2011 DCW On-Line: Kingston, New York

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

The four letter word that drum corps fans and show sponsors hate the most happened at Dietz Memorial Stadium this evening as a steady and sometimes heavy rain fell on the fifteenth annual “March of Champions.” The show was sponsored by the Children’s Home of Kingston as a field of seven DCA corps performed at their best level despite the adverse weather conditions. My note pad was one soggy mess as my usually dependable pen didn’t help much in the heavy rain.

The Empire Statesmen are presenting the music of Michael Jackson with their 2011 program “Man in the Mirror.” Drum Major David Bruni, decked out in his military outfit similar to Mr. Jackson’s, had his corps prepared to entertain the fans. The brass line features many different soloists who are talented in their playing as the section opens the show playing to the backfield. The color guard has been steadily improving and I was impressed by the flag work this evening, especially in the timing of their work.

Empire Statesmen, Rochester, NY, Drum Corps World photo by Dave Valvo

The front ensemble displays a great deal of showmanship while the six cymbal players are highly visual and entertaining. The number Billie Jean got the fans involved as they rocked and swayed to the horn line while they parked and played. The percussion feature showcased many different body visuals and the use of vocalizations to the stands. I still am waiting to see what the Statesmen will bring out from the seven large black tent props they display as I am sure it will get a large response from the fans and judges. The Empire Statesmen captured high honors in Brass, Visual Ensemble, Visual Effect, Music Ensemble and Communication.

Trailing the Statesmen by a mere .45, the Connecticut Hurricanes stormed into Kingston to make a statement and that they did in a big way. Many different music and visual changes have been added to bolster the scoring since Lewisburg last week and they have helped greatly. The horn line has just about all of the holes filled and had their best run of the season tonight as they placed second in Brass.

The drum line was totally energized as they took high honors in Percussion under the guidance of Mike Schmidt. Watch the facial expressions of the snare line while they perform as these guys are downright scary. Trumpet soloist Paul Beaumont continues to impress and is joined by side drum major Rich Yelnik who hits all the high notes in his trumpet solos.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm is a fun and entertaining number as the funny role portrayals by the corps members will get a chuckle from fans. The color guard remains undefeated and are everything that has been written or reported on. Each week they bring along a briefcase to the city they are performing in during the number On My Way. Taking high honors in Percussion, Music Effect, Color Guard and Honor Guard, the Connecticut Hurricanes may have finally found the emotion as well as performance level it takes to stay among DCA’s best.

I was a little surprised at the performance from the Hawthorne Caballeros this evening. I thought that the corps would make a big push to catch the groups ahead of them, but unfortunately that did not happen. However it was not for lack of performance level or effort as the Cabs are presenting a highly-energetic show with a horn line that maintains its standard of excellence. Many different soloists are used and each one of them is highly talented, especially in the trumpet section.

The color guard adds much to the visual package and their new uniforms are stunning to look at. I believe this unit doesn’t get enough credit for what they do as their weapon work skills are very good and solo dancer, Lauren Shott, is highly talented in her role portrayals. The percussion line is still lagging behind the leaders and tonight they finished fourth, but it is still too early to count them out. The drill patterns are rapid-paced before the corps folds into their reverse wheel which was definitely cleaner than it has been. Be wary in the few weeks as this program still has all the ingredients it needs in place to find them higher.

The biggest fan reaction as well my own was the performance of the defending DCA Class A Champion Fusion Core with their “Africore” program. What a solid and emotionally-charged show as the opening sets have been changed, with many new and exciting visual moments added in. From the opening African drum beat cadence, the mood is already set for this entertaining program.

I have to first give all the credit I can to the color guard that I was critical of when I last saw them in Lawrence, MA. This unit has learned how to perform and sell the visual package to the top of the stands. The drum line can compete with the Open Class lines for sure as they placed third tonight and defeated the Caballeros for the first time. The front percussion ensemble is very young, but sells the show well and stays in character.

