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N.E. Brigand

Avon Lake, OH -- Aug. 3, 2013

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Because I was attending four shows in as many days—Avon Lake, Pittsburgh (2.5 hrs. away), Centerville (3.5 hrs. away), and Massillon—I didn't have time to finish my review before now. I posted an unfinished version in this thread on Monday, but I thought that it might still be worthwhile to finish it, even though the Open Class championships are over, because the corps will be appearing in the World Class prelims.

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This was my second and final Open Class show for 2013, following Kalamazoo a week earlier, and attending them both enabled me to have seen all the O.C. corps who went on to appear at the Championships in Michigan City. I took some friends, a married couple, to their first drum corps show. (They had already committed to also joining me at the World Class show in Massillon, so in three days they saw 20 corps ranging from the Blue Saints and Racine Scouts to Cadets and Carolina Crown). J hasn't followed marching activity since he was a trumpeter in the UConn marching band in the mid-1980s, but he is musically knowledgeable and a professional theatrical sound designer and engineer. E works in an office professionally but her avocation is the visual arts, and she's had some small gallery exhibitions of her paintings and sculpture. In short, both of them are perhaps more inclined to like unusual or experimental performances than your average fan might be—which may make their favorite corps of the evening a bit surprising. But let me not get ahead of myself.

It was only about twenty minutes to the show from their apartment, even taking the scenic route along the Lake Erie shoreline, where we admired the many fine (or if not that, at least expensive) homes in Rocky River, Bay Village, and Avon Lake. We arrived about fifteen minutes before the scheduled start. Avon Lake's high school stadium, I gather, was remodeled a few years ago to add or upgrade a central upper deck, where the seats, we were surprised to discover, are individual plastic bucket seats that have been affixed to the bleachers, which otherwise characterize the seating there. While it was nice to have a backrest, there was nowhere for sweat to go, so the backs of our shirts were quite wet by intermission. We sat three rows from the top and just off the 50-yard line--possibly a little farther from the action than is ideal for an Open Class show. After looking at this chart (pdf), I figured there were about 3,300 home-side seats in the stadium. By intermission, the stands were probably more than 80% full. (I see that CrownPhan indicates my figures are off by 10%: 3,600 seats, of which 3,200 were filled—that is 89%.) The weather was perfect. The home stands face south, which put the slowly-setting sun on our right until intermission. (This perhaps benefited one corps tremendously.)

Some other notes on the venue: the stadium even has a small video screen on the scoreboard at the east end on which footage of the show was shown. Was DCI getting material there to plan for camera angles at Championships? Glancing at the program, I saw a welcome note from Avon Lake's mayor that addressed all the "percussionists, musicians, and performers"—just in case you were under the impression that drummers were musicians. Surprisingly, the note was aimed mostly at a tourist audience, encouraging people to take in the delights of northeast Ohio, including the Cedar Point amusement park, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Blossom Music Center (where the Cleveland Orchestra performs outdoor summer concerts). And it became particularly apparent after intermission that there were some out-of-towners in the stands.

The "Buckeye All-Star Band", an ensemble of students from various local high school marching bands led by the director of (the) Ohio State University's marching band, played "The Star-Spangled Banner". I was tickled to learn that their appearance was sponsored by the same music store that supports TubaChristmas in the nearby city of Lorain, in which I participate each December. Then the show was off. Throughout the evening, I tried to count the number of members in each corps; though I'm sure I got it wrong sometimes. I didn't have a camera with me, but you might refer to the pictures in my notes on the Kalamazoo show here, where I saw seven of these twelve corps (plus two others). And of course, corpsreps review of Open Class prelims has photos of all the corps. In order of appearance, we watched:

Taipei Yuehfu

To begin with, while I'm no linguist, I'm pretty sure that their name isn't pronounced "Yoo-foo", as the Avon Lake announcer had it; rather, as was intoned by Brad Bell in Kalamazoo, the first syllable must rhyme more nearly with "whey". In any case, Yuehfu should have our tremendous gratitude for traveling so far to join DCI's tour for a fifth time in the past fifteen years.

Yuehfu's show is titled The Butterfly Lovers, and their repertoire consists of:

--Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto (Chen Gang, He Zhanhao)

By my figures, Yuehfu has 23 brass members , 10 battery members (4 snares / 2 tenors / 4 basses / 0 cymbals), 6 pit members, 14 guard members, and 2 drum majors, for a total of 55.

