It's hard to believe that it's all over. After a winter and spring of preparation, a summer of competition, the DCI World Championships and the first three shows on the DCI Tour of Champions, the season is now completely, irreversibly, forever over. The mood is somewhat bittersweet. The marchers, staffs and managements of the six corps participating on the tour agree that this week has been an experience of building camaraderie amongst the corps unlike any other. Their corps have enjoyed the sweep through California and bringing top-level drums corps at the top of their performance levels to corps-starved Californian fans, whom have never witnessed anything like this bombard their state. The fans have been phenomenally grateful for the infusion of drum corps and have provided the corps with massive ovations From a more personal perspective, it's been a long, long time away from home for everyone involved, and people just want to go home, get back to school, get back to their families, and decompress from a most active season of drum corps. On Saturday night at San Jose State University's Spartan Stadium, the Tour of Champions came to a magnificent crashing, blowing, spinning, tossing and turning close. Fans were emotionally spent from the performances, and no doubt, the performers were even more drained from giving their all one last time. After leaving Denver and the DCI World Championships, the six corps met in Cedar City, Utah, to put together the massed pieces for the beginning and closing of each of the outdoor venue events in California. Then it was on to the Golden State, where San Diego hosted the first of the Tour of Champions events at Qualcomm Stadium. From there, we moved north a couple hours to Pasadena and the venerable Rose Bowl Stadium. A jump from southern to northern California brought the corps to the San Francisco Bay area, home to both Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard. An indoor concert last night in Cupertino allowed the corps to stretch their artistic legs, resulting in some interpretive dance routines and musical selections not generally heard outside. Earlier today, each of the corps gathered at a local high school and took turns performing for all the other corps. It was the first time most of the members had seen ANY of the other corps in performance. And now, it all came down to the corps performing their field shows one last time. It was one final time to hear the incredible "Fanfare and Star Spangled Banner," written by Phantom Regiment's JD Shaw and performed by all the "championship trumpets" from each of the six corps, plus one snare drummer and an honor guard from each corps. The melody tonight soared through the cooler Bay Area air tonight, drilling itself into the psyches of the fans who themselves were spread from goal line to goal line on both levels of the stadium. The show opened, as it had all week, with the Phantom Regiment. The order had been predetermined as being in reverse order of number of DCI titles won prior to this year. It was apparent quite early in the show how well sound would project in Spartan Stadium, helped no doubt by the performance area being as close to the stands as possible, with no track between the field and stands. The sequential horn turns to the back and again to the front, around a continuous series of arcs, has never been more pronounced. And, oh, oh, oh, how the company front in the closer redefined the definition of "loud." The "instant encore" has proven to be a smashing success. How wonderful it would be if we could witness something like this a bit more often. It seemed that Phantom's "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral" was tailor made for this stadium. The entrance of the baritones was chilling, with the continual crescendo to the end of the piece causing goosebumps to form on parts of the body of this writer that have never been seen in public. The Madison Scouts have been warmly received all week, and they have been electric during each of their post-championship performances. "Madisonic" has come to full emotional fruition this week, the soft and subtle phrases of Oliver Nelson's "Sound Piece for Orchestra" generating the "ooooos" and "ahhhhs" that were sometimes subdued before now and "Malaga," well, just being "Malaga." Full of fire, tempestuous and blasting, the horns sounded like one of the old championship Madison lines. This coming alive of this magnificently contrasting program has alone been worth the price of admission. The audience was on their feet long before the final chord was finished. For their "instant encore," the Scouts brought back the theme from "Ice Castles," "Through the Eyes of Love." The corps apparently was trying to set a record for the longest held last note on record in drum corps, and it is quite likely they set it tonight, with the fans screaming and encouraging them on. It was loud. It drilled through lead. And it was drum corps at its finest. The Cavaliers were announced as being the current DCI World Champions, and that announcement was met with intense applause and cheers from what could realistically be regarded a partisan audience, with two of the top three corps from just miles away. The sirens that went past the back wall of the stadium during the corps' whistling segment only seemed to add a bit of intrigue and danger to the show. The yearning romantic chorale was beyond haunting tonight in this Bay Area air, the backfield chords resonating off the back stands with just a hint of ethereal temperament. The gunfight sounds ricocheted off the surrounding stands like one of those superballs kids play with, but one with a really robust attitude. The corps' final "instant encore" was their tender medley of their corps song, "We Are the Corps, The Cavaliers" with their theme song, "Over the Rainbow." You could hear a pin drop during the performance. This was a really educated drum corps audience. Santa Clara Vanguard offered a surprise as soon as their on-field warm-up, playing the finale to their "Phantom of the Opera" show backfield and turning to the front for the big hit. One could be forgiven for suspecting that everyone who ever marched SCV, every