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Saturday was a beautiful afternoon here in the northeast for a drum corps show, so I collected my grandson and headed to Connecticut for the 5th Annual Drum Corps on the Thames Show sponsored by 7th Regiment and the Surfers Alumni Association. The venue moved this year to the New London High School field, where we met up with some old drum corps friends of mine. The stands were on a hill, so you entered at the top. Stands were older and parts were under renovation. When the mayor addressed us she spoke of high hopes to put in a new sports complex this coming year. Field was grass, and looked fairly even. It was warm, but then a nice breeze came through occasionally to cool off those of us in the stands. In recognition of the Canadian corps present, both the US and Canadian National anthems were played. The announcer was a good guy, did a nice job with the introductions and offered bits of humor and encouraged us all to help along the raffle ticket sales throughout the day. The sun was going down slowly at an angle to the audience's right and the later corps cast long shadows across the field, a natural effect which I always enjoy.

Fortunately for the boy, our extended party had some kids along for him to chum with. They all enjoyed doing the walk around the lot a few times while we waited for the corps to catch up with the times. Vision Elite from Brooklyn, NY, was scheduled to be the first corps, but, sadly, they are not fielding this year, so the first half of the show had a few time adjustments.

The first competing corps was Targets from Springfield, MA. Their theme this year is "Stargate Atlantis" and in keeping with such they set a large circular "portal" at about mid-field which they used mostly to stage the guard. I am not familiar with the music but it had some interesting moments, particularly for the two competent mellophone players, each of whom had a nice solo performance. There were some balance issues in the hornline, but you could see that clearly this corps loves to perform. Some very nice features from the pit, particularly from the mallets. The corps was small, about 36 members crisply attired in their still new looking all white uniforms with red sashes. One member of the guard at times donned a sinister-looking black robe, including for a brief "battle type sequence. It was a fun way to start the show.

There was a brief wait for the next corps, Les Stentors from Quebec, Canada. This corps would have the longest trip, I believe, to compete and it was good to see them back on the field after their absence last year. They were the smallest corps of the day with 30 members, just making the DCI minimum. Nonetheless, you can always count on Les Stentors to put together an interesting show which challenges their members musically and visually. The show was titled "from the Amazon to the Sea" and featured the musical selections of "Tribes", "Mekaron" and "Paulino Falakan" from Amazonia and "Levitian against Kraken" from Blue Horizons. If this sounds a bit exotic to you, I can verify that yes it was. Some very good music coming from the front ensemble, including some unique instrumentation. They have a talented hornline of 12, which is constantly moving, so with only a few shows behind them, they are still building up their endurance. The guard was in neutrals and grays, had some nice flag and weapon work, but did have a few drops today. The drill, which is quite clean, is effectively designed to keep the eye moving so the show never stagnates.

The next corps to compete was Citations from Burlington, MA. Citations have a solidly constructed show this year and are bringing a good deal of energy onto the field. The show title is "Passions of a Latin Groove" whose musical selections includes part of "Los Endoes Suite", "Pegasus" by Hank Levy, "My Spanish Heart" by Chick Corea, and "On Fire" by Michael Camillio. They are wearing their traditional black uniforms, but have added a wide red sash to match their guard, which is wearing very attractive black, off-one-shoulder spandex with wide red fringe belts about their waists and red flowers. Guard guys are wearing black pants and dark red shirts. I think these were my favorite guard costumes for the night. Musically and visually, Citations have improved a great deal since last year. Their hornline has a very good, well balanced sound. Nice baritone line and some very good trumpet players. Very solid guard. Excellent saber duet, including a guy/girl dance. Good drumline and front ensemble, including a very fine double bongo. I should mention that they made a big change in their opening drill, starting in small groups scattered over the field and coming together in the middle since I last saw they in Nashua and it was very effective. Citations are striving to be very competitive and doing a fine job of it.

At this point, there was an intermission and the kids scrambled to see the hornlines and drumlines still warming up behind the school and the parents enjoyed the refreshment stand and took in the guards which were getting ready on the grassy hill behind the field.

