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 Post subject: Hershey Was Truly Spectacular
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2002 3:10 pm 
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Brigs, Cadets and Crossmen Find Hershey "The Sweetest Place" Saturday Night

HERSHEY, Pa. -- The Cadets and the Syracuse Brigadiers thrilled a full concert-side HersheyPark Stadium crowd to score convincing wins in the junior and senior competitions respectively at Saturday night's Hershey Spectacular.

Under nearly perfect weather conditions for early July, with practically no humidity, The Cadets put a five-and-a-half point spread between themselves and second-place fellow YEA brethren Crossmen (84.90 to 79.40). While they were no match for the crowd and judge favorite Cadets, the X-men still made a statement with their difficult contemporary jazz show for a comfortable two-point spread over third-place Bluecoats (77.40), who nipped the crowd-appealing Boston Crusaders (76.70) for the bronze medal.

The Hershey crowd was also delighted by the successful return of Magic of Orlando, which appeared to very much belong in the talented competition field, despite being the only Division II corps of the night -- recording a surprisingly low 79.75.

The four-time defending Drum Corps Associates' champion Brigadiers are seeking one for the thumb this year, and appear poised to do that on this night with a dominate victory over perennial contenders Hawthorne Caballeros (78.05) and Reading Buccaneers (71.40).

SENIOR

Brigadiers (3DM-67B-28P-29CG-9HG) appear very much to be the Blue Devils' senior and East Coast equivalent as they powered their way through "Picasso Sketchbook," which is actually a show of BD classics. The opening moments of "Spanish Fantasy" are very Devil-like -- complete with the corps proper revolving around the color guard, the percussion (7S-4T-5B-12PP) kicking in the right Spanish feel -- complete with high drumming among the battery before the largest hornline of the night cut loose with a wall of sound. The marching technique of Brigs also compares favorable to the Devs, moving effortlessly with great form and posture through what appeared to be a more demanding visual program than last year. The feet moved crisply through "Day Danse," which includes the Devil high-sticking "swim" from the battery as it crosses quickly beyond the front sideline from right-to-left. While the brass appears to drive this corps, all sections appear solid again this year. The brass soloists are splendid in "Guaganco." The closer of "All or Nothing at All" is where the corps needs to do its most work now -- with the feet struggling a bit and the unit losing some energy over the course of the selection. It does include a tasty percussion feature that showcases the snares on mounted thunder drums. The crowd also marveled at the flag toss over the brass, as well as a well-executed high rifle toss toward the end of the production -- which brought about a rousing standing ovation.

The Caballeros (3DM-49B-22P-29CG-10HG) opened the evening's show with the recycled Muchachos' program from 1975. It certainly is the right vehicle for this corps, which got the crowd's attention in the opening moments with its trademark soprano soloists during the familiar "Pictures of Spain." The first full corps set revealed at least seven brass holes right now, and even though all parts are performing the opener well, it lacks clarity at this early stage of the senior season. "Pines of Rome" does seem a little out of place among all the Spanish flavor, and lacks some of the projection from the corps proper -- although the wedge of slow-spinning multi-colored silks is a real highlight. "La Fiesta" is a drum corps classic, and Cabs do it justice with its warm brass sound, and fire-colored silks. While the drill appears to have better overall design this year, it lacks some imagination in this selection. "Carnival Jive" got the crowd literally swinging, leading into the percussion feature of "Ritual," which offers a lot of notes from the pit, but some direction and clarity from the line (5S-2T-5B-10PP) right now. "Gregorian Chant" and "Concerto De Aranjuez" are both beautifully arranged for the brass, but need some attention to the feet right now -- particularly at the slower tempos. The red fade-designed silks are beautiful and the right accent to the rousing finish. The Cabs have a lot of room to grow with this show with much cleaning ahead, particularly in the percussion.

It was "opening night" for last year's DCA runner-up Reading Buccaneers (3DM-42B-34P-30CG-7HG), and that may explain the third-place finish for their "Anthems of Freedom" patriotic production. The opener, "Star Spangled Banner" from "American Ballads" was bold and brassy -- despite marching at least 10 brass holes -- with high rifles tosses and well-executed percussion (8S-4T-5B-5C-12PP) support. Visually, the Eric Kitchenman design has a lot going on, and it was well-performed with good technique in the opener. The opener finishes with shimmering silks with an American flag designed outline against a red field -- some of the prettiest of the night. "Appalachian Spring" opened with rousing tempos through the familiar strains of the tune. While many corps have played this number, the Bucs' arrangement seems closer to the Santa Clara Vanguard's then any others -- right down to the wonderfully contributions from the percussion section, which appeared aggressive and yet musically expressive. Like the Vanguard, the snares have a slight lean to their black Premier drums too. Unfortunately, as one would expect in the opening competition -- particularly with so many brass holes -- the horns began to run out of steam in the middle of that number, and sounded even more fatigued in the closer of "Flag of Stars." The show concludes with a rousing patriotic finish, capped by a company front that looked like it was missing a lot of teeth tonight. The Bucs survived their first show with a production that has much work ahead, and much room to grow. The color guard was one of the best among the seniors, while the percussion might have been the most musical. How far this show go will depend on the development and closing of holes in the brass. It may not have quite the intrigue of last year's show, but it also may be too early to get a good read.

