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First show out for numbers, with 4 of the top 6 from last season present.


The trip up from the Harrisburg area was.... a bit crazy. I should have stayed entirely on the East Shore and not shifted over at Lewisburg. My first stop was spending the afternoon with the Thunderbirds, more on their program soon. It was wonderful to be with good people for that time and away from work.


I had some trouble finding a place for dinner before the show. I was ready to settle for Applebee's or Perkins north of Lewisburg on 15, but stumbled on Fuji Steak House nearby:




It was a pleasant surprise and got me ready for the show.


The stadium staff was very prepared, helpful, and friendly. When I called the number, the individual was great- and their online ticket interface is very good and easy to use. Keep in mind when obtaining tickets- get them early, the show was pretty much sold out- and make sure you look at their stadium layout carefully. The center of the stands is NOT the 50, and it is clearly marked on their website where the 50 lies in relationship to the stands. I was able to get a very good seat about 5 rows from the top right on the 50, actually a better vantage point than the panel had in some respects.


The crowd was large. The only concern might be that from what I saw-- I was one of the younger ones in the audience other than the Milton HS band support staff and team present. They had to delay the contest for about 10-15 minutes for everyone to filter in. In some ways, I don't know if that's necessarily a good idea for an older crowd, some of us who were sitting and waiting for the show for some time unless an intermission was built in somewhere for a break- more on that later.


 Please forgive me if things are a bit spotty-the intermittent rain really stopped me from taking the kind of detailed notes I normally take so I'm digging back pretty hard into memory for a lot of this.


The first performance was a standstill exhibition by the Reilly Alumni. They performed  several pieces I didn't know (which isn't a problem!), but were definitely in the period style of the Raider's purple patch of success and as the performance went on and the corps settled in- found a solid groove. I enjoyed the percussion section and how they still use the single tenor and how the writing interacted with the snares. The audience was very positive throughout the night and really reacted well.


The first competitor were the Erie Thunderbirds, marching about 40 total members, a bit down from last season, but the quality of who they have I think makes up for this. The program's a straight up fire-themed one, with solid choices- the main body of the show is from the classic Kenton album 'Cuban Fire', the title piece and" La Suerte de los Tontos"  with the Finale from Stravinsky's "Firebird" wrapping up the presentation.


The thing that really surprised me about the arrangements was that they clew very closely to the original Johnny Richards/Juan Cascales arrangements in their harmonic structure- they're not the usual take based on Downey's interpretation in that aspect. There were some spots I expected corps director Sean Bartlett's arrangement to take some cuts and back off, but the corps goes there- and they will get it there. The show takes a lot of opportunities to showcase a lot of young and solid talent, which is also a plus. The show's got everyone deeply involved at some point. Serious channeling of Sammy Noto from the Sopranos and Carl Fontana from a fine young Bari soloist (playing a solo that may give him carpal tunnel, the fingerings are really obtuse...) are going to really shine once the reps kick in and the corps can perform with consistency and relaxed confidence.


The corps has spent the last couple of weeks pressing hard to finish the program, a lot of fast learning took place, which was new for several of them, but they held up well in front of the packed stands. Again, more reps, just finding that comfort zone and consistency- I firmly believe the T-Birds will be in the hunt for a finalist spot if they keep grinding and applying themselves. Class A will be a fight this season, and people had better show up early at prelims to watch it. I think the most compelling and gutsy performances may well be out of A since half the field is fighting for a top 4 spot. Assumptions in A in previous years that certain teams have a lock have proven to be wrong, anything can and will happen.


I may get the show order screwed up. Again, no notes and I was frankly too cheap to buy a program. :innocent:


I'll start with Fusion and their “When I grow up…” program. The show has a simple premise- young people imagining what they'll be when they grow up. The show is definitely one that's more of a "theatrical" presentation visually versus a more "traditional" approach. More on that later, I'm finding that  design aspect fascinating. They presented the first 2/3rds of the program, the "Cowboy" segment using "Silverado" and the "Astronaut" section using Holst's Jupiter a bit, but mainly music from the movie "Apollo 13". I'm very curious as to what will be seen with the firefighters and the Holsinger.


