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I did say in the Wildwood thread if the the Thunderbirds sent out the signal, I'd be there. They sent out the signal on Thursday, I got things ready on Friday and Saturday morning. My new car made the trip up easy. No white smoke out the exhaust going up the mountains on I-81, at least 5-8 MPG better on the road, working A/C, and much, much faster. It's a really beautiful drive in daylight.

 

Saturday had a common theme of growth, transitions, and knowing where you fit in. I saw that from many individuals.

 

A bit tricky to find the T-Birds rehearsal site as well as Sobeski stadium, but I got close enough to figure out the locations. I hadn't been up that way for many years, and things have changed a bit.

 

I'll discuss more about the afternoon later- let's cut to the chase and get to the contest.

 

The Skyliners Alumni had a fine performance in pre-contest exhibition, playing several Hy Dreitzer arrangements like "Puttin' on the Ritz", "Elks' Parade", and a closing medley of iconic Skyliner musical moments. There were a couple of old school bugle tricks like using a trumpet mouthpiece with a bari for one of the features that provided a well done nostalgic moment.

 

The one section that I personally appreciate is their snare line- who's been performing very clean and cranks out the rudiments with exact crispness. They may be the real strength of the corps, and their show feature is quite, quite good.

 

The first competitor to take the field were the Erie Thunderbirds with their "Undaunted" program, which uses Michael Giachinno's soundtrack from the movie "Speed Racer". One of those situations where the soundtrack is far better than the movie it was written for.

 

Here's the deal:

At this point, the corps is better in all aspects from last season's first show at Nazareth. How? Why? Long term investments in developing young talent over the past two seasons are really paying a dividend. The cadre of the corps knows what needs to be done and knows how to work to get things done- maybe not that moment, but done over time. Some solid staff additions, everyone working very well together to make the package happen in a positive way, the pieces are there.

 

The visual and music package are more sophisticated. There are some subtle moments where the corps takes some real risks, and for mid-June, was coming down on the plus side of those risks in the performance rather than the "uh-oh... man... that didn't work too well... aka crash and burn" side of the coin.

 

To top it off, and the corps made absolutely no excuses for it, they were short 5 horns and a snare, and just came out and played as smart and as hard as could be expected for June. The drill was readable and the music book was very readable. It could have sounded patchy and full of holes and weak spots in the voicings, but it didn't.

 

There could have been balance issues between brass and percussion, there weren't. The battery performs hard with a lot of swagger, sounds great with their new System Blue percussion (some real tasty Bass work to listen for in the show!), and they didn't step all over the brass like they could have. The Front Ensemble's been very solid as well over the past three seasons, and they're also taking on more challenges and subtlety in their book.

 

Right now- the new folks in the corps are still getting used to the bigger expectations and challenges in marching in a corps rather than a High School Band, and they'll get there. More reps, more consistency in performance, I'm certain that by Nazareth with everyone on deck, they'll present rather well.

Where everyone ends up in Class A, that's an unknown. The target moves. The safe assumption is that Tradition is working very hard to defend their title. That the Govies will.... be the Govies, nothing less. Chops came out and made finals last season by just working hard and making it happen at Prelims. You can't discount them. The Southern Knights got strong numbers last season down South that indicate they're not out for beer and skittles. The level of competition's pushing all of these teams forward, and that's a good thing.

 

The Open part of the show, next. A lot of what I said about Erie's upside has to apply to the other competitors-- overall, the performances were solid for this time of the year, and you can't get those kind of results without the right rehearsal etiquette, teamwork, and lack of freakin' drama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by BigW
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The first Open corps were the Hurcs (@ 21 horns) with their interpretation of "Porgy and Bess". For this point in the season, the show was well-played, thoughtful, and accessible, the factors that garnered them a finalist spot in 2015. There were some jitters, which were understandable in some of more challenging and rhythmic elements that will clean easily as more confidence is gained with the show.

 

The angles and ideas that were musically presented were smart, pleasant, and again, thoughtful. They make use of a solid trombone soloist in a few segments, and once she relaxes with the slide and glides and bends in a more relaxed fashion, the moments will really stand out well. The use of the Trombone is well thought out for the program. It's not being used for the sake of playing something different. The voice is called for by the arranging  and the use of the slide adds to the melodic shape and thrust.

 

I know, believe me I know, some folks will quail and freak about this, the same people who gripe that they let glockenspiels into corps in the 50's. Frankly, I'm fine with it if the use is legit and not done for the sake of having a different instrument played in the program. If they were legal in 1982 and 1983, you bet the feature Bari quartets and quintets in the Westshoremen would have used the Bones. All of us played them as their major or secondary instruments and the parts would have really sung with the slides. (yeah... were all one of "those guys"...)

 

They were missing the final "Oh Lord, I'm on my Way" segment from their performance, which I think will really cap off the program nicely if it's like the material I heard on Saturday.