My sense is that Yuehfu's show was written strongly enough to score in the low to mid 80s if clean (their brass arranger, believe it or not, is Wayne Downey, though I was most tickled by the name of the choreographer / color guard caption head: Rabbit Lin), but that they seemed to be behind schedule. Doubtless the tremendous logistics of touring to another continent played into their plans! In Kalamazoo, they had great difficulty in setting up the field and pit, suggesting that they hadn't worked on that for very long. Even so, in a week, they climbed seven points (almost twice as fast as, e.g. Boston Crusaders had improved over the same period—but O.C. corps clean faster), but there wasn't enough time for more. I wonder: is there a Taiwanese drum corps league to which they will return, or are they the only such group there? If they're working toward an August or September competition in their native land, they might have a really fine show by the time they get there.

Now to some degree, my understanding of the show is limited by not knowing the source material, and by not being able to read Chinese: there are Chinese characters prominently displayed on the prop platform (about which more below) and on a broad scroll that is unrolled on the field early in the show. Still, by Avon Lake, I started to get a sense of the show's story, which culminate with the male lead guard dying, his body being carried to a curved prop platform that serves for a tomb, into which his beloved throws herself (a moment that could be made more dramatic). The two of them are reborn as white butterflies, surrounded by the rest of the guard similarly winged (in light of my poll-thread in the World Class forums, I should note it's a soft ending). And I got all that without referring (until after the show) to Wikipedia's summary of the "butterfly lovers" narrative, which is very important in China: it's kind of a cross between Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. (It also reminds me a little of I.B. Singer's Yentl.)

At both competitions, I thought Yuehfu's show ran longer than the others. A couple pre-tour performance videos on youtube seem to bear this out: 12 min. 30 sec. as opposed to 9 min. for other Open Class groups. Maybe that's why they're ranked on an "International" scale rather than against the other O.C. corps? Could the longer time help them in W.C. prelims?

Overall, the show felt stronger visually than musically. The brass in particular seemed thin and tentative, especially in the ballad. (But percussion almost always sounds better to me than brass, since I know so little about percussion!) Even so many small (and not so small) touches when better executed could be very effective. Everything from the pit members performing tai chi exercises during one brass feature (though Gold's entire brass section does this early in their show) to their main prop, a semi-circular platform that is differently painted on each side—and like the Cadets for much of the season, Yuehfu needs to work to make their (one) movement of this prop more elegant.

FYI, if you buy their tee shirt, be warned that they are sized smaller than you might expect in the U.S. There's no way I can fit into the extra large I purchased.

Blue Saints

The Saints' show is titled O Canada—Portrait of a Journey and their repertoire consists of:

--"Elements" from Petite Symphony (Brian Balmages)

--"O Canada" (Calixa Lavallee)

--"In the Hall of the Mountain King" (Edward Grieg)

They have 33 members: 10 brass, 12 battery (4/2/4/2), 5 pit, 4 guard, 1 color pre, and 1 DM. The two cymbal players stood in the pit for at least part of the show.

Despite the rep listing, the music seemed to be all variations on "O Canada". They corps enters the field in the traditional manner, in a block from the left, led by their national colors, and exits the field in a block to the right. The all-female guard wears red flapper costumes with feathers in their hair. During the show, the guard holds up picture frames like those used by Madison last year—framing a bari soloist, for instance. Since the guard is so few in number, it seems pointless for them to perform some of the widely space equipment work that they do. Speaking of which, as also happens with Racine Scouts, there is a moment when the battery does flag work to beef up the small guard. (Actually, in Racine's show, both the brass and the battery do this at times.) The soft ending is somewhat effective, but I think Saints would be better served aiming at less ambitious and more entertaining material—and if they hadn't followed Yuehfu in performance order, since their show was clearly a step back.

Les Stentors

Stentors' show is titled Stentors 25th Anniversary (according to the program book) or "25tentors" (according to their website) and their repertoire consists of music they've played through their quarter-century history:

--Interstellar Suite (Amin Bhatia)

--"Gandalf" from Symphony No. 1: "The Lord of the Rings" (Johan de Meij)

--"Rap a Ti-Petang" (La Bottine Souriante)

--The Incredibles (Michael GIacchino)

--"Til the Day I Die" (Gregory Charles)

--The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber)

--"Comme au Premier Jour" (Andre Gagnon)

--"Hobbits" from Symphony No. 1: "The Lord of the Rings" (Johan de Meij)

--"Overture to a New Age" (Jan de Haan)

Stentors have 41 members: 15 brass, 12 battery (4/3/5), 5 pit, 8 guard, and 1 DM.