The Bushwackers (2DM-38B-22P-18CG) made great strides as they moved up the DCA ranks last year -- all the way to fifth with an undersized, over-achieving corps. But this is a new year and Bush has its work cut out for it if it wants to repeat that Cinderella run this year with its "The Myths of Fire" program, which includes the corps covering its traditional blue accents on its uniforms with red to accentuate the theme. It seems to have lost some of the identity it re-established last year -- particularly in the color guard which had multi-colored aqua uniforms and a beautiful arsenal of complimentary silks that might have been some of the best colors in the senior ranks. This year's guard opens with florescent orange chains against their red uniforms, and begins the show in a connected form that unravels -- similar to the way Bucs' guard opened their show last year. The first two selections of "Inferno" and Vesuvius" don't connect right now with the crowd, although its lack of response tonight might have been because Bush was on last among the senior juggernauts. That said, there is a lot of dirt right now -- both musically and visually -- from a corps that marched and played with such good technique and control last year. Visually, the corps appeared in much need of improved body control and technique through the first two numbers, which musically feature a lot of notes that don't seem to flow. The percussion (7S-3T-5B-7PP) is bigger than a year ago, but also lacking real cleanliness -- particularly obvious when it is featured. The brass appears to be marching four holes at present, with the guard having possibly more. The drill is expansive, and is highlighted by a Phantom Regiment-like wedge that crabsteps from the left-to-the-right. The show climaxes with a dramatic "Firebird Suite" push, featuring beautiful aqua/orange silks, but curiously no battery contribution. This show has some nice moments, but there is much work ahead for Bush to hold serve in the swelling DCA ranks this year.

JUNIORS

The Cadets (2DM-36CG-63B-33P) continue to add upon and improve -- if that's possible -- their "An American Revival" show. Not having seen the Cavaliers, it's hard to believe that anyone can beat this fan-friendly show -- but then again, all indications are the Cavaliers have taken the visual program to new heights. They would probably have the edge on the Cadets visually, even though Marc Sylvester's drill is much better than last year -- particularly the fast-paced "New York Memories/America" closer. The guard's singing in the "New York, New York" opener is a great touch. The block rotation into the first full impact certainly gets the crowd's attention, and shows the power of the unit's talented brass, which still seemed to be marching one hole. "The Place Where Dreams Come True" is just a hauntingly wonderful Cadet ballad, which comes to life with the beauty of the horn line against the multi-meter segment with the military beat of the distant drums backfield. The number now features a show stopper, with the full corps stopping in the middle to recite the questioned segment of "The Pledge of Allegiance" during a raising of the flag. What more can be said about "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," except it flat out rocks and may be the crowd favorite of the year! While the closer may not be as memorable, it probably will by Madison and is the area that will probably get the most attention over the coming month, even though it already features some of the old Cadet-styled lightening-fast drill. Don't see this show if you don't want to stand, because it drives the crowd to its feet several times.

For my second-straight viewing, the Crossmen (2DM-62B-31P-36CG) had the unenviable task of going on last -- this time immediately following the Cadets. That was a curious draw tonight -- since last Friday's show in Lansdale was their "home show" -- and unfortunate because the crowd response would have also been wildly enthusiastic if they hadn't just followed the Cadets. As it was, "The Signature Series" of contemporary jazz drew respectful applause for difficulty of the production, but not for being the favorite of the night to that point. But that didn't seem to matter to the Crossmen, who clearly projected much better than Lansdale when we were told by a corps tour parent that they were noticeably off. Not tonight, as Methany's "Heat of the Day" was articulated tightly -- both visually and musically. The trumpets navigate the note-rich book with such clarity and really set up that first big impact, which also features some high octave energy. They've changed the staging of the high-hat beginning from the snares, now putting them to the left of the pit, instead of immediately behind, and it gives a better feel to groove. The number might be the best opener in Madison, and sets this red hot show in motion. The "Candle in the Window" ballad is the perfect lush compliment, and features great control. The backfield screech soloist successfully hit his note tonight too, after missing in Lansdale. "Strawberry Soup" ultimately will determine just how high this corps will go and whether it will reach new heights. It's good right now, but needs to be great if they're going to take out the real "big boys" -- like the Vanguard. The upper-register trumpet soloists are still losing some steam -- nothing that Al Chez and the boys can't fix -- while the battery book needs a little more meat. Still love the "Huertas are us" section in the tenor feature. The color guard, while good, is still also more of a background player this year. It obviously has the talent to play a bigger role before it's all said and done too. Just some tweaking here and there could allow the Crossmen to inhale some rarified air in Madison.