Fusion's guard took high guard, and I think deservedly so. At this point of the season, they were really in character, compelling, and they performed the bajeezis out of what they were expected to do.


The percussion was as spirited and exciting as I expected them to be, the center snare's a serious beast. :worthy:


The brass hit hard when expected, though the mid-voice wasn't as lights-out and lock-down as usual- though I figure it's June, they'll get things tighter. I can't be all Care Bears and Hello Kitty- can I? :huh: They're well staged and set up to project, which leads me to the next thought. With the way things were written visually and from the way they sounded, I figured a 42-52 person horn line. When they trooped the stands... I counted Thirty-Three. Yes, 33 like the number on the Rolling Rock bottle. Wow. I think they've shored up their upper voices from last season in terms of the overall balance in the stands. I'll talk more about the ordinals and breakdown later, and Fusion will be a big part of that. I found it very thought-provoking. It's very, very watchable, and when complete, I think should be pretty exciting and entertaining. If Fusion's musicians didn't bring the intense and sincere energy they bring to the performance, I wouldn't be saying this. They drive hard, they sell hard, but they know where the limits are and don't over-play and end up blowing up the ensemble and sounding stressed or crass. For some time, I've just enjoyed and respected them, and this year has more of that good vibe for me.




Edited by BigW
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The Bucs were next, and some of us without programs were a bit confused when we saw the costumes. "Here to There" is quite different from the normal "fare" provided from the Bugs, er... Bucs.


How to describe this.... It's kind of a cartoony, tongue-in-cheek parody of an Animal Planet show about insects and their search for food. I think I've summed it up right. :satisfied:


The field is transformed into someone's lawn by the use of scaled up blades of grass that work better than I thought they would in drawing me into their show and world they create. It really sets up a solid sense of scale, like you're watching this on TV or have been shrunk down to see it from their perspective. The costuming represents the insects well and is colorful.


The story is simple, and again, not serious and heavy, it's light-hearted. If I get it right, the opener's got some kind of bug-message taking place which is reminiscent of the '05 Bluecoats and makes for a pretty cool and engaging moment to set things up. Their search begins and then unfolds with a lot of fun moments, and yes.... a lot of Drum Corps takes place.:satisfied:


The percussion plays hard- very, very hard, and well. The brass can still strike hard and knock you down like the Bucs can, and make sure you know it when it happens. The guard sets up the visual plot points very well.


The show's also more theatrical like Fusion's is. Less sets and running, but there's a different set of expectations and challenges that replace the extra drill- more dance-type moves within sets, acting in character...It's providing a serious debate on the sheets for the panels, which I'll comment on later. I thought the grass props might cause visual clutter and difficulty in reading the forms, but even from a lower vantage point from STA stadium, I didn't get that impression- very clever work in design to avoid that issue.


There are still some details to be added, and yeah, there was a pretty big tear the corps bored their way though and re-settled (Again, I can't be all Care Bears and Hello Kitty), but the quality was solid for this point in the season.

Edited by BigW
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BigW:  Sorry I didn't have a chance to chat longer when I visited Erie's rehearsal site.  I'm co-chairing this show on behalf of the White Sabers with the Milton folks.  Although some of the folks worked the Lewisburg show years ago, this is the first time many of them ran one. We had a couple glitches throughout the evening which will be resolved for next year, including considering shifting the field to the left five yards so that the 50 yard line is in the middle of the stands.  Scanning each ticket bar code was the hold-up getting folks into the stadium quicker, and that issue is also resolved for next year.  As always, I appreciate your feedback!

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look out Milton....Amy's back in the game!!

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Next up were C2 and their "Industrial Awakening" program.


