Drum Corps International
Boo-yah game time commentary from Camp Randall Stadium: The big one

Boo-yah game time commentary from Camp Randall Stadium: The big one

by Michael Boo

Wrap-up It will be very interesting to see what the spread is tonight, as the quality at the top is so incredible this year. The Cavaliers seemed to connect with the audience more so than they did in Quarterfinals and Semifinals, but there's no telling what the judges—who look specifically at a tight focus according to whatever they're judging—have seen and heard that I might have missed. No matter who wins tonight, one thing will be clear. The Champion will have earned the right to be called that by outscoring some spectacularly worthwhile performances that might have won it all in many previous years. The Cavaliers Somehow the Cavaliers pulled off the seemingly impossible with "MACHINE." They produced a show that's dark and ominous and almost a warning about the mechanize age in the same way as Charlie Chaplain's "Modern Times" many decades ago, and yet they made the robotic figures that permeate the production loveable, with human-like qualities that are more intriguing than threatening. With a drill that gives us one "aha" moment after another, the show is a visual feast akin to a buffet table 100 feet long. Musically, my favorite part is the Wynton Marsalis "Renewing Vows" that is repetitive to the point of near insanity, but delivers a constant barrage of memorable musical and visual treats such as the piccolo trumpet duet accompanying the horns passing the robots over their heads and the otherworldly muted section that ends the piece. The eerie and more artistic sensitive moments are generating huge audience responses tonight. It seems that all cylinders are firing. The full horn line martial arts robot segment is a hoot, and from there on out, there appears to be one audience gasp after another. The final push, where the two horn players and snare drummer are passed over the guard to become robots, had the audience on their feet and screaming before the snare drummer finished off his post-closer riff. Blue Devils Giving us a show we couldn't refuse, Blue Devils' "The Godfather, Part Blue" jumped without looking into the world of the Corleone family, where no one leaves with any secrets that can be used to implicate any family members. The block cross from the movie poster and cover of the book plays an integral part in the production. Only this week did I finally notice the pistol that evolves out of the maneuvers that come out of the disintegration of the cross, reminding us that though religion was important to the Corleones, it was often used as a shield for the violence thrust upon others. The bulletproof vest-piercing stabs of the horn line play off the animated gestures of the guard, along with the opening gunshots reminded us of the danger of dealing with the family Corleone. Sleeping with the fishies flags and another block cross that turned into a dagger piercing the heart further drove home the message of the importance of not double-crossing Vito Corleone. And even in death, when the corps backs away from his chair and all that's left is a rose atop his draped jacket, the message is clear that from the great beyond he is controlling the actions of those who lived in fear of his dominance while he was alive. As pure story-telling theater, this is as intense and dramatic as it gets. Phantom Regiment This corps has been making such incredible progress over the past few weeks that I wouldn't be surprised at anything they pulled out come the announcement of the placements. They've been riding the crest of a scoring wave that will either crash just short of shore or hit said shore and knock down one or two sand castles erected by the corps that will perform after them. And if they pull the "big one" off, there will surely be discussion of some sort of Faustian soul-selling deal with the demons that run through the corps trying to seduce the rest of the guard into doing the unthinkable for short-term gain. "Scythian Suite" is perfectly suited to the clash of good-versus-evil the permeates this show, it's angular, violent strains and hovering interlude tempting and harassing us all at once. The life-affirming purity of Franz Beibl's "Ave Maria" resonates inside our very bone structure, the sonority created by the trumpets all playing on baritones is a richness that drips onto the field like a melting stick of butter. Buy the APD or DVDs and watch how the two circles of horns separate Faust from his love, Marguerite. Oh, so very, very exquisite. A police siren blared out through the stadium just as Marguerite was "killed" by the demons, as if responding to the "killing." But she was resurrected during the grand Mahler finale and joined the chorus of angels as she ran off the field, wearing her new wings on pathways of light. The Cadets
