Brigadiers top Caballeros at Wildwood

by William Aldrich-Thorpe, DCW staff

June 19, 2004 — Wildwood, NJ . . . It was the battle of two titans, fresh from a long winter’s nap, ready to do battle once again for DCA supremacy. This night, the Syracuse Brigadiers stood atop the field, placing first with a spread to the Hawthorn Caballeros. The 2004 DCA season has begun!

You felt something special was going to happen as the Syracuse Brigadiers (51B/25P/35CG/3HG/3DM) took the floor in competition.

The corps’ 2004 production is titled “Caravan” and is a powerful production based on the incredible brass arrangements from Wayne Downey. The corps opens softly to Lawrence of Arabia with only the brass and front ensemble, then builds quickly and culminates in a full-corps ensemble that raises serious goose bumps.

This performance so fascinated me with their style and verve that I had to stop taking notes and watch as fans were pleasantly assaulted, both musically and visually, with a well-crafted program from beginning to end.

The rendition of Caravan shows off a highly- controlled brass line accented with the color guard using light purple swing flags to add a visual lightness to the piece.

Next is the haunting melodies of “Out of Africa” that further illustrating this remarkable arrangement and major talent of the brass line. This was followed by an original Afro-Jazz percussion feature composed by David Glyde (Brigs’ percussion arranger). It is a masterful program and truly highlights a very talented drum line and remarkable pit ensemble.

To round out the show, a version of A Night in Tunisia further spotlights soprano soloists that are amazing and really know how to wail.

This will be a great year for this corps if they can keep this program going strong and fresh through the next two and a half months of the DCA season. The corps was strong in nearly every caption, with the minor exception of field percussion.

The second titan in tonight’s competition was the 2003 DCA World Champion Hawthorne Caballeros, performing an all-original musical program written by Key Poulin (brass), Gary Gill (drums) and David Pasquarella (front line ensemble).

The opening number, Chupinazo y Fiesta, opens simply with the front ensemble, but the first note from the whole brass line is loud and in charge and hits you hard. In fact, it was so loud that the next minute of the show was nearly drowned out in a sort of white noise as our ears needed time to recover. This powerful number headlines a very remarkable show that hints at the many Latin musical numbers this corps has performed over their long history.

The ballad, titled San Fermin, is a beautiful all-brass number with no drums or color guard accompaniment. It allows the brass to truly show off their talent and musicianship as the corps weaves majestically in large forms. It will be the one number that will be well remembered as you leave the stadium.

The final number, Corrida de Toros, seems to culminate the whole of the Latin sounds of this corps. The percussion section was a real treat this evening as they rocked the stands with a powerful field production. The corps had a thunderous final push that brought the house down and the fans to their feet.

This show is still a work in progress, with areas yet to be completed, but the “bones” of the show are well-defined and strong.

Dmitri Shostakovich is always in good hands when the Reading Buccaneers (47B/34P/27CG/ 4HG/2DM) decided to make it their “Innovations, the Passions of Shostakovich” program. It was powerful, majestic and a memorable performance. The corps placed very close to the Hawthorne Caballeros, showing strength in the field visual, ensemble percussion and visual effect captions.

The first number is the fiery Festive Overture, which sets the stage for a fast-paced marching program and grabs attention from the first note. Lower brass was kicking it royally, but had difficulty projecting the upper ranges of the sopranos due in part to the indoor environment. The color guard was dressed in a temporary uniform of a white t-shirt and black pants which presented a good but incomplete program.

In Fire of Eternal Glory from “Novorossiysk Chimes for Orchestra,” the brass shone bright with a well-blended ensemble voicing in this beautiful ballad. The guard displayed some early maturity and character in their dance program.

The color guard also used an interesting multi-position flag-posting stanchion during the rendition of the 10th Symphony, moving the flags about the field to curtain the brass. This also contained the percussion feature, but it was hard to get a solid read in the fast-paced performance. The percussion book was intriguing as the different sections were quickly introduced, both visually and musically, to thunderous applaud.

In the final number, 5th Symphony, the corps maintained a strong performance. As with the other pieces, the lower brass overshadowed the upper brass. The corps had a strong marching program that was handled with style. The color guard has much to complete to fill in the performance gaps. The overall results of the program and performance were positive and the corps looks to be a strong contender this season.

Coming into the facility in new uniforms, the Connecticut Hurricanes (32B/17P/21CG/7HG/ 2DM), in their 50th Anniversary season, are looking sharp with a fresh look that keeps the overall basic Hurcs appearance, but more tailored.

The corps did not have the size of the others, but they did pack a powerful sound and program, placing fourth, just ahead of the New York Skyliners with strength in their field brass, percussion, and visual effect captions.

This season the Hurricanes have pulled together a program that highlights much of the music we have come to love from this corps through its long history.

From their quick-paced opener of Make His Praise Glorious, to a real brass standout of It Ain’t Necessarily So, the corps was well-rewarded by the anxious crowd.

