2011 DCW On-Line: Dublin, Ohio

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by Kevin Gamin, Drum Corps World staff, managing editor of Drum Corps Planet (editor [at] dcpnews [dot] com)

July 5, 2011 – Dublin, OH . . . Four straight nights of shows in the Buckeye State kicked off in the Columbus suburban enclave of Dublin with the 2011 edition of the “Emerald City Music Games.” The Cavaliers, more “Green Machine” than emerald, powered their way to another victory, taking all captions, while the Blue Stars placed a strong second. A dogfight between the Glassmen, Colts and Troopers foreshadowed the eventual fight for the final spot in Indy, with the three corps finishing within 1.15 of each other. Pioneer continued to celebrate their 50th anniversary and was right at home in the Emerald City, while the Blue Saints and Cincinnati Tradition both began their 2011 competitive seasons tonight.

The Cavaliers continued to make their case for winning another championship, finishing miles ahead of the rest of tonight’s lineup and sweeping all captions. The show title, “XtraordinarY,: not only plays on the all-male aspect, but also on how the corps performs. Revolving around the David Bowie rendition of Nature Boy, the crowd is treated to many effects that go beyond your average gimmicks: guard members on stilts, tenors and trumpets playing while held upside down and basses playing while balanced on their drums — just a few examples.

Of course, one aspect that the corps is always “XtraordinarY” is through 2011 DCI Hall of Fame inductee Michael Gaines’ drill, which does not disappoint any viewer. The brass is especially powerful, projecting a strong sound even at quiet volumes. With corps like The Cadets and Blue Devils out on the West Coast, it’s hard to truly measure where The Cavaliers stand competitively, but they are definitely :XtraordinarY.:

Some corps have made very effective use of electronics since they were allowed in 2009. The Blue Stars are one of those corps that has taken full advantage with “ReBourne,” a show comprised of music from both the “Bourne” and “Matrix” trilogies. The music is very effective, ranging from mysterious to foreboding, thrilling to reflective. Sound effects such as police sirens and thunderstorms during the pre-show lead into the performance, while techno percussion beats are used to great effect during the opening moments of the show as well as during the penultimate musical selection, Treadstone Assassins from “The Bourne Identity.”

Also effective is the use of a cityscape backdrop comprised of scaffolds and ramps that various sections of the corps utilize throughout the show, adding a third dimension to the visual program. All sections are strong and perform this show with high levels of precision and emotion from beginning to end. This is a show worthy of another top eight finish.

Good and evil seemed to be a common theme tonight as the Glassmen featured both light and dark sides in their “My Mortal Beloved” program. The show centers on a man in white and his forbidden love for a woman of darkness. They fight to stay together throughout the show, but the corps comes between them over and over again. Finally, the man chooses to join his love in the darkness, allowing them to stay together forever.

The production is a visual treat thanks to an aggressive color guard and strong marching from the rest of the corps as a whole. This is also a show that goes from Beethoven to Elvis to Verdi, with a little Tchaikovsky thrown in for good measure. The Glassmen currently hold the lead over the other finalist contenders, but the gap is slim and the season long, so it’s hard to say what the final results will be at this point.

Colts, Dubuque, IA, 2011. (Drum Corps World photo by Ron Walloch)

The Colts presented their own telling of the movie “Black Swan” tonight with their show titled “Deception: The Jagged Edge.” Sporting new uniforms with a silver “jagged edge” on the chest, the show centered on Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and Saint-Saens’ “The Swan,” along with two other musical selections. In the color guard, two featured dancers — one in white, the other in black — portrayed the dual role of the ballet dancer torn between her good and evil sides.

The sound of the corps is signature Colts, from Jerry Carpenter’s pit writing to Chris Tomsa’s brass book. Once again, a wonderful baritone soloist was featured, this time during The Swan. High marks in music general effect and color guard put the corps just 0.3 behind the Glassmen in the race for a finals spot.

Three of the corps fighting for the twelfth position at Indianapolis performed tonight, offering an extra treat for fans. The first of those three was the Troopers with their program called “The Road Home.” The show is very eclectic, featuring musical selections that are all new to the drum corps field. Two musical moments stood out during the production. The first was an incredible baritone soloist during a Copland piece, Muted and Sensuous. The second was a pure Troopers experience as the full horn line hit a huge chord. While holding the chord, the drum major turned and saluted the crowd as only a Trooper DM can. The crowd definitely appreciated this moment and made sure the corps knew it. The horn line is also the strength of the corps, placing third and finishing 0.5 ahead of the Colts, a significant margin.

Pioneer, Milwaukee, WI, 2011. (Drum Corps World photo by Ron Walloch)

One of two corps performing tonight celebrating their 50th anniversary, Pioneer gave the crowd a mix of the old and the new, at least from a Pioneer standpoint, performing “Celebrate!” It was full of many surprises for the crowd, starting with a horn line and drum line that was of equal size, both at 20 members. The horns play with a sound twice their size, with every member contributing to the ensemble sound and more than made up for their smaller numbers.

More surprises came from the drum line, as they marched with zero tenors, choosing instead to field 10 snares along with five bass and five cymbals. The snares were tuned lower than usual, making it difficult to tell if they were playing on Mylar or Kevlar heads. Regardless, the snare sound was very wet and stood out from what snares normally produce for sound in today’s form of the activity.

Visually, the corps utilized multiple backdrops in an arc along the back area of the field. This cut down on the area when the corps marched in and made the visual program more effective with the smaller corps. With the show in the Emerald City, it didn’t come as a surprise that the crowd loved Pioneer throughout, cheering enthusiastically multiple times. Like Pioneer, the crowd found much to celebrate tonight.
It’s a long drive from Sudbury, ONT, located above the Georgian Bay, down to Dublin, Ohio — 12 hours without stops, in fact. The Blue Saints, one of the few remaining Canadian junior corps, made the trek down to the Buckeye State to open their season in DCI Open Class. Presenting their program of “Stranded,” the open opened with stabbing horn chords in Verdi’s Requiem, not your typical small-corps selection.

The corps continued with their sophisticated repertoire, featuring selections from Philip Glass (Truman Sleeps and Lightning) and an original composition from the corps] music arrangers, Todd Schultz, Jordan Avey and Chris Scarberry. While the Blue Saints are small and were performing in their first 2011 competition, the crowd definitely appreciated them coming from so far away and showed their support with their applause.

Cincinnati Tradition opened the night with their Latin-themed show, “Elcorazon de Andalucia,” using music from “The Mask of Zorro” and Bill Holman’s classic Malaga, a drum corps staple if there ever was one. The corps is building on last year’s first-ever competitive appearance at the DCA World Championships and, with the Fairfield show rained out almost two weeks before, this was their first opportunity for a judged performance.

The corps was up to the challenge, with the horn line projecting their G-bugle sound with pride, while the percussion felt at home with the Latin grooves. The guard looked lovely on the field in black dresses which complimented their white flags. This is a show that will make the trip to Rochester and DCA prelims worthwhile.

Posted by on Saturday, July 16th, 2011. Filed under DCW On-Line, FrontPage Feature.