For most 2013 Drum Corps International Tour, it appeared that the Open Class title was Blue Devils B’s for the taking. The corps had defeated Vanguard Cadets in all 11 shows in which the two met prior to the Open Class World Championships.
However, as World Championship events got underway in Michigan City, Indiana, Vanguard Cadets’ “The Art of War” beat BDB’s “Warped” by a quarter of a point. The Santa Clara corps opened the spread further in the Finals competition while capturing the caption awards for high general effect, best visual performance, best color guard, and best brass performance.
Ending with the silver medal, Blue Devils B managed to capture the percussion caption award for the fifth year in a row, while Genesis took the bronze, earning its first DCI World Championship medal and the award for most improved corps.
Sitting in sixth place, 2013 marked only the third time the southern California corps had attended the DCI World Championships.
Gold’s production titled, “East Meets West,” referenced the corps being joined by students from the Laizhou Martial Arts Institute of China’s Shandong province. The troupe was featured in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremonies, which was co-coordinated by one of their instructors.
It was originally planned that the 12 performers of the school, aged 8 to 18, were to be with Gold for much of the season. But due to complications with obtaining visas, the troupe couldn’t get to America until the last two weeks of the season. Remarkably, the members of the group didn’t compete with the corps until two days prior to the Open Class World Championship Prelims.
The title of the opener, “Pingpang,” is Chinese for “ping-pong.” The show opened with the martial artists interacting with percussionists who were playing on large Chinese drums. Color guard members sported red and white opera masks, which typically were worn during ancient Chinese drama presentations. The melody was largely written in the Chinese pentatonic (five-note) scale, with some Chinese zither-like sounds incorporated via a synthesizer.
The middle musical selection titled, “Minyáo,” translates to “ballad” or “folk song.” The color guard members employed umbrellas as if blooming flowers, ultimately alternating light blue with pink amidst the brass players.
As one of the youngest members of the Laizhou troupe ran across the backs of eight of his comrades, he then stood atop the ninth one's shoulder and amazingly stretched his leg way above his own head, demonstrating the remarkable flexibility of the guest performers.
The title of the show’s closer, “Zuizhong,” means “final” or “ultimate,” and opened with one of the performers jumping over the head of a color guard member who was in the middle of throwing a nine-revolution rifle toss. To coordinate that move took a tremendous leap of faith.
A drum break accompanying tumbling runs and martial arts poses led to the guest artists executing backflips high in the air. After a company front push by the brass section, all the martial artists came back for a curtain call, with the three youngest jumping atop the shoulders of three others, all balancing precariously as the two outer ones ended with one leg up in the air and pinned behind their necks.
Perhaps lost in the “wow” factor of the final grand finale, the audience members could be forgiven if they weren’t aware the brass players and percussionists ended in a drill form that was the Chinese symbol for “gold.”
East Meets West documentary
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than 35 years 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, Indiana.