 

I'm certain some are wondering whether the show will get them into Finals. I think it's a good enough program to enable the Hurcs to get there if they get all of the T's crossed and the I's dotted for championship weekend, but it depends on issues that are out of their control as well, aka... what their opponents are up to. They have a car that's fast enough, they need to drive it as well as they can and give it a go.

 

Next up were the White Sabres. I got to talk with some people who were involved with the corps before the show, and when they told me they were fielding 48 horns, I beamed in delight. They now had enough of a broadside on their ship to trade off with the top 6. I figured that they'd be a bit hesitant at this show like they usually have been early on the past couple of  seasons, sort out the issues, then kick it into top gear in mid-July.

 

They came on the field with new uniforms, which are rather unique in the blue patterning and designs on the front. They're not the typical deigns and patterns that one normally expects to see, but they're really attractive, easy on the eyes, and work well. It was neat to see something fresh and unexpected in their new look.

 

Their show entitled "Waterways", uses several musical staples such as "Niagara Falls", "Equus", and "Bridge over Troubled Waters" as well as some other water-themed compositions to present a pretty dynamic program.

 

The Sabres pretty much cracked me in the face early on and left a powerful message:

 

- They were ready. The last 30ish seconds of drill was tacet, but otherwise they were very, very ready. No first show hiccups and jitters like I saw the last couple of seasons at the first contest. They came out hard and pushed confidently with serious aggression. And  they weren't sloppy because they pushed, either. They have it very much under control and they're not foolin' around. The show is more intellectual than their previous offerings but very musical and exciting.

 

 I believe this can be a 90+ point program. It's not a stretch to think that at all. They got an 88.73 last year at finals playing the bejeezus out of a really good program that didn't have the total potential this one has with a lot less guns on the gun deck. Placement? That's up in the air. What will they do to bring this program home over the season... and what are the top six from last season up to... or not up to? That remains to be seen. This is a very good corps and a dynamic program that I really like. If an opponent throws it in or decides to slack off and the White Sabres keep pushing hard- things could be rather "interesting".

 

 

Edited by BigW

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So glad to read your perspective of things!  Worth the wait.

In the past, Hurricanes filled-out their presence with a large and talented Guard. I'll assume that's still the case.

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5 hours ago, Fred Windish said:

So glad to read your perspective of things!  Worth the wait.

In the past, Hurricanes filled-out their presence with a large and talented Guard. I'll assume that's still the case.

The guard is small, but good. Not like a few years back when they could fill the field with color with around 30 people.

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The Bushwackers (@30 horns) were next with their "Where We Belong" program. I realized another reason it takes me awhile to do these is that I do study original music sources for certain pieces that corps perform that I'm unfamiliar with like Wojciech Kilar's "Orawa", which is one of the two selections along with "Creep" that provide the musical glue to bind the program together. There are tastes of other compositions like "Night on Bald Mountain" to give various flavors to the journey within the program.

A quick aside, my old friend and corpsmate Ben (The percussionist once known as Chumley) and I want to know what's up with the little black cat on the podium? He reminds me of Kuroneko from the anime "Trigun"...(yes... I'm pretty geeky. Trigun's a great Animated series, I highly recommend it, even though a couple of corps prolly have a 60 Billion Double Dollar reward on me. :innocent: )

 

Kuroneko_Sama_Coloured_by_LadyCoventina.

 

(I know, big image...:laugh:)

 

As always, the total percussion ensemble appeared ready and relaxed, and a lot of body's been already been incorporated into the program. The corps is more prepared than last year, and they also seem to be more comfortable performing this musical book as compared to last season's. It could be the style of music, I'm uncertain.

 

There were some ensemble issues here and there with the brass, but it's early in the season, and I'm not being paid to do an ensemble file for the corps, I'm just trying to pass on my perceptions and I do this on my own time for free. They know what they need to address. The big concern on my part are the upper brass voices, which sound a bit thin and pinched at times. Sometimes this is referred to as an "immature" timbre. Can they work to develop a rounder, fuller, more robust (more "Mature") sound as the season progresses? They'll need to, and with hard work at home, it's achievable. I think once they get this show honed and fettled, it'll be a very strong program and fun to watch for the fans.

 

Edited by BigW
Kuroneko-Sama

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The final competitor was the host corps, the "Skyliners" with their "Xscape" program which uses music from a very eclectic grab-bag of pieces from Movies, Pop, and Wind Band (Oh noes, music from "Those Guys"...)

 

This show is very technical, sophisticated, and very different from previous Skyliner fare. The entire corps has really stepped up in terms of their presentation and maturity- for much the same reasons as the Thunderbirds. They now have 2-3+ year vets as a cadre that knows how to get things down and perform confidently without nerves and jitters. It was really exciting for me to see that level of growth from the membership. The brass is real, real clean, and it's not just because of the new System Blues. It's part of the equation, but let's be frank. I can take my old Kanstul and outplay Gomer Pyle on a System Blue. You have to have a solidly grounded and knowledgeable player behind the instrument to get the sweet sound Sky gets from the Brass section. The overall percussion ensemble has also further improved along those lines of confidence and presentation.

