wheel form that has fans up from their seats. All is well and good in Hawthorne this year and when the cleaning and fixing a very difficult and demanding drill are done, watch out because the corps will be coming on strong.

Placing fourth, but first in Class A, was last year’s champion, Fusion Core, with their “Africa Untamed” program. I have to admit that I was not impressed by what I saw from Fusion last week at the “Barnum Festival,’ but my second read this week has changed my opinion. With Drum Major Carol O’Brien leading the way, the corps set the mood as the introductory drum beat accents the African theme. The brass line displays different body poses as the front percussion ensemble begins the musical book. The color guard uniforms are pure African in style, complete with black head dresses.

The spin move to the front by the horn line and the first musical hit makes you think that there are many more horns on the field than there actually are. The percussion line has improved, but still needs some cleaning. Several sets of guard work need to be filled in as well.

I had the pleasure to chat with show coordinator and brass arranger James Riley as he gave me an overview of the program. Another Class A title is definitely in Fusion’s reach as this program will grow in the next few weeks.

Windsor Regiment, NJ, 2011. (Drum Corps World photo by Harry Heidelmark)

Windsor Regiment was founded in 2007 as a mini-corps and in 2011 marks the first year in competition. The show is titled “Tango Nuevo” and has a South American flavor to it, which is well-presented. The opening number has the corps displaying a dance step as the front percussion begins the musical charts. A solo dancer appears at center stage as the guard breaks out orange and brown silks. The rifle pass-through between the horn line added to the visual presentation as the corps finished just behind Fusion Core in visual effect.

A dance duet at center stage is surrounded by a strong saber section, while accordian-like props are used by the remaining guard members. The horn line has the composition tools in place, but lagged behind in the performance level. Once the horn line catches on, this will only place Windsor Regiment closer to the top. Overall this first-year corps is on the right track to succeed and has a highly visual package in place with a lot of color built in. It will be fun to watch this program grow as the season moves along.

A huge welcome back to the Sunrisers as they come back to the competition field in 2011. Celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the music from “Les Miserables,” the corps is set in files to the left as the horn line begins the show playing to the backfield. The uniforms reflect those that were worn in the Broadway show which some fans in attendance did not understand. The corps is very small and young, but are large in heart and should be given much credit for what they are doing.

The front percussion of eight had a lot of energy tonight and, once the battery latches onto that energy, their performance numbers will rise. The drill is well-written for this very unit and the swinging gate move by the horn line during the percussion feature was cleanly done. Guard work still needs to be filled in while the closing musical number of One More Day was played in an arc form.

The Sunrisers have a very talented trumpet soloist named Manny, but I was unable to obtain his last name. That will come into print the next time we cross paths. The best thing about the performance from the Sunrisers tonight is that they are back on the competition field where they belong. And that is a very good thing.

Bushwackers, Harrison, NJ, 2011. (Drum Corps World photo by Harry Heidelmark)

Many of us had heard throughout the spring that Bushwackers were in membership trouble, going Class A, taking a year off or were folding. The good news is that are still intact as they are celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2011. The bad news is that they are hurting for members and performed again tonight with only 36 members. Their 2011 program is titled “Ascent” as Drum Major Scott Brown showed that there is no quit in the Bushwackers, plowing through the obstacles placed in front of them.

I am not sure if their closing number is ready or not as they received another 3.4 penalty for being undertime like at the “Barnum” competition. Unfortunately, the drill forms are hard to read and the visual content is hurt due to the small size. The performance level at this time is more than acceptable, but as the membership grows so will the scoring. The Bushwackers have always been a top 10 finalist on Labor Day weekend and I am confident with the staff in place they will continue this streak when the time comes. It is way too early to count them out, but give them all the credit for fighting through this difficult time.

First up in exhibition tonight was the New York Skyliners Alumni, taking us down memory lane with many of their well-known numbers. The red, white and blue silks with the American eagle on them were really sharp looking and stood out from the working color guard members. The trumpet section was very good and highlighted many different soloists. The percussion feature was well done which led into the rock number Aquarius. The closer was their trademark Little Old New York with an encore of Elks Parade at track side.

The DCI Open Class Bwere also in exhibition with their “Bluecentric” program. The drill is well-written for small-sized unit and the corps made good use of the field. The trumpet section was really hot tonight and produced a sound that was larger than the numbers on the field. Percussion was energetic in all areas, especially the front percussion ensemble. Many body visuals were observed during the performance.

The color guard had some incomplete equipment work at times, but managed to stay in their roles all through the show. I was impressed by the performance this evening as their energy level was much larger than the actual number of members on the field.

I have to admit that I was very hard on the Jersey Surf when I reported on them in Bridgeport two weeks ago. I was taken aback by the improvement, performance level and changes that were added to the visual package. “Petal Tones: Shades of Rose” is the shows name, with white picket fences and large different colored roses on them being placed on the field. The body visuals were well-designed and entertaining as all sections of the corps really played it up for the fans.

The color guard was very good with their equipment and silk work, while the percussion line was tight and well-trained. The horn line is large and much cleaner than I last saw them and finished all their phrases. A really cool visual moment was when the color guard breaks out orange rose silks that were hidden inside the large rose flower props. I am very happy to have a second read of Jersey Surf and what a major improvement that has been made by them.

Welcome back my friends as the Bridgemen Alumni Corps came onto the field more than ready to entertain fans. The horn line produced a quality sound and was well-supported by a working color guard that added much to the visual presentation. The ballad Rainbow Connection would have made Kermit the Frog very happy. The corps’ salute to New York City came complete with a NYC police officer carrying a stop sign while chasing a Bridgemen doughnut box around the field.

The drum solo received a standing ovation as the horn line took a nap at midfield, letting the percussion have their moment with the fans. The New York medley featured the guard on red, white and blue silks as the corps pushed toward the stands playing Stars and Stripes Forever. A banner reading “9/11/01 Never Forget” was unfurled from the drum major’s podium that pulled the fans from their seats. An encore of William Tell Overture concluded an outstanding performance tonight by the Bridgemen.

As always, the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni corps is a show all by itself. From the Call to the Bulls fanfare to the “rumps” off the line with 13 rifles leading the way, fans were worked up already. Hall of Fame Drum Major Jimmy Russo was at his best tonight by keeping the fans involved in the program. Many different and highly talented brass soloists are featured as the horn line will truly blow you away.

Not to be outdone, the percussion line can compete with any of DCA’s best on any night. The trademark color presentation Flamenca Cha Cha had fans on their feet clapping in time with the music. Another excellent performance from the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Corps has to be on your must-see list this summer when they come to your area.

The combined Hawthorne Caballeros corps played an encore of Flamenca Cha Cha with 100-plus horns producing a wall of sound.

A drum majors-only retreat followed as the scores and special awards were given. Each year the “Grand Prix” should be on your must-attend list as this show gives you every bit and more of your money’s worth of entertainment.

Thanks to Al Katz, Frank Gerris and the staff of the Hawthorne Caballeros for the excellent hospitality and friendship. Special thanks to DCA officials Gil Silva, Red Corso, Glen Johnson and Dave Hobart for their valuable assistance.

Posted by on Sunday, July 17th, 2011. Filed under DCW On-Line, FrontPage Feature.