I saw Johan de Meij conduct his Lord of the Rings symphony, itself 25 years old, in March—my first time hearing that piece in its entirety, and most impressive—but couldn't have picked it out here, I'm afraid. In fact, I must confess that the only piece I recognized was from Phantom, and there the trumpet soloist (handed a rose by the guard), had some problems. The country-style piece just before that (unknown to me, but apparently "'Til the Day I Die") was more enjoyable, and the fans liked Stentors' use of washboards. (They should love Oregon Crusaders.) Overall, the show was closer to Yuehfu than Saints, but in my opinion, not as close as the scores showed. Still there are effective moments, like a section in which the bass drums are set down horizontally on the field and the bass players run around them as they perform. On the other hand, a moment when the members pantomime being blown by a storm seemed merely silly to my friends, and was much less effective than, say, Legends' similar passage in last year's "Edmund Fitzgerald" show.

The anniversary theme is conveyed, as each number is played, by a guard member lifting an irregularly-shaped placard with a year marked on it from the field (I thought at first that these were strange tombstones). He or she then drops it into a large slotted frame. Eventually, these all fit together like puzzle pieces, and the whole thing is spun around at the end of the show to reveal a large "25".

After these first three shows, my friends were getting a bit restless. I noticed them checking their programs frequently. J asked me about the percussion "duts", which were very prominent in the two Canadian corps' shows, and very annoying to him. (They were particularly inexcusable when Stentors were both (a) in a standstill and (b) facing the drum major.)



Raiders' show is titled The Raven: A Descent into Madness and the repertoire consists of:

--Original Music (Key Poulan, Michael Huestis, and Jason Medeiros)

Raiders have 75 members: 30 brass, 14 battery (6/3/5), 12 pit, 18 guard, and 1 DM.

As the title suggests, the show is based on Edgar Poe's poem about a man driven crazy by a bird that incessantly repeats his lost love's name. (A friend who is expert in literature tells me that the author's name should not include the commonly-seen middle name "Allen", which was only attached to Poe's works after his death.) Raiders make at least as heavy a use of narration as any other show in drum corps (including some notorious examples like Cadets 2007-08), but despite my dislike of all things electronic, I have to admit this is remarkably effective. It probably helps that the narration is by a professional actor, John De Lancie, and excellent. (E recognized the voice; she asked after the performance, "Was that . . . Q?") It probably helps that, unlike much voice work, this has a good rhythm (it's true that Crown '04 included a poem, but the voice was so annoying).

However, that means that a huge part of the show's success is due to a performance by someone who's not on the field. At what point does prerecorded voice become so important that a drum corps show becomes more like an accompaniment to something else, than an achievement in its own right? I wonder if that fact helps to explains why Legends' much less interesting show is scoring above Raiders. I also wonder if DCI will be able to get the rights to include the voice on the CD and DVD? Take away the narration, and any recording of the show probably falls apart. The various gaps in Cavaliers 2011 and Cadets 2012 are annoying enough, but at least they total perhaps 30 seconds or less.

The above notwithstanding, Raiders were a big step up from the previous three corps: much more powerful and difficult, with some lovely moments that needed no caveats (some pretty blue and grey flags stand out in my memory). My friends began to be reassured; Music City would erase their remaining doubts. There were a few confidence issues for Raiders to overcome (especially at the end of the second movement) and the closing drill needed cleaning. And they could have done much more with their door prop.

Music City

Music City's show, titled Postcards from Havana, has a repertoire consisting of:

--"El Cumbanchero" (Marin Hernandez)

--"Rapsodia Cubana" (Ernesto Lecuona)

--"A Mis Abuelos" (Arturo Sandoval)

M.C. is much bigger than the four earlier corps, with 125 members: 62 brass, 17 battery (8/4/5), 11 pit, 32 guard, and 3 DMs. And they came ready to prove that they ought to have gone on after intermission. Though they had some cleaning yet to do, this was a wonderful show (I would have had them in third for the evening), a great step up from last year's pretty decent offering. The show has all manner of nice effects to complement the fine marching and playing. One kneeling move particularly stood out. There was an excellent baritone solo and then an excellent trumpet solo, too. And they're gorgeous, and got one great benefit from performing when they did: their beautiful orange colors were lit brilliantly by the setting sun. They should aim for that timing at all shows from now on!


