Devils edge Vanguard; Northwest corps showcased

by Donald Chinn, DCW staff

June 23, 2004 — Woodburn, OR . . . The Blue Devils widened the small edge they had over the Santa Clara Vanguard from the previous weekend. “Drums of Fire,” sponsored by the Woodburn Chamber of Commerce, was the first of four Pacific Northwest shows. The show was the smallest of the DCI tour, with an enthusiastic audience of about 1,000.

In their production, “SummerTrain Blues Mix,” the Blue Devils showcase an intriguing mixture of blues licks, train sound effects, outstanding soloists, and a vibrant visual program. The corps weaves a tapestry of sounds and images from the early railroad days, where the poor, blue-collar builders of the railroads sang the blues.

Their show has many of the elements of recent BD productions, but they elevate their style and technique to a new level of effect and showmanship.

Since the Santa Clara Vanguard shared the DCI Championship with the Blue Devils in 1999, they have offered fans four consecutive years of relatively abstract shows. This season, they have constructed a show that is reminiscient of their glorious Russian-themed shows of the 1980s.

The music is “Scheherazade” by Rimsky-Korsakov. The show contains several soloists, beautiful music and impressive drill moves. Their biggest challenge this season will be to unlock the beauty and subtlety of of the music, but they have an excellent start so far.

Because nature plays an important role in the lives of people in the Seattle area, the Cascades have produced a show titled “Nature’s Confession.” It is a collection of songs that capture different aspects of nature, including the sky, land, sea, storms and the heavens.

After last season’s 15th-place finish at DCI Championships, the corps has undergone a significant change in staff and will be in the hunt to recapture a place among the top 12. Tonight was their first performance of the season, and as the corps integrates the parts of the show into a seamless whole, it will surely gain in strength and popularity.

Although the division I shows were exciting , the most notable performances occurred in the division III and exhibition categories.

The Oregon Crusaders (30H/18P/10CG/ 1DM), in only their fifth season, seem to have turned the corner from being a struggling new corps to a corps that has a legitimate chance to draw attention at Denver. This is the first season they will make the trip to DCI, and the longer 15-state tour seems to have motivated them to reach new levels of excellence. With most of the membership new, a new look, and a new 30-horn sound, there is a freshness that will serve them well this season.

Laynie Roland, head tour mom, attributes their success so far this season to the members’ desire to be in the corps. “They’re here because they want to be here. They work hard, they play hard, they sleep hard.” Roland’s daughter, Aimee, was on the support staff last season and is now marching for the first time in the color guard. She likes the fact that in drum corps she is exposed to new skills and can bring them back to her high school color guard.

Three generations of her family are involved, including Aimee’s grandmother Yvonne who is travelling with the corps as the “guard grandma.”

The Crusaders’ show has three parts, with a visual theme of metals — bronze, silver and gold. The show’s closer, Tempered Steel, provides a rousing drum corps finish.

Spokane Thunder (40H/21P/2DM) was nothing more than a thought in Tony LeLateur’s and Ken Meredith’s minds just five months ago. Meredith is LeLateur’s business partner, and one day in February, LeLateur turned to Meredith and said, “Let’s start a drum corps.”

They called their contacts in the close-knit Spokane band community and 120 days after their first practice they fielded a corps. The staff consists of teachers in the Spokane area and the corps’ members come from their band programs. Although some of the staff have specialized instructional roles, most contribute to more than one area of the show.

Because drill teams are more popular than color guards in the Spokane area, there are not very many strong guard programs. As a result, the corps does not have a color guard, but it is seeking an instructor and members for next season. The members are all from the Spokane area and virtually all have no drum corps experience. It is the staff’s intention to keep the corps’ membership local. Clearly there is enough interest in the Spokane area.

Thunder performed in exhibition and their musical program includes pieces such as Cloudspitter by Jack Stamp and Magnificat by John Rutter. The corps is a great addition to the region’s drum corps landscape.

The Pacific Northwest now contains three corps at different stages of development — a top-flight division I corps, an up-and-coming division III corps and a brand-new corps. All three have shown remarkable growth. How long will it be before there are two in the top 12 from the Northwest? Probably sooner than anyone can now imagine.