parent who had ever had a kid in SCV, and everyone who had ever chanted "SCV, SCV ..." at a corps show was in attendance tonight when announcer Dan Potter introduced the corps. It's only been since last weekend that we've witnessed the final additions to the new season ending closing to the show. Even in knowing how the character Scheherazade transformed from being chased in pink into the tunnel by the scimitar-bearing Sultan, and how she appeared seconds later in wedding white, holding the scimitar ... seeing that transpire each time this week has never lessened the wonder nor the effect. Tonight, for some reason, the scimitar was removed from the equation. A last-minute change in the script, one last, final change for the season? Vanguard finally had a chance to play a season-ending encore for its hometown fans, and nothing says "Vanguard" quite like the lyrical "Send in the Clowns." But there was something amiss. The drum battery was in position for an encore to the encore. That came in the form of the "Bottle Dance" segment from their first "Fiddler on the Roof" show from the early 1970s. As Dan Potter said over the PA system at the end, "And somewhere, Gail Royer is smiling." No corps traveled father from their home base to get to California than the Cadets, and that was certainly recognized by the audience as they warmly welcomed the unit to San Jose. Conceptually, this might have been the most daring program on the field tonight, and the educated audience responded as if they had all gone out to buy the Jethro Tull CDs from which the music was taken. Even without the baton twirler soloist from the competitive season, the show was total and complete. The melodies that took a little longer to grab onto earlier were old friends by tonight. Heads in the audience were seen rocking to and fro in the dynamic 5/4 block wedge in "Thick as a Brick." Enthusiastic cheering greeted each of the "show off" segments of horns and drums in the closer. The corps' "instant encore" was a reprise of the delightful comic horn sextet of "William Tell" and other musical mistreatments as abused by six very clever horn players, leading up to the full corps rendition of Van Morrison's "Moondance," some horns pouring into the stands as large chunks of the audience stood in appreciation. As the rest of the corps left the field, the sextet wrapped up the work with a little more musical sacrilege, receiving a massed audience standing ovation for their witty routine. The Blue Devils started their presentation by playing their famous six chord warm-up directly at the audience. "The Summertrain Blues Mix" finally rolled into the home freight yard to unload its precious cargo of potent sound masses and dexterous visual maneuvers that captured the spirit of riding the rails. Horns, drums and guard were taking no prisoners tonight. You either hopped on board the train or you were left at the side of the embankment waving bye-bye to the choo-choo as it disappeared into the night's horizon. A one-way ticket to drum corps bliss was the reward. If not for the trains, the blues wouldn't have traveled to the far reaches of American civilization. If not for this show, we wouldn't have been treated to some of the cleverest idiomatic sounds ever conceived for the field. This show defined how to use effects successfully for impact and storytelling. Tonight it glistened like a sparkling new locomotive. The Devils dedicated their "instant encore" to the life and memory of corps found and longtime director Jerry Seawright. One of his most favorite of corps classics, "Chase the Clouds Away," served the bill for this affectionate tribute, followed by the "Take the 'A' Train" segment from the show, allowing the audience to hear this most intriguing segment up-close-and-personal. Just when things couldn't get any more exciting, over 400 horns from all the corps appeared on the field to perform Jay Kennedy's "Fanfare of Champions," moving en masse to a drum cadence by the Cadets into a massive peacock-like feather form. With timpanist from every corps pounding out the responses to the horns, and 64 tubas spread across the front line, one could be forgiven if one felt their bones to a chiropractic session on themselves. "Simple Gifts" has never sounded so grand as in the second part of the fanfare. The sound produced might have created its own radio waves that are now traveling through space towards societies from distant planets who one day might wonder why their radio equipment has shut itself down out of mercy. The corps all mixed it up with other corps and moved closer together for the massed "Sing, Sing, Sing," written by Frank Dorritie and Dennis DeLucia, with drum parts by The Cadets. The volume of the sound has no appropriate word of description in any thesaurus. A few unprintable words come to mind. The audience jumped to its feet to roar its approval. Thanks to all the kids who gave us an extra week of spectacular entertainment. Thanks to the directors of the corps and all the volunteers for making this week possible. And a special thanks goes to Michael Cesario for producing the events of this entire week and coordinating all the rehearsals and logistics that it took to pull all the corps together. As the corps walked through the backfield gate/tunnel, fans appeared none too eager to depart themselves, wanting to grasp on to any last vestige of this special night, this special week, this special year. It's over. How sweet it was. It now only exists in the brain cells that make up our memories. Thank God for memories. The events of this week will never die as long as we can replay them in across the wide screens inside our imaginations. I'm a little teary as I write this final paragraph. I want to keep typing in the belief that I can make this event continue to live on a few extra moments. But it's time to stop. It's time to go home. It's time to start thinking about the 2005 DCI season. And it's time to start reliving 2004. Thank you for being a part of it, either in person or via the Internet. Thank you to all. Let's do this again very, very soon. Goodnight, farewell, and happy memories.
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