Scout House, Empire Statesmen Carrying Legacies
Spectators at the 8th annual Vince Bruni Preview of Champions contest in Rochester, New York will have a rare opportunity to see two drum and bugle corps from different eras on the same field, carrying on the legacy of their original directors, who aimed above all to entertain the audience.
Wilf Blum, founder of Preston Scout House and Vince Bruni, founder of Rochester’s Empire Statesmen are both deceased, but their visions are still being displayed on the performance field.
Wilf Blum, who was director of Canada’s Preston Scout House Bugle Band for its entire 30-year existence from 1938 to 1967, was an innovator who introduced audience-appealing routines year after year, including the distinctive uniform first worn in 1954 when the band broke away from Boy Scouts of Canada. Scout House, named after the building that was home to the 1st Preston Scout Troop, combined its distinctive uniform with a repertoire that included Latin rhythms, Broadway hits and classical selections while other groups were still playing mainly military marches.
In addition to creating a distinctive high-stepping marching style with arms fully extended and swinging to shoulder height, Scout House featured novelty marching routines such as Wooden Soldiers, which astounded audiences in the 1950s as the musicians marched stiff-legged, rocked back and forth and turned circles before slumping down to a slack position like wind up toys that had run out of energy. Other field movements included a high stepping slow march, swaying from side to side in time to the music and even skipping across the field, with brass players holding their horns in just one hand while playing.
The 2011 Scout House Alumni Band field show recalls these original themes through the uniforms worn by the honour guard and a percussion feature based on Wooden Soldiers featuring a horn trio, glockenspiels and stiff legged marching and twirling.
When Vince Bruni founded the Empire Statesmen in 1983, his first objective was to design routines that pleased the audience while challenging members to perform at the highest personal level possible. Field shows have included music from the composers whose work makes up the Great American Songbook and such well-known Broadway shows as West Side Story, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, with the Phantom disappearing from the field in a puff of smoke, and A Chorus Line, complete with a dance director using his megaphone to order the performers back to the beginning of their routine. In 2010 the Empire Statesmen told the story of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz on the field, with characters in full costume portraying Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and, of course, the Wicked Witch.
The Empire Statesmen have a long history of community involvement, performing benefit stage concerts to help boost local music groups in towns across western New York and southern Ontario. Members of the corps often engage the audience individually by smiling and waving as they pass in review in front of the stands.
Bruni extended performance opportunities far beyond the contest field, taking the Empire Statesmen not only to auditoriums, arenas, parks and band shells in area towns, but to Europe, South and Central America and the Caribbean, often at the height of the summer contest season.
The Vince Bruni Preview of Champions begins at 7 pm on July 16, at Wegmans Stadium at Aquinas Institute, 1127 Dewey Avenue in Rochester. The contest features Excelsior of Troy, New York; White Sabers of Dansville, New York; three time Drum Corps Associates (DCA) champion Hurricanes of Seymour, Connecticut and five time DCA champs Empire Statesmen of Rochester.
Tickets are available in advance by calling (585) 266-2232 or visiting the Empire Statesmen web site at ?www.statesmen.org
On August 20, the Scout House Invitational Tattoo at University Stadium in Waterloo, Ontario will salute the bandmasters and drum majors who put music on the march in Ontario over the past half-century. The field show will feature Scout House, Les Diplomates du Quebec, Toronto Optimists Alumni, Simcoe United Alumni, Burlington Teen Tour Band and the Guelph Pipe Band. Ticket information and other details are available at www.scouthousetattoo.com
For more information about Preston Scout House Alumni Band visit the web site at: http://www.scouthouseband.com/index.html
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