2011 DCW On-Line: Whitewater, Wisconsin

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By Andrew Wheeler, Drum Corps World staff (wheelerand [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

Author’s note: I’m reviewing three shows on successive nights — Whitewater, WI, Oswego, IL, and Michigan City, IN. These three shows consist of largely the same corps each night, so I focused the reviews primarily on different aspects of the corps’ shows. For Whitewater, I’m focusing primarily on the music content.

June 30, 2011 – Whitewater, WI — Another perfect drum corps night greeted fans at historic Perkins (nee Warhawk) Stadium on the campus of the University of Wisconsin for the “Whitewater Classic.” Sponsored by the Madison Scouts (actually performing with the DCI Eastern tour), the contest drew over 1,500 fans to the historic venue, home of the first two DCI World Championships in 1972 and 1973.

The only corps to best 80 points so far in the season surpassed the mark for the second time in Whitewater, notching the highest score of the season at 81.1. The judges’ favorite was also the fans’ favorite of the evening – The Cavaliers.

“XtraordinarY” opened fast and never slowed down, with drill, music and special effects that drew the audience in throughout the show. The opening hit from the brass started off the show with intensity; a passage in this number where the brass crouched while playing added nice visual to a strong audio performance. This was a show with very few “down” moments. Unlike some of the other corps, the passages of playing to the backfield fit well without being overdone and the brass section carried the segments out well.

Percussion performance was the standard Cavalier intense, crowd-pleasing fare. The production was highlighted by a passage that featured the bass drummers lying across their drums as they played, followed by a section where a couple of the tenor drummers played upside down, interspersed with “rightside-up” tenor drummers.

The only “downside” portions of the audio show were the three sections of prerecorded voice; the jumbled words were hard to understand and didn’t really fit the show, at least not at this point in the season. Other than this, however, the show was clearly the winner of the evening with its consistent power and quality.

The Blue Stars took second in every sub-caption with their show, “ReBourne,” a mixture of music from “The Bourne Identity” and two of the “Matrix” movies. Skillful weaving of the “Bourne” theme contributed to a nicely-cohesive feel, adding significant impact. Also, the interspersing of the slower, more thoughtful “Bourne” pieces with the faster, louder “Matrix” selections kept the show interesting and engaging.

Brass performance was consistent throughout, highlighted by a screaming trumpet in Treadstone Assassins that drew applause from the crowd, followed by a “mass” at the front sideline. A passage in the closer, Bullet Time, featured echoing brass statements that produced a nice auditory impact.

Highlighted by brass playing on the ramp props, percussion performance consistently added punch to the show. Overall, the presentation worked, both musically and visually, with each aspect complimenting the other for a cohesive and well-received show.

Troopers, Casper, WY, 2010. (Drum Corps World photo by Shaun Owens)

“The Road Home” by the Troopers was divided into sections by bell sounds from the pit, an effective recurring punctuation device. The opener, The Old Church, featured an impressive brass hit after the corps “woke up” from its opening, lying-down positions. A few problems in the mello section were overcome by a strong, full-corps finish.

Brass was particularly strong in Muted and Sensuous, highlighted by an extended note that brought the audience to its feet in appreciation. The section’s performance was generally strong, but not quite as consistent as percussion.

The overall effect of the show musically was pleasant, but not as exciting as either The Cavaliers or Blue Stars. A significant portion was played to the backfield, reducing the brass impact somewhat.

The Colts finished fourth with their show, “Deception: The Jagged Edge.” Percussion opened, with brass joining in playing to the backfield. The subsequent about-face provided a great highlight.

Staging of the brass was effective throughout, highlighted by nice high brass and low brass runs in Danza de los Duenzes and a kneeling section in The Swan. Percussion was particularly strong in Danza and in the opening of Mind Heist, the closer.

As with the Troopers, the Colts finished with the corps staged on the far right corner of the field, which was a little anti-climactic given the level of excitement throughout the rest of the show. Overall, this production was a real crowd-pleaser, not only musically but also visually, with consistently strong performances and multiple highlight sections.

“Sinvitation 7,” one of many shows with good/evil themes this year placed Teal Sound fifth in all captions. Brass opened with a nice, full sound and performed well throughout in both soft and loud sections. A screaming trumpet in the opener brought applause from fans. Both brass and percussion were particularly impressive in Money for Nothing, one of the musical highlights of the show.

The Thomasville, GA, show used an electric guitar, violin and recorder (or similar instrument) in the pit for some interesting texture musically. The opening number felt significantly electronic, but overall the effects were not overwhelming. Musically, the show suffered a bit from incorporating nine different numbers, making it difficult to really build to meaningful climaxes. The biggest exception to this was in the closer, which finished with a very effective conclusion, both musically and visually.

Pioneer’s “Celebrate” show, celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary, opened with a very nice brass sound. The bright, cheerful sound carried a celebratory feel, though there may have been options for musical selection that would have connected more obviously with the theme. At one point, several of the guard members picked up horns, though it was not obvious from the stands whether they were actually playing or simply adding to the visual effect.

Four Scottish Dances featured a number of well-played musical highlights in the brass and in the marimbas, and New World Symphony was a particular.

Percussion was featured nicely in the closer, As Time Goes By. Pioneer is marching ten snares, five bass drums and five cymbals this year — no tenor drums. Despite the numbers (20 percussion and 20 brass on the field), the music was balanced, with the brass section sounding like a much larger unit.

Taking top honors in Open Class were the Colt Cadets with their show, “Notorious.” Anne of the Indies opened with percussion and baritones, and featured a very strong low brass performance. The mellophone duet at the beginning of Mutiny on the Bounty was another highlight. Billy the Kid opened faster and brighter, featuring a nice back-and-forth between high and low brass.

The highlights of the show musically were Finale (from “The Godfather”), that featured a very well-received trumpet solo and the Shostakovich closer. Both were familiar music and well-played, adding to the audience appeal. A strong final attack by both brass and percussion closed out the show on a nice climax.

Racine Scouts, Racine, WI, 2011. (Drum Corps World photo by Ron Walloch)

The “chrome” was back in the “domes” tonight as the Racine Scouts took the field for their show called “Resurrection.” (They had performed “chromeless” the previous weekend in Lisle, IL.) As was the case in Lisle, brass performance was unusually strong for Racine this early in the season, undoubtedly helped by a significant amount of standstill throughout that kept them from tiring. The entire closer was played standstill; more drill is undoubtedly coming, but the amount of drill is at a good place for the corps at this early stage.

Brass was bright and played well, especially in the louder sections. Percussion, with only four marching members, seemed a little overwhelmed at points, but overall the show was well-balanced musically. The guard had added two more members since the Lisle show, adding a bit to the visual impact.

Show experience

Like DeKalb, IL, and Menomonie, WI, Whitewater is a drum corps venue that simply shouldn’t be silent over the summer. It was great to see a show again in this stadium and with the positive turnout, hopefully we will again begin to see an annual show here. Whitewater is definitely an “A-list” show for many reasons.

The bleachers were nice — no chair- or benchback seats, but solid and roomy enough (at least in the general admission section). They were also sufficiently high to be able to appreciate the corps’ formations and drill. Concessions were limited but convenient and the restrooms were clean and sufficient for the crowd. Parking was close and convenient. Additionally, the stadium has a uniquely nice setting, nestled in among evergreen trees — a very “natural” feel that you wouldn’t see in many venues.

Pre-contest performances by the Sound of Sun Prairie and Oregon High School summer marching bands provided a very nice warm-up for the show.

Posted by on Thursday, July 7th, 2011. Filed under DCW On-Line, FrontPage Feature.