Rounding out the first half of the competition was last year's "most improved" corps. Their show is titled Ichabod and their repertoire consists of:

--"Main Titles" from Sleepy Hollow (Danny Elfman)

--"The Vote" from The Village (James Newton Howard)

--"Chester" (William Schumann)

--"Shepherd's Hey" (Percy Grainger)

--"The Chase" from Sleepy Hollow (Danny Elfman)

Legends has 78 members: 36 brass, 13 battery (6/3/4), 13 pit, 13 guard, and 3 DMs.

There's a narrator at the top, reciting the introduction to Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" at great length. It's dull and unnecessary and leads to this show's big problem for me: the story at its best is rather pointless, and in Legends' version is especially so. Ichabod arrives, romances a young lady (at a party where some pranks are played—at least, I think the pedal tone on the tuba is meant to suggest flatulence), and is chased to the bridge where he rather slowly lies down and throws his hat. There is no headless horseman! Did they at least add a broken pumpkin for Finals?

In Kalamazoo, Legends aged out their first ever synth player. I'm sorry, but I wish they'd given him something else to do. Like Spartans (but they were toning it down by Avon Lake), this corps having added electronics is overdoing it. As J said to me, why use a prerecorded horse whinny when you'd be all the more impressive creating that sound with a trumpet, a la "Sleigh Ride"? And there must be a more creative way to get a crunching apple sound (not particularly germane to this plot, anyway) than via synth: if it was uninspired when Boston did it in 2009, now it is but a copy. Cricktets could be pin chimes and/or clickers, and the owl could be some sort of whistle.

Their major prop, the aforementioned bridge, isn't used very interestingly. It's just a smaller version of the "Bourne" catwalk in the 2011 Blue Stars show. And they should have put a fresh coat of paint on their keyboard console. (As also should the Blue Stars, I had thought after seeing them in Erie.) Everything else in pit looks shiny or well-oiled. Don't let the console stand out as shabby.

All that said, the playing and marching were generally strong and fairly challenging: less entertaining than the Raiders' show, with whom Legends was striving, but probably harder. The duet in the ballad had the potential to become quite moving with a few days' more work.

After the show, a young man behind me said, "Now I'll have 'Shepherd's Hey' in my head all night." (That piece gets a bit repetitive in Legends' performance.) I noticed he was wearing a Lord of the Rings tee shirt, and pointed him to the image of Bag End my Mythcon shirt.


We moved quickly to the concession stand, and were able to get some dinner in plenty of time to see the second half. As we returned to the seats, we noticed that the Yuehfu, 7th Regiment, and Raiders booths had been joined by one for Genesis. Unfortunately they were gone by the time we left after scores were announced. Some lost revenue, I think. Temperatures began to drop after intermission, though not uncomfortably so (as they were for all of Kalamazoo). As dusk fell, martins and swifts were frequently overhead eating the insects (midges and such that breed in the lake) which were so numerous that near the lights they looked rather like falling snow.


With 127 members: 44 brass, 23 battery (8/4/5/6), 14 pit, 33 guard, and 2 DMs, Gold took the field next with their show titled East Meets West and a repertoire consisting of:

--Original Music (Scott Director)

I had been particularly interested to see this show, because that guard number includes 9 members of the Laizhou Zhonghua martial arts school from China. How would Gold integrate them into a drum corps show? The answer: most entertainingly. The cymbal players started off on Asian drums arranged in a circle at left around the martial artists, and the show starts with some impressive acrobatics. The most impressive move, that I mentioned on DCP after seeing it in a demo reel, happens at the end of the ballad—"Watch this! Watch this!" I told my friends—when most of the Laizhou members stand in a tight line, and one of their smallest performers (some of the Laizhou members appear to be very young!) runs up the back of the closest person and across all their shoulders. I think that's never been done before in drum corps!