The Bluecoats (2DM-64B-32P-32CG) are a fan favorite in Hershey, which has no problem greeting them with a vocal "Bluuuuueeeeee." Maybe it's because former Westshoremen and Reading Bucs percussion caption head legend Dan DeLong now oversees the 'Coats line (8S-5T-5B-5C-9PP), or that there are a lot of members from Pennsylvania, or just the fact that they're always fan friendly -- but he support seems to be getting stronger in Chocolatetown. "Urban Dances" is a great vehicle for this corps, beginning with the urban sounds from the pit and the contemporary dance backfield by possibly the most talented guard in 'Coats history. That guard is on all rifles for some quality work throughout the opener of "Paradise Utopia from 'Concerto for Bass Trombone," which features a fast-paced Eric Kitchenman drill. Maybe it's the fact that the Bluecoats have not aborted their white pants and shoes in the era of the all-black to hide the visual dirt, but their performance seems crisper because it's done well and is so exposed. The ballad, "New World from 'Dancer in the Dark,'" is wonderfully choreographed -- from the single danger to open the number, the ballet positions struck by the brass while it plays, to the movements and dancing of the battery and the guard backfield. The corps does indeed put the "Pedal to the Metal" in the closer, as it cuts loose, while the guard spins appropriate bright yellow flags with a checkered "victory lane" accent. The percussion is also featured, with the tenors capturing the most attention during their figure-eight feature. There appears to be no weakness in this corps, which is at least as good, if not better than last year -- but fighting to hold eighth in a year where most of the top 12 and other challengers have also improved.

It's hard to believe that the Boston Crusaders (2DM-62B-29P-34CG) have only been out in competition for a week, while others have been out for much longer. That might have made the narrow difference between themselves and Bluecoats (77.40 to 76.70) for third last night, since Boston appears to have one of its best corps ever and a well-designed "You Are My Star" production. Patriotic themes are big with the crowd this year, and they loved this show from the start when the guard unveiled large scrolls reading "America," "Land of the Free," and "Home of the Brave" to the wonderful opening sounds of "Appalachian Spring." Speaking of the guard, it went from having possibly the worst uniforms in the top 12 last season, to the best this season with their classy cream-colored outfits with gold accents. The corps shows great control and maturity with its first impact -- performed during a backwards step-over by the brass that they repeat several times in the opener. The designers know how to body shape well with this corps, and it does it so appropriately in the opener, which also features a well-executed rifle toss, and percussion feature (8S-5T-5B-11PP). While this is one of the more mature Boston percussion sections to start a season -- playing on all new cream-colored Dynasty drums -- it is largely a support unit for the corps through much of the show. It may lack some of the demand of its nearest rivals, except for its opening break. "You Are My Star" takes harmonious singing to new heights and is well done, although the return to singing near the end may have been a little overkill. Nonetheless, the work by the guard on double white flags compliments the piece perfectly. The corps shows it jazzy side as it loosens up during Artie Shaw's "Concerto for Clarinet" -- led by the jazz set drumming by the battery in the pit. While "Simple Gifts" brings the show to a predictable climax -- right down to the closing dissolving and body-shaping company front that the Cadets parlayed into a title -- it works very well and drove the crowd to its feet. This show has also the design to keep this corps in the thick of things for the middle of the pack come Madison. But because it had its first show so late, it needs to play catch-up in the cleaning department to max it out.

Spirit (2DM-64B-32P-24CG) seemed to be a little off its game at this show -- at least compared with Lansdale -- and paid for it as it has seen its scoring surge slow of late. Because "Darkness into Light" and the music of Holsinger's "Easter Symphony" is on the esoteric side, it needs to be performed very crisply and with great energy if it is going to carry this corps to finals. Last week, it seemed good enough to do that -- but not so much on Saturday. The color guard, which indeed is much improved from last year, particularly had an off night, with several drops on rifle in the opener. The brass also seemed to have a few individuals sticking out on this night. Still, the crowd enjoyed the opener, particularly the percussion feature -- more specifically the cymbal head-choppers and jump through the tenors. The ballad is just a wonderfully conceived, high-quality package -- with the saber work being so well-designed. The guard changes to brighter silks to illustrate the emergence of the light from darkness that was despair. The closer seemed to really lose some energy tonight, with some more rifle drops, and the brass sounding tired. Spirit was well-received for how well in performed, but it was more respect applause tonight than true enthusiasm. Still, Spirit is on the cusp of a finals run and no doubt its staff will be working overtime to find just the right improvements it needs to crack the top 12 again.