I had a minute to spend time with show coordinator and brass arranger/ manager James Riley before the corps began their show and he told me to pay close attention tonight. Many of Fusion’s staff members were close to me and all I heard after their performance was, “Where did that come from?” This was truly an outstanding performance by Fusion Core.

2011 has definitely been a challenge for the Bushwackers as they continue to trail the field each week in Open Class. Their program is titled “Ascent” as they is celebrating their 30th anniversary season. With a very small corps, it is the percussion section that is carrying the bulk of the load. Their playing and scoring is much higher than the brass at this point in the season.

With only 15 horns, the holes are evident in the visual design. Hopefully after DCI finals new members can be added to plug in the openings and increase the scoring. The color guard of five does a commendable job under the leadership of DCA I&E Champion Aaron Palmer. Hopefully, once new members are added in, the Bushwackers will be able to retain a top t10n position.

The White Sabers are presenting “Rhapsody in Shades of Blue” this year and will use various shades of blue to present three separate styles of music. Using rock, jazz and symphonic music in the opening part of the program, the 12 horns do a good job in their musical charts. The White Sabers finished ahead of the Bushwackers tonight in the brass caption which was a first for them.

Percussion was tight and showed many moments of musical excellence. The color guard still needs some polishing and a confidence boost to help the visual presentation. The closer of Rhapsody in Blue had the horns building in volume while pushing to the stands. A very fine outing tonight from the White Sabers.

Excelsior, Albany, NY, Drum Corps World photo by Dave Valvo

Performing first in competition was Excelsior with the music of Chuck Mangione. The opening number, Children of Sanchez, began with the percussion section opening the musical book. The 12 horns work hard to keep up to the written charts as the trumpet soloist in Hill Where the Lord Hides was very talented in his assignment.

The age of the corps appears to be a mix of very young with a few older members sprinkled in. The musical flow was well-written. However, there is very little drill and visual content in Excelsior’s show this year. More experienced members would help greatly at this point to increase the scoring and growth of the corps.

Opening the show in exhibition was 20th Century Limited from Highland, NY, a well -known parade and exhibition corps from the Hudson Valley. The 20 horns at times sounded larger than their actual numbers on the field. The swing number of Jump, Jive an’ Wail was lively, while the patriotic Battle Hymn of the Republic saluted America, with the color guard using red, white and blue silks.

The Muchachos from Manchester, NH, are always a crowd favorite in Kingston with their Spanish style musical program. Coming off the line with Pictures of Spain, the corps has a horn line of 17 that showcases many different soloists, especially their featured trumpet. The working guard of five was entertaining and well-trained in their silk and dance routines. The Grand Old Flag exit saluted America as the Muchachos gave fans an encore number at track side.

To close out the show, the Hawthorne Caballero Alumni Corps showed why they are one of the most wanted exhibition corps in all of the activity. Choosing to perform in street clothes instead of their uniforms did not for one minute take away from an outstanding performance they put on tonight. Coming off the line to their famous “rumps,” the weapon and silk lines went through the motions, but without their equipment due to the weather conditions.

The horn line was superb with many, many different soloists, including trumpet Kurt Hawkins leading the way. As always, Jim Russo had fans involved in the show and, despite the rain, kept the remaining fans clapping in time with the music.

Usually it is an Olympic retreat in Kingston, but due to the approaching heavier rain, a drum majors-only retreat was held. I have to give a great deal of credit to the fans who came to the show and showed their approval of all the units. More credit goes to all the performers who dealt with poor weather conditions and still went out to perform at their best for the fans and judges.

President Gil Silva had a very tough decision to make as to concerting the show to a standstill or going ahead with the competition. The right decision was made as this was a very fine show despite the precipitation. It was a very hard assignment for me because of the weather and I gave it my best effort to accurately cover the show for DCW and to give all the corps the publicity they deserve.

Thanks to Dr. John Carr and his staff for all their help, and for running a great show. Special thanks to DCA officials Gil Silva, Dave Hobart and Glen Johnson for their valuable assistance.

Posted by on Tuesday, August 9th, 2011. Filed under DCW On-Line, FrontPage Feature.