Just some thoughts on DCE finals.
I hadn't seen anything this year, in fact, I've never watched a show as a fan apart from going to DCI finals a couple of times. So it was nice to kick back and just watch, especially when they're letting you sit in the stand with your beer(s)...
Very enjoyable set of shows. Unfortunately we missed Semis due to a monster train journey down from Amsterdam, but really glad 4 UK corps were in finals. Not many UK fans in the stand though? Probably due to the change of venue to Kerkrade?
Anyway. Apologies in advance for not really (ever) mentioning drums and guard... And apologies to Wolper Lowen, Starriders and Millennium for missing you.
Poynton are a really tight, professional corps. Very uniform look visually and they all march well, plenty of their members march as well as anyone else who performed that night. Brass line was controlled and used that control to really good effect, drawing you in to listening to the show rather than just waiting for the next "hit". Something built upon by Juliana and Senators later on. Not surprised they moved up, but I missed the German corps, so couldn't compare. Really impressed by the approach taken by Poynton, 7th in Europe is a huge achievement for a corps that has had to rebuild more than once over the years. They must have some very good people up there.
I really enjoyed Black Knights show. The kits in the pit worked well, but I was kind of expecting them to really cut loose - animal-off-of-the-muppets style, which didn't quite happen. It was a really entertaining show, particularly enjoyed a bit of Muse in there. They could probably do Rock shows for the next 10 years with all the material available. Look forward to seeing what they do next year. Hopefully they can get a drum line out, but it'd be a shame to lose the kits altogether, I'd like to see them developed more.
Juliana I only caught the 2nd half of, which looking back was a shame seeing as they jumped score so much and of course won high brass. From what I saw the brass line were good, very tight with a solid sound. I was surprised they won brass, I thought Senators had it, but not amazed as they obviously have some really strong players and a good approach to balancing their line. After years of being overshadowed by their drum line, I hope the brass enjoy it! Juliana seem to have moved on a lot over the last couple of seasons. Maybe being a smaller Dutch corps has helped them adapt their style quicker to a more "UK" approach e.g. demanding visual and brass books performed to a high technical standard. I thought they would be nip and tuck with Kidsgrove and in the end they were only a few tenths off finishing third.
Kidsgrove had a really strong show. The first half I liked a lot and their version of Send in the Clowns was excellent, with a quality Bari soloist. The brass line had a good sound, and the 6 contras definitely had a say. Visually they might be the most striking corps under floodlights, really bright uniforms. Their drill was as effective as always with plenty of well performed set pieces, but some of the execution wasn't as tight as it might have been. The second half of the show I didn't get into as much. One section moved around a lot of familiar themes, entertaining, but I kind of lost the direction of the show. The closer I enjoyed, but it reminded me of Malaguena and that distracted me a bit, but I appreciated the nod to Kidsgroves history of latin jazz programmes. Overall really entertaining, and like I said I had them close with Juliana.
Jubal I really liked and thought they'd beat Beatrix. The first minute of their show was on fire and the brass line tore-it-up. Visually they seemed to be upping it from previous years and I saw more movement from them than Beatrix. I found them really entertaining and you could tell they were fired up after 3rd place last year and wanted to get back into the top 2. I was surprised that in the end they only just held onto 3rd.
Beatrix had a solid show that just didn't grab me. I can't put my finger on why. The brass had a great sound, the guard I really noticed, particularly in their Devils-like dance section. I think I expected a stronger performance from individual members seeing as they'd had all that time together in the states. Despite the visual design not being as challenging as others, I expected it to be clean as a whistle and that would put them in the mix. In reality visually it wasn't as tight as I'd hoped and the programme/music choice just didn't feel like it hung together very solidly. I loved the ballad though, which was probably the best musical moment of the night.
Senators simply took it up a level. Lots of people have said lots about it, but in the first minute you could see the difference in program and performance. I was surprised how obvious it was, not having seen anything this year. I'd thought the semis spread was surprising, but seeing the show it was totally justified and I think increased in finals? Just a great show that the corps nailed completely. I was amazed at the standard they've achieved with the number of rehearsals they've had. Individual commitment from the members was through the roof.
So are the Dutch right to be disappointed? For all their friendliness and relaxed attitude to ... everything, the Dutch can be sore losers! (Booing on retreat? Bad form old chaps) Especially now they haven't won for two years. The novelty of the "little UK corps" winning last year has worn off I think.
The Dutch corps are good. Caption-wise they are mixing it in Guard, Brass and Drums, all won by the Dutch this year. But they don't have the overall programme or the level of delivery to match Senators at the moment. I'm interested to see what they do next year.
Northern Star showed in 05 and 06 that a UK corps could potentially win DCE with a much smaller membership but with smarter programming and ensuring excellence while performing higher demand visual and (to a lesser extent) musical books, in short - Working Harder both in rehearsals and during the show. Senators have now nailed this twice, and who'd bet against them next year?
The Visual book and the way the top UK corps perform a high level of visual demand is obviously a big difference, and was with Northern Star as well as Kidsgrove. But I think there are two things at the moment that really set Senators apart.
One is the musical book. Having Andrew Markworth write the brass, pit and drums gives them such a well constructed and balanced sound. As well as that, the music book must be a dream to clean up. No more 3, 4, 5 writers and techs huddled together trying to find out where that extra beat is coming from, or why a dynamic doesn't line up. Also, the standard of the writing is great, complex arrangements and just some really class touches.
You also get all the transitions and developments in the programme from one persons mind, so ensuring a clarity and consistency of style and ideas that can sometimes be lost when "writing by committee" with what might be a great drum moment masked by over enthusiastic pit or brass scoring from a different arranger.
This would then have to be balanced out or re-written in rehearsal, or just missed altogether, and that drum moment never pops out.
The second is consistency of delivery. Every single set, flag move, horn move, passage of music is executed to a high standard and delivered with the intensity normally reserved for the last 30 seconds of a show. That generates an excitement and momentum of performance that other corps just don't achieve. Other corps have fairly obvious peaks and troughs in their performance and to a lesser extent their written programme. You can feel Jubal and Beatrix et al building up to a hit or a "moment" in the show, and when it arrives it's great, but the minute or so before that moment is instantly forgettable.
Senators keep up a constant level of performance and execution and the cumulative effect of seeing set after set hit cleanly and hear lick after lick of music ring out is really powerful. That level of consistency is almost all down to individual members committing to be where they need to be, playing what they need to play and doing it with heart that really sells that execution.
All in all a brilliant set of shows, great to see the UK with the majority of the finalist corps, an excellent stadium and even the weather was great. DCE really impressed me.
Only complaint is that Kerkrade is MILES away and there's NOTHING else there. The train station is literally two tracks and a ticket machine, not even a bus shelter! I hope they move DCE back to the north, or at least centre of Holland for next year. I think it'd encourage more UK fans to go over.