Kiwanis Kavaliers' (2DM-54B-37P-24CG) had some improvements in clarity over last week, but still appears simply too young and inexperienced to make a big climb in the ranks this year -- despite its much bigger size and earlier competitive schedule. The group has added a gold stripe accent down the middle of its black hoods, which should complete the black-and-gold uniform. "Hall of Justice" is nicely received by the crowd because it can recognize the music of super heroes -- even picking out the "Johnny Quest" theme, despite having it referred to as "Flash Gordon" for a second time in the program. In the actual "Flash Gordon," the guard simply needs to be much better spinning those lightening bolts. It's a nice idea that's just not being performed well right now. Yes, the brass does get some good impact at standstill hits, and the 10-man snare line is solid -- but not outstanding -- during its feature, but the whole show lacks the design to carry it that far. Maybe that's because Kiwanis merged with a Division II corps -- the Tampa Bay Thunder -- and the end result is a corps that is much bigger, but still young by Division I standards. It's still got a long way to go before making semi-finals, even though DCI's decision to crack down on its Division II/III declaration rule may mean it doesn't haven't to vault over as many corps to get there.

One Division II corps Kiwanis is going to have a tough time beating is the reborn Magic of Orlando (2DM-54B-28P-23CG), which was the first junior corps in competition Saturday and immediately unveiled the sophistication and control that distinguishes the junior circuit. "Desert Winds" is so nicely designed by many of the Blue Devil staff for this corps' return to the field, and the Michael Cesario pretty purple uniforms with vibrant red diagonal compliment it perfectly. The "Desert Winds" sounds are appropriately captured by the pit throughout the program, while the rest of the percussion (9S-4T-5B-10PP) lays down a complimentary book with many big unison Devil-like accents. No, it's not particularly dense or as intricate as many of the top D-I corps, but it shouldn't be -- at least not this year. Since DCI has ruled this corps must go Division II, the show is designed to win a D-II championship, and then see how far it can go on the next level. If the first full impact by a splendidly balanced brass section is any indication, it could do just that -- although the competition for the D-II titled should be as intense as the battle for Division I's Top 12. While the opener does tend to get a bit monotonous, the ballad is a high point of the show and musical treat. All the corps' seemed to like getting a great backfield sound against the concrete facade of HersheyPark Stadium, and Magic might have been as good as any. The corps showed wonderful expression and control throughout the number, which was well-received by the audience. The closer seems to be the corps' weakest number right now, although it may just have been fatigued a bit after coming from a show in New Hampshire the day before. The lavender-clad color guard, while being somewhat invisible at times of the show, really provides a splash of color in the closer -- spinning solid flags that are various shades of orange, pink and red. A nicely-designed show with a balanced ensemble for a comeback corps. The Hershey crowd loved having them back!

The U.S. Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps provided a lengthy but well-received exhibition, followed by the corps being played back onto the field for a full retreat by a high school All-Star drum line from the Harrisburg area. The retreat moved along crisply, followed by encores by both the winning Brigs and Cadets, who played two songs apiece. All and all, a perfect night for drum corps, and the Five Star Brass people should be commended again for putting together a top competition for the holiday weekend. These people know how to organize, promote, and execute a first class drum corps competition, and could probably tutor others on how to do it right.[/b]

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 Post subject: Hersey review
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2002 4:53 pm 
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Thanks for the quality and detailed review Mike. The best thing about these reviews is that when we can't get to the show, some of the reviewers are so good describing from their perspective what they saw that if we are lucky enough to see these corps again we can be sure to check out some nuances that we may have overlooked or we can check out changes in the show added in. I really enjoy the reviews {even when I may sometimes disagree with the reviewers assessments which turns out for me to be not very often ]


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2002 5:53 pm 
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Excellent review!!

Thanks!

Bill D

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 Post subject: Mike's Review
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2002 2:51 am 
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Excellent review Mike! Your years of experience as a journalist sure have raised the level of reviews quite a bit. On behalf of all of us, let's hope you're able to attend several more contests.
Dan Kelly


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 Post subject: Thanks for reading my review
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2002 5:42 am 
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Hey all, thanks for reading my review, and the kind words. I'm glad you found it informational.

I will try and write a senior review or two down the road, and am attending a DCI show in Canton, as well as both D-II/III finals and D-I quarterfinals in Madison. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get to a computer to send reviews in that final DCI week -- but you never know.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2002 6:09 pm 
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The Cadets brass hole is probably my son Alan Horne, Jr. (trumpet). Some drum corps fans may know him better as "Spizler", the author of the DCI buddy icons for AIM. He has been out of the lineup with a stress fracture in his left foot for the past 2 weeks. He stayed on tour and should be back in the lineup on July 15. There have been several other minor foot/ankle injuries recently that have caused holes for a show or two.

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