9:16 p.m. "Volume 2: Through the Looking Glass" is unlike anything we've ever seen or heard in this activity. It's drum corps, but it's drum corps with a twist of some wacky wedge of fruit not of this planet, instead of the darkest, most hidden recesses of the quivering blob of gray matter that makes up the part of our mind not assigned to daily requisites such as drinking, eating, sleeping and arguing about the merits of new developments in drum corps. A white rabbit from "Alice Through the Looking Glass" is the least of the things that make this show unparalleled in the history of drum corps. The dancing/falling from/jumping off of/tumbling from the multitude of pink tables builds to one of the most unrestrained euphoric free-for-alls we've ever seen on the field. And then it just moves into another dreamscape just like dreams do in real (or surreal) life. Look for the claw hammer, crown and umbrella in the drill as Alice finds the various items left over on the field from last year's show, all this during a vocalized ballad that mysteriously has the capability to bring tears to the eye. Bernstein's "Diaspora Dances" gives us a glimpse of the Cadets as when we were first flustered by their progressiveness in the mid-1980s. And now, two decades later, they again redefine a vision of what drum corps can be when imaginations run free. Santa Clara Vanguard
8:59 p.m. Always moving somewhere, always on the go, "Molto Perpetuo" (original music by Key Poulan) is one of the most delightful visual feasts to come down the interstate this year. Sometimes one has to look around the field to find the element that is always moving when everything else has stopped, with the exception of the always-moving "Mr. Moto" who walks around the perimeter of the field, raising and lowering his trumpet and even turning when the rest of the section does the same. It's an interesting story about how he got the "job." He hurt his leg and can't march the full drill. I'm particularly enamored of the moving circle that absorbs and dispenses horn players like a vacuum cleaner with a broken hose, sucking them in and then spitting them out. But my favorite moment—and one of the neatest drill moves of the summer—is the ending when the horns appear to trace some sort of invisible hourglass figure as they scoot off the field. This is vintage Vanguard on the edge of innovation, leading us through some tricky and modernistic music, but with an occasional tip of the feathers to pop elements that seem to sneak into the show like a neighbor coming over to eat your leftover corn chips while you're watching a Seinfeld marathon. (Don't think too hard about that. This show has my reckless free association in overdrive—in a state of moto perpetuo.) Bluecoats
8:42 p.m. Nothing connects us more to life than breathing and our heartbeat, the latter showing up at the beginning of "connexus" as if traced on an EKG. If you read the show description prior to seeing this show, you might be forgiven for wondering if the show was going to be too challenging sophistication-wise. Well, it indeed is extremely sophisticated, but never to the point of not connecting (there's that root word again) with the audience. Bluecoats have reinvented themselves with a jazz style that isn't rooted in swing, (although there is plenty of swing in the program), nor is it easily classified. The quirky bounce of Don Ellis' "The Tihai" is an odd-metered romp that can more easily be felt than clapped along with. The sudden appearance of the connecting ribbons and their equally fast disappearance is one of the series of visual deferences to the show concept, along with the joining of bodies during "My Heart and I," a theme that gets progressively more active as the show develops. I thought the show was complete without the tag the corps only recently added, bringing back the EKG/heartbeat theme, but the quick evolution to the form is a nice little dab of frosting on a show that is already captivating and loved by all. Carolina Crown