Following the intermission, Spirit of Newark, NJ, took the field. They have returned to their blue and white uniform jackets and were sporting some very new looking black aussies with blue feathers. A sharp looking addition that somehow suits their Spanish themed music. Their guard was in complimenting uniforms. In marching skills, I think this corps has improved much since last year although musically they are still working on building stamina. The drumline was again a stand-out although I think there are some differences in their playing and technique. Their repertoire was not in the program book, but one of their feature selections was My Spanish Heart, although the arrangement was quite different from the Citation version before them. They have a nice trumpet soloist. This was only their second show of the season (and the first time I have seen them) and they have made a good start on their long road to Pasadena.

Next to compete was Dutch Boy from Ontario, Canada. Their show is "2007: A Space Odyssey" and it started with a unique opening formation with most of the corps lined up on the front yard line to the left of the audience. The three tubas and a guard girl started the show out in the field at the 30 yard line. The guard was in light blue "astronaut" type uniforms with a small Canadian flag on the back. The opening formation swung into a rapid spaceship launch with the red and yellow swirled flags making the fiery exhaust. After this they lightened the mood with a fun rendition of Van Morrison's "Moondance". They have some nice flags, including a one with a silver side and black side that they used effectively to the music. There was one guard girl, who for some reason unknown to me performed the entire show without equipment. Perhaps she is filling an opening and still learning the routine? I found this kept drawing my eye away from the rest of the performers and felt that perhaps marching this show with a hole in the drill until she catches up might have been less distracting. Overall, this is the kind of entertaining show I have come to expect from Dutch Boy ... musically and visually stimulating. They have a unique finish, too, with the hornline and drumline filing off field to the right leaving the flags in a sharp fixed position as the music just trails off after them.

The final Division III corps of the night was the hosts, 7th Regiment. I must say that for the first time I was very impressed with this corps. They are much smaller, but much tighter. The hornline, in particular, has stepped up their performance level a great deal since last year. 7th Regiment has been putting together some well designed shows the past few years, but have struggled with their lack of stamina. This year they seem much more mature, program wise and member wise. They also chose an ever-popular Spanish theme, in a show entitled "Viva." The opening "Dance Estancia" movement, Overture to the Creole Fausto, by Ginastera was a good choice and started them off strongly. They then went into a slow movement, "Spiritual" with music by Nebojsa Jovan Zikovic. There was good tension and release in the "Conflict" movement with music by Clfton Williams and they finished very strongly with Day Danse by Chick Correa which featured an good trumpet solo and guard girl solo dance who tossed her flag aside with force and pulled a bullfighter scarf out from the back of the trumpet soloist. Guard was very attractive in purple and black and they had some very nice bright silks in oranges, reds and purples. Very competent percussion. It would be interesting to see where they might end in the standings were they going to Pasadena, but, alas, they are not making the trip this year.

The first of the two Division II corps of the night was Jersey Surf. Surf is very large, loud and colorful this year ... and they have greatly improved their visual and marching skills. Their theme is "Snapshots from an American Journey" and it features "California Dreaming" as an opener and as a thread throughout the show. Their have four large billboard type racks with vivid photographs which they unveil one at a time. The first is a neon-light city scene which goes well with their rendition of "Shaft." The second scene is a blue sky, green grass pastoral for "A River Runs Through It" and the third a bright off-center red barn door against a blue sky for the "Four Count" and "Unsquare Dance." The last, double wide rack features the famous "Hollywood" sign for "LA Confidential," which morphs into a sunset beach scene for the closer. It is a very well put-together show and it was the second time I saw Surf ... the first being at Rome, NY. They were much cleaner for this show, as was reflected in their score. There is a lot of color and energy and excitement in this show. They have some very nice drum features. Personally, I do not think the drill particularly challenging and felt the hornline was on park and blast a little too much of the time. I found the unsquare dance a little too messy. I realize that there will be those who take exception to my statements, but it is my honest opinion. Jersey Surf will be challenging for the top spot in Pasadena and I applaud their efforts and wish them well.