I had the chance to meet their assistant DM at the Cadets' Red Land camp- great individual- solid. I knew about the program, I wasn't sworn to secrecy, etc., but I could tell it could work if set up right. Knowing there wouldn't be any rocking chair equivalents this season, that meant it was likely there'd be no design albatrosses to deal with, which would be a huge help. The new black unis with white trim are pretty "B-A" (must maintain decorum, you know what I mean), they have a real presence and are really intimidating. I like 'em.


The show's more of a traditional bent in terms of the visual package. The opening Allegro Barbaro sequence from Bernstein's "On the Waterfront" is classic Cadet material and brought back some amusing memories from 1986 at DCI East prelims... where I met good old Aunt Mabel for the first time when we were both a lot younger. For those unfamiliar... Aunt Mabel seems to show up a lot at DCA shows that I do, sit near me, and well, says some crazy stuff. She's got a Nephew (Ian in the guard) or Niece (Ashley who plays mellophone) that usually marches with the Bucs or C2.


The Cadets go through the show, which was pretty radical for the era, using a Zingali developed "Visual Enhancement Ensemble" with all sorts of for their time crazy yet innovative props. They go off the field, Aunt Mabel snorted, and in a huff said,


"Well!!! That's nothing anyone will go home singing  after the show!!!!!"


I turn around, look back at her with my Baritone player's rather ragged grin, said "Oh yeah!?", and proceeded to sing back the "Allegro Barbaro", which honked her off and set the people around her into stitches, well- except her poor husband Uncle Chuck, who wouldn't have heard the end of it when he got home if he'd have laughed. He wanted to, though. Chuck's a really good guy.


So, 32 years later, C2 brings back this old chestnut, and it's good, very good. Why?


Let's start with the brass. For years I've been pounding on the C2 brass section. There's been a sense in the past of the members playing like they're gonna step on a land mine. Hesitant, nervous, apologetic, a few of the beasts in the various sections carrying everyone else along for the ride,  familiar and well-loved material watered down and bleached out at times to the point I want to scream... Not this year.


They PLAY. HARD. Make a mistake, so what? Taking risks and battling. THIS I like. It was refreshing, and they had me with them through the opener. POW! Snarly, snarky, brutal, everything it should have been. YES!


Certain things were also ready when they were usually... not in the past. For instance, the guard has really striking new unis in place already. It really made a difference.


The percussion is strong as always, with more of an aura of effortlessness when they perform as compared to the competition. It's a subtle but different attitude I also appreciate. There's more than one way to approach the activity and seeing various corps differentiate themselves and do it well is appreciated.


The second and third segments are a real musical and visual contrast to the opener, and worked very well, with some well-staged moments involving the guard. The de Meij "Big Apple" closing segment wasn't ready yet. Another Cadets chestnut, I'm expecting it will also hold up well and cap the show wonderfully. Don't let me down. :winky:


I know it's June, but they still need to work on their biggest issue, which is the feet. The new unis really help to alleviate some of that visually, the black draws more attention to the upper body and away from the legs and feet.


This is the first time I've really felt drawn to C2 and what they present, especially this early in the season. Yeah! I'm looking forward to seeing the entire package when it's presented. All respect!











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9 minutes ago, amysnook said:

BigW:  Sorry I didn't have a chance to chat longer when I visited Erie's rehearsal site.  I'm co-chairing this show on behalf of the White Sabers with the Milton folks.  Although some of the folks worked the Lewisburg show years ago, this is the first time many of them ran one. We had a couple glitches throughout the evening which will be resolved for next year, including considering shifting the field to the left five yards so that the 50 yard line is in the middle of the stands.  Scanning each ticket bar code was the hold-up getting folks into the stadium quicker, and that issue is also resolved for next year.  As always, I appreciate your feedback!

Well, the phone rep really made sure I knew about the field as did the online ticket map of the stadium. I know for fact that that's the way the field normally is- the main concern actually might be judging sight lines and concerns from Ensemble music on side to side phasing. As for scanning... I do a lot of it at work, it's tedious. :blink: For a first time effort, it went very well. I'll get to my biggest worry at the end of the review, and that's more my problem from getting older. I think I nearly steamrollered Fran on the way to the restrooms... :innocent:

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9 minutes ago, Jeff Ream said:

look out Milton....Amy's back in the game!!