8:08 p.m. This opening is one of my favorite visual moves, so simple yet so effective in conveying the concept of "in.trance.it," the sensation that we all have some place we should be. Whether that place is a physical geographic location or a spot within our mind that we're trying to link up with is left to the viewer's imagination. The music of Richard Danielpour isn't familiar to most corps fans, and that's too bad. Maybe this show will sell some CDs of his. The music is quite contemporary without being threatening, and the audience is responding to a multitude of brass highs and lows, as the music ebbs and flows like a roller coaster hugging the rails but in occasional danger of flying off. The rock-out sections are fun to watch for the quirky movement of the guard, and the down-the-arc brass waterfall is a delightful effect, as is the Doppler wave effect when the horns, facing backfield, let their pitch dip as if hearing the whistle of a train pass us by. I just love this horn line. They are so controlled, yet so able to drill a hole through one's head and fill it with great bombast. A little thing to look for in the DVDs: A couple times, including the very end, the horns do a slight lift off their toes to accent a brief two-note rise in the melody. Blue Knights
7:51 p.m. You either love or not-quite-so-love "Dark Knights." It's not for the squeamish, but it perfectly represents the persona that Blue Knights have developed for themselves. Based on Samuel Barber's "Piano Concerto Op. 38," it's angry and introspective and bombastic and really, really introspective, often at the same time. I'll go out on a limb here and state that no corps leaps, jumps, rolls on the ground, flies through the air and does body movement quite like this corps. It's one of their trademarks, much like the stunning hand-painted flags that grace the field every year. Sure, Barber isn't easy on the ears, but he's got to be healthy for stimulation of the brain cells. Ahh, the serenity of the second movement of the concerto washes the field in a blissful not-quite-a-chorale-but-I-don't-know-what-else-to-call-it. After the
5/8 "Gigue" section, it's almost shocking in its tonality. Then the corps goes ballistic again in "Interlude." My personal favorite part of the show, one of my most favorite moments in any show this year, is the swirling mass of humanity that comes across like a spinning collection of gases forming into a star in the outer reaches of the solar system.
And then the corps marches out of it as if pulling the drapes open on a day greeting us outside with the explosion of a hydrogen bomb. Nothing too cataclysmic, just a little drum corps with a side order of upheaval and calamity. Boston Crusaders
7:34 p.m. I am grateful to Boston Crusaders for introducing me to the music of Jennifer Higdon in "Cathedrals of the Mind." It turns out she's one of the biggest composers in the symphonic world today, and she's also one of the most scheduled composers in upcoming orchestral repertoires, due to the wild success of her "blue cathedral," which is being played in this show. The music is fresh and invigorating without being intellectual or off-putting. The corps' moving from visual chaos into a sense of repose was not hype. Getting into the comforting strains of "blue cathedral"
required the contrast of traveling through turmoil, but that was never shoved down our throats in "Confusion and Provocation," (the corps'
title for the opening segment of the show). The arches that move around the field contribute to a sense of suspense as to where they will end up, even after multiple viewings. The sneaking in of "Conquest" in various guises during the "Pathway to Affirmation" segment is quite creative. Don't be surprised if you've listened to the show and not caught the more hidden treatments of the corps theme. Even though we know the arches will be joined together after they almost connect prior to the final tag, there's still a sense of resolve and contentment that occurs when it finally happens on the last tolling of the cathedral bell. Madison Scouts
7:17 p.m."Primal Forces" has some classic Madison moments like sonically paint-peeling brass chords and big, put-on-a-postcard visuals, and some new-to-Scouts concepts as well, such as the guard attire and overall warrior theme. I still can't figure out how a harp can be heard through the ferocity of Ginastera's "Harp Concerto," so that piece is being added to my Amazon.com shopping cart. The add-on-to-the-moving-arc drill is something I don't remember ever seeing before. "Gabriel's Oboe" captures the spirit of the "Reflection" movement with its simple grace and dignity. Personally, I like the white jackets.
They remind of 1983, when the corps came out with a similar upper body treatment. Some fans went into apoplectic shock at this early in the season, but it isn't without precedent. If they stay with white tops for a few years and then go back to the dark uniforms, wait and hear what's said. Okay, enough editorializing for now. The fury of "Danza Final" contributes to the defiant posturing of the guard at the very end, with the trademark fleur-de-lis backing them up. No matter what direction this corps heads in, it will always be the Madison Scouts and they will always entertain. Glassmen
7 p.m. It's so cool how the horns warm-up as if an orchestra.