The last competing corps of the night was Spartans from Nashua, NH. I have seen their show several times now. Their best output that I have seen was last week at the Boston Crusaders Home Show in Lawrence where, though much smaller, they presented themselves very well in this Division I line-up. I hear from friends that their performance the following night in Springfield (while I was at Allentown) was a big step up from Lawrence and was likely underscored. Unfortunately, they lacked energy last night in New London, something which I noticed a couple of time earlier this season, for example, at the Westminster Show. The Spartans have a very well designed show this year, musically and visually. When I first saw their show I was struck by how their opening formation is reminiscent of their ending one last year. The contras are at the center of the field with the rest of the corps in rays facing inward towards them. (Last year their final visual was the entire corps in expanding spirals pointing inward to a single contra who was pointing upward.) Their theme is Tarot and their music is original compositions by Key Poulan. I admit the Tarot card theme intrigued me but maybe put me off a little when I first heard about it. I do not have much to go on here from previous experience. The music is varied according to the themes of the "cards" chosen. A solo flag is presented for each movement on which the "card" is printed. At an earlier show someone told me that these were reproductions of a very well-known and popular Tarot deck. Sorry, I cannot remember which one. The movements are the Fortune Teller (where they shuffle the deck, I think, and many different cards are waved by the very competent guard), then the Emperor and Strength, the Fool, the Magician, the Lovers, the Sun, Death and Judgment. The music and presentation for each theme is quite effective and most are well developed. For example, the Strength and Emperor features strong guard soloists and dark red flags with a scepter on them that seem to be lead in a battalion march formation. There is some very nice rifle work here. The Fool is downright whimsical with bright green flags with a feather bouncing jauntily along. The drill depicts the wanderering journey. The Lovers scene features a flag solo by a guard guy and two guard girls in a dance suggesting some type of choice. This is the ballad which is short, powerful and has the potential to be very moving. It goes into the Sun movement which is a brief expanse of joy before the dark death movement takes over with the sabers wielding menacing sickles which are also depicted on the grey, black and red flags. The ending flag is a rainbow wing ... the angel of judgment? The closer has been changed a couple of times and I suspect is not quite at Finals form, yet. The drumline is much, much improved from last year and even from earlier shows. I think it may have been their strongest music caption in New London. The hornline can produce a very good balanced sound and has shown much more finesse than I have heard in the last few years. New London was definitely an off night for them. There are only five contras but they have a very mature sound. The baritone sound is excellent in the upper levels. The third baritones need to play their part. The soprano line is the least mature of the hornline and seems to be struggling with consistency. The ten mellos are simply wonderful and have many featured parts and one soloist with a very nice tone. I really like this hornline and would like to always hear them play as I know they are capable of doing so. As usual, they have some very nice visuals, including some dance steps in the hornline and drumline added this week in the ballad. They look as good as ever in those sharp cream pants and black jackets and high feathered helmets. There are a few individuals who are having difficulty with the drill, which, as usual, is very fluid and makes the corps as a whole look larger than they are. All of these issues I have mentioned are things which they have plenty of time to overcome before Pasadena and I expect they can and will do so. Overall, I think this is the best Division II show design that I have seen so far this year. I look forward to seeing them at Finals and wish them well.

That concluded the competition for the evening. 7th Regiment's able drumline drummed the majors and guard captains onto the field for the awards and the show ended before the huge orange sun sank beneath the hills. Plenty of time to stop, eat, rehash the show and still get home to write a review before motoring to Manchester tomorrow for the next show.

Never can get enough drum corps.

Edited by oldguard
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I always LOVE to read detailed show descriptions, especially ones that leave out the negative stuff.

This is one of the more "fair and balanced" reviews for DivII I've seen in awhile!

Good job oldguard.

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Thank you oldguard. Travel safe.

Thanks. I am leaving very soon on the long trek westward. It seems I am finally taking my daughter's advice of less work and more play and "following the bus fumes" this summer. While I am traveling I'll have a laptop, but will not be spending my time writing, but I plan to do a end of summer review sometime after I get back.

May everyone everywhere on the road and in the air this summer, corps and families and fans, "travel safe."

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I always LOVE to read detailed show descriptions, especially ones that leave out the negative stuff.

This is one of the more "fair and balanced" reviews for DivII I've seen in awhile!

Good job oldguard.

Thank you. I try to be fair in my reviews. I really enjoy all the corps and hope to see all of them performing to their full potential. It makes for good drum corps shows.

Edited by oldguard
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Oldguard, thanks for this review of Dutch Boy !! :D :D :)

I have only heard the music of the show and I look forward to seeing them practise later this week before they set out for Pasedena. :P

One thing about Dutch Boy's show, they spent from Wednesday to Friday redoing the last half of their drill. b**bs b**bs

They still have more changes to make and things to add to their show !! :worthy:

Have a great time on the road and drive safe. B)

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