It was clear that this was Gold's first competitive performance since incorporating the Laizhou members: the music and marching both were rough, and the timing was off for the martial artists' back flips at the very end. What's more, they martial artists were hidden behind the screens for too much of the show. Nonetheless, the audience was highly entertained. I'm surprised their score didn't go up more between Avon Lake and Finals (I don't think they had a chance of catching the top five in placement, though). There was also a notable contingent of Gold fans there, with more cowbell.


Another large corps for this class, with 121 members: 58 brass, 22 battery (8/5/5/4), 16 pit, 23 guard, and 2 DMs, Genesis, later to be voted most improved for this year, has a highly ambitious show, mOZaic, with a repertoire consisting of:

--The Wizard of Oz (1939) (Harold Arlen)

--The Wizard of Oz (2010) (Andrew Lloyd Webber)

--The Wiz (Charlie Smalls)

--Wicked (Stephen Schwartz)

--Dark Side of the Moon( Pink Floyd)

--Original Electronic Works (Sam Mata)

Oh, and though it's not listed in their official repertoire, they played Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" near the end.

This show is a bit heavy on electronics for my taste (although more usefully than last year's plotty s.f. dystopian production). The sound of the rusty Tin Man being oiled and the pounding on his tin torso were mere sound effects, and that's too bad. Surely there's a live percussive way to generate at least the latter sound! And I'd rather have live voices than the samples of Frank Morgan and Margaret Hamilton (Empire Statesmen did this, for instance)—although in the latter case, as the synth player produces her "I'm melting!", the corps got a nice laugh from the audience as they "melted". And I should note that the corps did then recite the "All hail Dorothy" bit from the witch's monkey minions. However, the guard needed to be find ways to better portray those famous flying furballs.

These are mainly nits. Genesis was clearly top five or better (as they proved at Finals). There's lots to enjoy in this show. I did think "If I Only Had a Brain" is a most unusual choice for the ballad.

A final note: before they entered the field and again just before the show started, Genesis' guard sang, "The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas". I'm guessing that it's a corps tradition, but it was obtrusive the second time, since it doesn't fit the rest of the show.

7th Regiment

Near in size to Legends and Raiders, with 85 members: 39 brass, 16 battery (8/3/5), 11 pit, 17 guard, and 2 DMs, 7th Regiment had beaten the larger and historically more elite Spartans earlier in the season. That didn't happen in the late season shows, but they still performed very well, with a show title Luminous and a repertoire consisting of:

--"The New Moon in the Old Moon's Arms" (Michael Kamen)

--"Instinctive Travels" (Michael Markowski)

--"Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" (Ralph Vaughan Williams)

--"Shadow Rituals" (Michael Markowski)

These were presented in four movements titled "Sunset", "Moonlight", "Starlight", and "Sunrise".

7th is less flashy than Music City, Gold, or Genesis, so the audience response was largely more muted. I thought it was bold of them to play the Kamen piece just a few years after Phantom's interpretation was so memorable. Their approach is nothing like Phantom's, except that the guard uniforms are ugly yellow things that suggests Phantom's "spirit guide" trumpet soloist. At the beginning of the show, 7th's hats are set on the ground behind them; they couldn't make it as effective as, say, Phantom's hats in 1993 or Boston's coats this year. I noticed that the snares each placed one cymbal on the ground backfield before the show, but I'm not sure what they did with them later.

A recurring motif in the show is that the members point to the heavens. This starts with the opening bari solo. For a moment, I thought it was a baseball reference to Babe Ruth "calling his shot".

Generally, 7th's pit was miked too high, and in particular, they used too much synthesizer when the corps fetches their hats. And it's a shame they use a synth instead of a genuine ratchet to create that particular sound. On the other hand, about halfway through the show, 7th has that rare thing, some leg movement that actually works. And as J was quick to notice, one of their numbers was in 5/4 time; he was quite impressed by that, though in my opinion, that section needed much cleaning, and the closer wanted more confidence and strength.

Towards the end of the performance, we could hear the Spartans shout behind the stands. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as Bloo had been at Akron, but still shouldn't have happened.