"Beethoven, Mastery and Madness" makes me wonder why it's taken so long for a top corps to play the music of perhaps the greatest composer who has ever lived. The way the opener glides through the first eight symphonies of the master is inspired, as if Beethoven wrote the pieces that way as a single entity. And "Moonlight Sonata" is a classic beautiful moment. "Diabelli Variations" is inspired in its cuteness, allowing the hoop-skirted guard to get a little naughty and show off some leotard-spanned ankle. (I'm scandalized, I tell you.) It's always a good thing when a corps can pull off a little humor. The heart of the show is the "Symphony No. 9" movement, where we witness Beethoven going through the anguish of losing his hearing, which the music represents by becoming increasingly dissonant and detached, getting softer and softer until total deafness and silence sets in. To think Beethoven composed this masterwork in total deafness is astounding. Bravo to the corps for such a delightful and unique program. Spirit from JSU
6:43 p.m.It is so refreshing to see them bring back some of the old chestnuts in "Old, New, Borrowed and Blue." I'm referring to "Old Black Magic" and "Ol' Man River." Thursday night for the first time, I saw the corps spell out "OLD" in the opener just for a split second during a transition. Even in the ballad of "The Notebook," the horns can rip one's face off. This is the old Spirit power those of us who remember the corps from it's first days in the late 1970s have yearned for so much. "The Waltz of the Mushroom Hunters," "borrowed" from the Buddy Rich Big Band library, should show up in some future Spirit show as an "old" tune. Those of us too old to care about Spongebob Squarepants think of Spirit's horns as being sultry and gritty. That's where "Blues in the Night" comes in, though "Blue Shades" does a great job of blasting us out of our seats as well. 6:15 p.m. The United States Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps is always a special joy to hear. They have such precision and a HUGE sound. Tonight they played Samual Barber's "Commando March" and even some selections from "Rent" and other jazzy works. They are more versatile than one might expect, but it's their version of "Stars and Stripes Forever" that always gets the crowd to clap along before standing up and screaming their approval. Oh, what a special moment for us all, but a personal moment for me. The Madison Scouts Alumni Reunion Project group, which did such an incredible job last night, has just joined the Marine Corps D&B Corps for the color presentation during the performance of the "Star Spangled Banner." They are displaying a very special American flag that was sent to DCI by Wayne Barron, a member of the military who is a personal friend of mine. He's just one of the many special people this activity and my involvement with DCI has allowed me to meet. A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Wayne about an idea of his. He was deeply disappointed that due to his being deployed to Kuwait for Operation Iraqi Freedom, he would have to miss this year's World Championships. Wayne has toured with various corps (such as Southwind and Madison Scouts) since 1991 as a volunteer. He proposed the idea of having a flag flown over Camp Patriot and sending it here to be displayed for this opening ceremony. Sue Kuenhold of the DCI office responded enthusiastically to the idea and took over the arrangements to get the flag here. The Scouts' Alumni Reunion Project honor guard just displayed the flag during the National Anthem. Thanks, Wayne, for thinking of us from halfway around the world, and please return safely to volunteer many more years with our corps.
And now that Dan Potter has turned over the microphone to Brandt Crocker, we know that it's time to get the show underway. 6 p.m. Ah, the comfortable and embracing confines of Camp Randall Stadium. So much DCI history was made in this hallowed edifice. It was here in 1985 that we witnessed Garfield Cadets become the first corps to win three consecutive Drum Corps International World Championships with "Jeremiah Symphony" and other Bernstein works. In 1986, Blue Devils won their sixth championship title with a reprise of "Channel One Suite" from their first title win of a decade earlier, becoming the only corps (after their 1976 corps) to sweep all captions at Finals. A year later, Garfield Cadets topped Santa Clara Vanguard by .1 with "Appalachian Spring," incorporating a ballet dancer into the entire production. We came back in 1992 to witness the Cavaliers win their first DCI title with "Revolution," a bittersweet time for the corps as drill maestro Steve Brubaker watched the proceedings from his wheelchair just months before his untimely passing. In 1999, Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard finished in a tie with BD delivering the appropriately named "Rhythms ... at the edge of time" and SCV pulling out an extremely progressive "Inventions for a New Millennium." In 2002, we returned to see The Cavaliers go undefeated with a record-setting score for "Frameworks." So many memories, and so many more will be made tonight.

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