 

The drill has a very indoor/BoA feel at times, it's well staged and has some very well-thought out moments within. The show was incomplete but is very, very well assembled.

 

Can they make Finals? The answer is the same as the Hurcs. Yes! The question will be where they go from here and how they clean and improve as the season progresses against their competitors. It's a smart, solid show- maybe a bit more esoteric than the Hurcs, but strong.

Edited by BigW

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Folks... I need to get ready for work. I'll get to the Cabs Alumni, who were really strong in the rain and showed folks how it's done as well as talk about other stuff later.

 

I just wanted to get up my thoughts about the competing corps by now, which I have done. I'm really impressed by how every competitor has worked to improve and grow this season, all respect.

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On ‎6‎/‎28‎/‎2017 at 5:04 PM, BigW said:

The Skyliners Alumni had a fine performance in pre-contest exhibition, playing several Hy Dreitzer arrangements like "Puttin' on the Ritz", "Elks' Parade", and a closing medley of iconic Skyliner musical moments. There were a couple of old school bugle tricks like using a trumpet mouthpiece with a bari for one of the features that provided a well done nostalgic moment.

Sorry "W" ... no sop mouthpiece in a bari - just some very talented horn players on Bari and FH ... that was an old Genero trick with the Hurcs in the early 60's ...

:-)

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17 hours ago, BigW said:

Folks... I need to get ready for work. I'll get to the Cabs Alumni, who were really strong in the rain and showed folks how it's done as well as talk about other stuff later.

 

I just wanted to get up my thoughts about the competing corps by now, which I have done. I'm really impressed by how every competitor has worked to improve and grow this season, all respect.

Great stuff W....wish you were at every show! Love your passion and insight as well as your understanding of what goes into crafting a show and whether it's working or not. I respectfully  disagree with your assessment of the Tbone as to its place in the activity. It may well add an element otherwise unachievable but then so would 24 violins....the activity I fell in love with was DRUM & BUGLE CORPS! As a traditionalist, I miss the sound and personality of of the activity that once was...the uniqueness is gone, we're now band aficionados. 

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4 hours ago, fish66 said:

Great stuff W....wish you were at every show! Love your passion and insight as well as your understanding of what goes into crafting a show and whether it's working or not. I respectfully  disagree with your assessment of the Tbone as to its place in the activity. It may well add an element otherwise unachievable but then so would 24 violins....the activity I fell in love with was DRUM & BUGLE CORPS! As a traditionalist, I miss the sound and personality of of the activity that once was...the uniqueness is gone, we're now band aficionados. 

To an extent you're right, but there's still something very different about the activity versus the scholastic band scene that sets it apart that keeps me energized.

The sense of professionalism from everyone involved keeps me believing. My experiences in dealing with the last two HS bands I was involved with left me pretty cold on that end. Remember, to some of those people, I'm one of "those guys" from corps even though I have more educational credentials than some of those clowns (That's scary. I try NOT to act like I have a grad degree). My impression is that many of not all of the DCA staffs have had some similar experiences at the HS level and work to avoid that baloney when they come to corps. Differences are worked out professionally- if they're not for whatever reasons, folks move on to where they fit in better.

 

Part of it might be that when I was involved with Westshore, we were trying to find an edge and our own personality to set ourselves apart from the rest of DCA. If we'd have tried to be like everyone else, we would have stalled it out. 1982 and 1983 would never have happened for us. We'd have been a perennial 5-6 corps at championships. Trying to push the envelope in different directions made us competitive against the legends. Realizing that has made me more open to some of the changes. Talking to many people as to why many of those changes have been implemented has also led to greater understanding. Being the somewhat irreverent rascals we were BITD in DCA, I know Mike(Baldy) , John (Big Ogre), Bruce, and myself would have used those bones if we could have got away with it, partly just to freak out some of the competitors. We were even looking at using some of that in alumni corps, which we did to an extent, and people responded very positively to it, which really amazed me. I think in some ways, people expected us to be a breath of fresh air on stage and do something a bit different.

 

The final thing I can tell you that keeps me on board are the members. They are US . :biggrin: Regardless of the style or instrumentation, I can talk to any of them from any corps (and I do) and it's still the same in that way. I think they're way better behaved overall (for which I am very thankful in a lot of ways), but they're out there to push themselves, find what they are capable of as individuals, and compete as hard as they can just as much as we were. The hearts inside are the same. If that changed, it would kill me. I'll talk about more of that later.

 

The big fight now is to get some of the crowd to realize it's okay to yell for every corps in the stands and do some fist-pumping and to keep some of that bando behavior saved for the fall. DCA and the corps may have to do a bit of work unless they like golf claps or people reacting in patches of parents. That worries me more than whether my friend Eldon is on Electronics or Brass at Fusion this season. :whistle:

 

 

 

 

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