Drum Corps International
DVD Spotlight of the Week: 2011 Oregon Crusaders

DVD Spotlight of the Week: 2011 Oregon Crusaders

by Michael Boo


2011 Oregon Crusaders
The 2011 Drum Corps International season marked the first that both the Open Class World Championship Prelims and Finals were scheduled for Ames Field in Michigan City, Ind. The operative word is "scheduled," as an abnormally intense day of rain on the first day of competition forced the cancellation of the Prelims and the Finals to be a one-shot deal on the following day. Were it not for a 0.7-point loss to Oregon Crusaders in Erie, Pa. just two days before the scheduled Prelims, Blue Devils B would have had an undefeated Open Class season. In Finals, the Crusaders were just 0.30 under Blue Devils B, with the Vanguard Cadets just another half a point lower. Blue Devils B took 1st in both Visual and Musical Effect, Music Ensemble and Percussion, with Oregon Crusaders capturing 1st in Visual Performance and Brass, and Vanguard Cadets winning Visual Ensemble. After returning from inactivity the year before, Spartans took 4th place, also capturing the highest score in Color Guard. Yokohama Scouts from Japan and Jubal from the Netherlands competed as international units, and other finalists included Music City, Legends, Raiders and Colt Cadets, as well as Revolution, Genesis and Forte, all three from Texas. A running spoken dialogue introduced each selection of Oregon Crusaders' show, "The Blue Hour," which was titled after the momentary minutes of twilight in the morning and evening when the day is neither fully lit by the sun, nor fully darkened by night. The shimmering glow that is cast upon all objects has inspired poets and composers for centuries.
The opening statement of the production was the main theme from Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," an 1801 work the composer titled, "Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, 'Quasi una fantasia,' Op. 27, No. 2." The work received its best-known moniker from a German music critic several years later who thought the piece reminded him of moonlight over a lake. After publishers started using the subtitle, everyone came to know the piece by that name. A massive circular blue tarp, painted to look like the moon as seen from Earth, was spread across 30 yards to the outside of the left 45-yard line. Only the horn line started on the tarp, performing interpretive body movement to music from the front ensemble percussion. Their brass instruments were spread across the entire diameter of the tarp. As a lone color guard member ran past the other members of the guard, the dark silks of night that were stretched to hide their bodies were released to reveal their white and light blue costumes, demonstrating the arrival of daylight.

2011 Oregon Crusaders
The guard made it onto the tarp as the brass players moved off and the drums moved forward, with the first sound of music other than from the front ensemble coming a full 90 seconds after the show began. This led into Frank Ticheli's "Blue Shades," a mid-1990s concert band work that contains musical references to the blues, though it is not itself a blues piece. The corps' selections came from the work's jazzier moments, including the "down and dirty" brass "wail" that the composer describes as recalling the train whistle effects used during the era of Benny Goodman, terminating with what Ticheli writes is a "critical mass … a pressure cooker of excitement." John Mackey's subdued and ethereal "Hymn to a Blue Hour" came next, like a lullaby anticipating the sleeping hours. Flags of white and dark blue stripes echoed the notion of being neither daylight nor nighttime. Mackey wrote that a friend mentioned the 2010 piece sounded like "vespers in a simple Shaker church." The final work was Alberto Ginestera's 1953 "Varicones Concertantes, Op.23," composed as a concerto for orchestra, featuring different instruments in solo roles throughout. The Argentinean Ginestera was fond of working South American folk elements into his symphonic music, which is on full display in this selection and is offered in the accompanying video clip. The final movement on the field was "Variazione in modo di Rondo," the jazzy and rousing variation that Ginestera wrote to feature the entire orchestra. The color guard picked up flags of a crescent moon upon a deep blue sky, bringing the show into the second blue hour of the day. For this week only, you can save on the DVD that contains this complete Oregon Crusaders performance, along with all of Open Class finalists at the 2011 DCI World Championships. Buy the 2011 Open Class World Championship DVD. (Available this week only for 20% off. Regular price: $39.95.) Discount DVD offer ends Monday, April 22 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Ind.

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