The perennially strong but seldom triumphant Spartans have 103 members: 40 brass, 20 battery (7/4/5/4), 13 pit, 28 guard, and 2 DMs. Their show, with its New Hampshire title, Live Free!, has a repertoire consisting of:

--"Burly Brawl" from The Matrix (Don Davis)

--"First Steps" (Jeff Bolduc, Michael Moore, Ryan Loud)

--"Falling Slowly" from Once (Glen Hansard, Marketa Inglova)

--Swan Lake (Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky)

These songs were presented as movements titled "Breaking the Chains", "First Steps", "Don't Look Back", and "Freedom".

The guard outfits, mainly white, masked the lower part of their face. They also featured black bands around the midriff and one leg. These would be covered by white during the course of the show. The show started with a trumpet soloist surrounded by guard holding chains. The synthesizer was less obtrusive than it had been at Kalamazoo; even so, some sort of real chains (even amplified) and a foley artist glass-box would be much more impressive than electronic creation of those sounds. And I was surprised, for a guard traditionally so strong, that I could hear them counting so much. That said, they were pretty impressive, and a one-legged catch in particular stood out. Late in the show, there was a very impressive passage of playing to the back, but the subsequent closer was yet muddy.

Vanguard Cadets

The eventual champion appeared to be the second-largest corps, with 133 members: 50 brass, 22 battery (9/4/5/4), 13 pit, 46 guard (did I note that right? if so, wow!), and 2 DMs. Their show, The Art of War, had a repertoire consisting of:

--"Unto the Breach" (Key Poulan)

-- "Night on Bald Mountain" (Modest Mussorgsky)

-- "Elegy for Dunkirk" from Atonement (Dario Marianelli)

-- "The Hut of Baba Yaga" from Pictures at an Exhibition (Modest Mussorgsky)

-- "Adagio for Strings" (Samuel Barber)

-- "The Promise of Living" from The Tender Land (Aaron Copland)

So some familiar pieces in drum corps! Like some other shows, they were organized into movements, in this case called "Unto the Breach", "In Stillness", "Summon the Blood", and "The Quality of Mercy". Not too strained.

As befits the show's military theme, the corps enters from the back left, heading lengthwise across the edge of the field with one snare drum. They sing something, a bit too soft to make out and then are joined by prerecorded singing through the speakers.

The corps then moves out to stand along all edges of the field. One solo trumpet at back right plays a bit of "The Promise of Living" bfore the show proper starts. As others have noted, it's very impressive to have the entire corps salute along with the drum major. Then from the front left corner a solo trumpet offers a bit of Night on Bald Mountain. There are delights throughout: lovely purple flags, a ballad that opens and closes with excellent solos (baritone and trumpet, respectively), a drum feature in which the tenors pass through the rest of the battery in a manner that reminded me of the 1980s video game, "Centipede", a section in which the guard (eventually taking first from the Spartans) works their equipment while lying on their backs. One potentially effective moment had the corps in two blocks rushing at each other somewhat like Cadets 2011, though more briefly—but here as in some other drill (some fast-moving lines near the top of the next section, for instance), they had a lot of cleaning yet to do. It was this opportunity for rapid improvement that led me to suggest that SCVC could catch BDB, impressive as the latter show was—and they did it. There were some unfortunate war sound effects (like Madison's show) in the battle sequence that returned at the top of "Adagio for Strings" (which also was a point, and not the only one, at which SCVC's synth was too strong). And that "Tender Land" push was very impressive.

Blue Devils B

Finally, last year's runner-up and undefeated through this evening at Avon Lake, the largest corps, BlDB, with 137 members: 66 brass, 25 battery, 16 pit, 27 guard, and 3 DMs. Their show, Warped, has a repertoire consisting of:

--"The Legend of Alcobaca" (James Sochinski)

--"Bizzaro" (Michael Daugherty)

--"Serenada Schizophrana" (Danny Elfman)

--Original Music (John Meehan, Dave Glyde, Brian Dinkel)

J was pleased to see the Elfman piece, which he'd once used in a show. Throughout the evening, incidentally, he'd been commenting on the various speakers. In this instance, he said they could be better, and he wondered about the balance for anyone not near the center of the bleachers.

While BDB was setting up, we talked with a Bluecoats alum (2001-2002, I think he was) sitting in front of us when I looked up and said, "Oh, that's new since last week" but for a strange moment, no one was grasping what I was talking about, although it was huge: borrowing from last year's Raiders show, BDB had laid out a big black tarp in the center of the field with crazy yard lines on it, with an overall orientation diagonal to the field. In addition, they added vertical extensions in the back to suggest the appearance of some yard lines running off the field and up into the air. And one of their five white moveable arches (which you can see in the Kalamazoo pictures) is placed over the tarp to give the impression of a yardline that leaps into the air, under which the corps can pass.