The percussion feature from The Awakening from Magnificent 7 (the TV show) illustrated a younger percussion section that needs a little more seasoning to fit all the pieces together. The color guard is not finished in this number either, so it will be interesting to see how the section matures.

They Call the Wind Mariah is a beautiful ballad and stirs memories of earlier years. This production was a bit shaky musically, with breath control problems in evidence, plus more programming is needed to complete the visuals.

With the boom-boom of the lower bass drum, the corps’ signature number, The Magnificent Seven, stirred the crowd to their feet as the production build to a final push.

Rounding out the competition portion, the New York Skyliners (27B/20P/18CG/3HG/3DM) took the floor performing their 2004 production titled “New York Rhapsody . . . the Music of George Gershwin.” It is dedicated to the drum corps musical genius known as Hy Dreitzer, who was the brass arranger and instructor for years.

The corps is performing a musically rich production that is presented in four segments that include Act 1: “Prelude” which includes Second Prelude; and in Act 2, “Rhythms of The City” the corps includes a intriguing rendition of Fascinatin’ Rhythm (from “Lady Be Good”).

In Act 3,“ Carnegie Hall,” they explore a symphonic styling with Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F, and in Act 4, “Broadway Suite,” the corps completes the production with An American in Paris, Somebody Loves Me, I Got Rhythm (from “Girl Crazy”), and Of Thee I Sing, leading into the corps signature finale.

The Skyliners are still working on their show and much is still in process, especially in the visual design and color guard equipment work. Musically, the corps is a bit hot and cold right now, displaying some rough areas where the visual program is less secure. The color guard has many standout moments including in the dance portions, displaying both talent and style.

The fans this evening were blessed with two exhibitions — the Crossmen and the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Corps.

The Crossmen are sporting a new look. The new uniform is all-black with a black sequined sash to add a hint of mystery. The shoulders are adorned with a touch of red. The ensemble look is interesting, but needs to be seen in a larger environment to get the whole picture.

The show begins with Wynton Marsalis’ Jubal Step. It illustrates a complex set of rhythms and a progressive jazz sound that is intriguing, but seemed a little out of step with the title as it’s hard to recognize the “Unity” theme in the opening number. This may be due to environmental issues indoors.

The ballad from Joni Mitchell, called Both Sides Now, is very beautiful and may be the signature number for the season. The controlled power of the brass section allows for the simple, haunting melody to come through.

The program continues to reflect a new style of musical development. The color guard equipment work is incomplete, but the pieces offered tonight illustrated well-trained members and a promise of a great performance to come.

The final number, Puma from Full Circle, is an updated Crossmen favorite from 1992. It offers up some nice rhythmic pulse and illustrates the power of both the brass and percussion sections.

The final performance was by the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Corps, who put on one heck of a show that never fails to pull old and new fans into the legacy that is our drum corps history.

The corps did a really fine job for their first field performance of the season. The horn line is as strong as ever and they are actually doing a fantastic job with a lot of new music. Tonight, after the corps announced itself with a solo soprano to the Call of the Bull, performed by Frank Ponzo, the audience was delighted to hear such classics as España Cani followed by Zabumba and Ted Meets Johnny.

A concert performance of the Chuck Mangione classic Echano was well-received by the near capacity audience. The final numbers included Flamenco Cha-Cha, Harmonica Man and a finale that includes the corps’ signature “Rump-Rump” closer.

This was not the same as the Wildwood competition of the past, remembering the old Maxwell Football Field, but it felt so good being back. This was the sentiment expressed by many fans entering into the new convention center built over the past two years. It is an engineering marvel with large, rounded beams which support a ceiling made of white material.

The floor is a clear coated concrete which looked to be slippery, but is quite safe. The rafters were adorned with over 60 speakers playing light jazz music as the throng filed into find the appropriate viewing angle and to meet and greet friends and relatives. Though the outside temperature hit in the high 80s, indoor was very comfortable in the mid- to high-70s.

The convention center floor was painted to resemble a football field, though the markers only went from the five yard line to five yard line. The depth of the field was definitely shorter than regulation.

The biggest issue was with the pit equipment as the room was small and it placed them right up next to the front seats. The concern with sound in an indoor facility was of much concern with many in the stands and it was a problem for several corps to hear a level of clarity between brass sections and most definitely the front orchestral instruments. Bass sounds overshadowed higher tones.

This was the first indoor competition held at this facility, but not the first time drum corps shook the rafters. In October last year, the alumni corps held their showcase standstill performance in this very room (and is scheduled to return later this year). Everyone was highly impressed with both the facility and the staff of the convention center, which gave the show sponsors, the Hawthorne Caballeros, more reason to work closely with the Wildwood Convention staff and his Honor, Mayor Duane E. Sloan, to bring the competition back.

It blends the best of a evening for the fans; a little boardwalk with the rides, beaches, and sun; mixed liberally with a great competition and performances of the best senior drum corps on the East Coast; sprinkle some old friends and a junior drum corps for that special flavor; shake in a great evening with time available for a dinner and drinks with old and new acquaintances alike. What more could you want?