From the look of it, it was a three-pronged effort, Jeff. You had the Milton HS end, the Keystoner Alumni end, and then the White Sabres end with Amy trying to coordinate all three groups. They really seemed to work well together and knew what they had to do to make the contest work.

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The White Sabres finished the competitive portion of the show as the host corps. The field is adorned like this, which I cribbed from their FB page, I think they wouldn't mind:


It's kind of reminiscent of the 1990 Blue Devils layout, but better in so many ways. The colors help brighten the field, and the layout I think alleviates a lot of the issues with the shapes interfering  and obscuring different shapes and moves. I also think they layout, like seen here in this pic, also provides better opportunities to write and use the shapes, which they do throughout the program. I still wonder if those kinds of issues could have been some part of the reason why they were 4th across the board in visual, I don't know. I found  the program very enjoyable. The White Sabers' growth and development has been a gas- the development of quality, numbers (along with Fusion).. has been a great thing for DCA. Last year... when you sit back and think, sheesh- we only have C2, the Bucs, CV, and the Cabs ahead of us... that's an achievement.


The one piece of the program musically that really stood out to me was the closing sequence from the "Firebird Suite". I like the fresh harmonic take on the subject. I mentioned earlier how one can arrange very faithfully to the original, but also, one can take and inject their own thoughts and perceptions into a piece and make it their own, and also be very successful. Instead of using the original polychords- the Sabres use bright major chords which give the piece a very bright feel to it, and I really dug it. ( Yeah... I'm geeking out here, look up the terms if you're curious or I'll explain them if asked) From the looks of things, the program was pretty much musically complete, but the final, say... 45 seconds of drill wasn't.  They look solid, and ready to compete hard. I look forward to seeing the show again and to get my teeth into it a bit more- my hope will be at Nazareth.

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The Cabs Alumni did their typical well-prepared and polished post-contest exhibition, but there was a bit of a twist for me- getting to the show early, the pre show delay, the pre show ceremony....  the time added up to where I had to bolt from the stands, nearly run over Fran Haring (HI FRAN! SEE YOU IN A MINUTE! *insert roadrunner sound effects*) and get to the restroom. I saw the Cabs from ground level, which was actually a good thing, since I got to watch the percussion features from  the track, it really gave me a great look, and they looked pretty daggone good and exciting from there. :worthy:

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Some quick thoughts at the end...


The shows that were more "Theatrical" placed top 2 visually versus the more "Traditional" programs. Will this hold up throughout the season? I don't know, we'll have to wait and see as corps clean, make changes, and additions. The activity is an arena of ideas, and right now there's a battle of ideas/concepts taking place from the looks of it. I find those fascinating.


Fusion's raw score was ahead of the Sabres. These two look to be in a tight tussle. Will one of them manage to separate from the other, or will it be show to show? Both will want to separate from the other. They're both solid, well-taught and motivated. This makes for great performances and great Drum Corps.


Fran's early Wildwood prediction still holds, maybe changing to cloudy with a chance of corn on the cob. At this point, it ain't over. Not with C2's vaunted percussion, a vastly improved brass section, and taking top GE Music... and don't forget CV. Except for the Yankee-Rebels, every corps who has placed in the top 3 has eventually won a DCA championship. It may take awhile... but they do it. CV is there now, and I'd bet on the side of them popping a real number at Hiram.


The ordinals were interesting- they really bear out the advantages the Sabres have over Fusion and vice versa. The numbers also bear out some good thing- the big top over bottom splits show there's great material and potential from all of the corps, they just have to clean and get it done.


Looking to get to nearby Hempfield where I'll see Bush for the first time. See you there! Thanks for your patience with my slow typing!  :innocent:

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