In short, the Devils' cadets corps is prop- and gimmick-heavy like their bigger brothers and sisters, and they too rely heavily on synthesizer, particularly at the start, and at times during show just too much. One member should never be given that kind of power over a show's volume. Prerecorded voice samples included "We all go a little mad sometimes" from Psycho. There's miked brass, too (an early trio), which I dislike (but Oregon did that last year and were beloved). Despite that strong caveat, the show is a feast for the eyes and ears, a phantasmagorical circus on the field with some excellent playing and marching and fun effects. The white-and-black spiral umbrellas that make quite an impression at the first big hit, the green disks that the guard uses as mutes for a small brass ensemble, the guard outfits that match both of those elements, and so on all add to the bedazzlement. Not to mention a great brass run while sitting. But despite the additions for Avon Lake, the show had seemed a little more impressive from my lower seat in Kalamazoo; here it was easy to see some problems and the limitations of the scatter drill. Not that there wasn't room to clean—I noted particularly near the end that the tubas were attempting to march backwards along one of the curving faux-yard lines (which of course they couldn't see) and they got rather off course—but they seemed more complete than SCVC, and three days in the last week of Open Class is apparently a lifetime.

With the competitive part of the evening done, I asked my friends who their favorites were. E liked 7th Regiment the most because they seemed most precise to her; J was torn between Regiment and Blue Devils B. We listened to Music City and Vanguard Cadets perform the joint "America the Beautiful" encore, and were asked to give a round of applause to the drum majors, who were announced in performance order, but it was a few more before the drum majors actually came out. So were asked to applaud them all over again. I liked how Genesis sends out their guard captain with a besom. The scores were some time yet in coming: as the announcer said, "Moments away, ladies and gentlemen—modern technology at its finest."

It was a great evening with a great crowd enjoying some great shows. If you've never been to an Open Class show, try to get one on your schedule for next year. And best wishes to all these corps at Prelims (and for at least three of them, Semis) in Indianapolis!

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Thanks!!!!! The time you put in there is REALLY appreciated by those who cannot attend shows...!

Well done!

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Excellent review. Thanks for taking the time to put that together. I did figure out that the Headless Horseman is on the flags in Legend's show, so perhaps an actual appearance we deemed unnecessary and probably harder to pull off.

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Music City

Music City's show, titled Postcards from Havana, has a repertoire consisting of:

--"El Cumbanchero" (Marin Hernandez)

--"Rapsodia Cubana" (Ernesto Lecuona)

--"A Mis Abuelos" (Arturo Sandoval)

M.C. is much bigger than the four earlier corps, with 125 members: 62 brass, 17 battery (8/4/5), 11 pit, 32 guard, and 3 DMs. And they came ready to prove that they ought to have gone on after intermission. Though they had some cleaning yet to do, this was a wonderful show (I would have had them in third for the evening), a great step up from last year's pretty decent offering. The show has all manner of nice effects to complement the fine marching and playing. One kneeling move particularly stood out. There was an excellent baritone solo and then an excellent trumpet solo, too. And they're gorgeous, and got one great benefit from performing when they did: their beautiful orange colors were lit brilliantly by the setting sun. They should aim for that timing at all shows from now on!

That comment almost seems sadly prophetic now, rather like this line from The Hobbit:

"Suddenly there was a great shout, and from the Gate came a trumpet call. They had forgotten Thorin! Part of the wall, moved by levers, fell outward with a crash into the pool. Out leapt the King under the Mountain, and his companions followed him. Hood and cloak were gone; they were in shining armour, and red light leapt from their eyes. In the gloom the great dwarf gleamed like gold in a dying fire."

I'm glad I got a chance to see Music City live at (nearly) their best, before the end.

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On your comment about the Spartans chains sound effect

even so, some sort of real chains (even amplified) and a foley artist glass-box would be much more impressive than electronic creation of those sounds.

The sound was created and recorded using the chains on a frisbee golf hole.

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Good to know; thanks. Do you disagree that in drum corps, live performance is more impressive than prerecorded performance?

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