Drum Corps International
Tour of Champions at the Rose Bowl

Tour of Champions at the Rose Bowl

by Drum Corps International

The second day of the Drum Corps International Tour of Champions swept into Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium like an out-of-control brushfire whistling through the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. Prior to the start of the show, it was fun to watch corps fans and former marching members gather in small spontaneous reunions across the audience side of the stadium bowl. Corps jackets and T-shirts from decades past were seen in small clusters of like-emblemed jackets, friends of old likely chatting about the old days and comparing notes about their tastes in modern drum corps. This audience was made for drum corps and apparently had waited a long, long time for a show of this caliber to come to town. Michael Cesario coordinated the beginning and show-ending massed events. Michael has become DCI's resident Impres-Cesario. As soon as the "Championship Trumpets" from each of the six participating corps entered the field to play JD Shaw's "Fanfare and Star Spangled Banner," the throngs of fans stood in anticipation, prompting announcer Dan Potter to state that he didn't have to ask the audience to stand for the National Anthem, as they were already doing so.

The Rose Bowl was a good venue for this opening segment, as it turns out the sound of brass travels really well in the big open bowl. The audience was so pumped to hear great drum corps that they were on their feet even before Phantom Regiment's ending formation front rows stuck out their feet parallel to the ground in the corps' trademark kneeling wedge. Phantom's "Instant Encore" performance was to Richard Wagner's "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral," the massively full-throated closer from the corps' 1979 competition program. The HUGE baritone sound generated in the middle of the work has the power to suck up all the air in the stadium. The audience responded appropriately, recognizing the overbearing awesome beauty. Wagner never knew a thing about drum corps -- he was born a few decades too soon -- but he must have had something like this in mind when he wrote the grandly crescendoing chorale. The brass line rewarded the audience with five or six levels of "even louder," perhaps because they can, or perhaps because they could read the minds of the fans that wanted to have the caps and fillings on their molars tested for secure grip. By the way, videos from all the "Instant Encores" from tonight are available for free on DCI.org (look in the middle section of the page under the headline "Media"). Madison Scouts' searing energy in the "Malaga" closer evaporated the west coast cool from earlier in the program. The Scouts chose Marvin Hamlisch's "Through the Eyes of Love" (Theme from "Ice Castles") as their "Instant Encore." Old-time fans will remember this tearjerker as the corps' closer in both 1980 and 1981. No one was better than Madison in generating memorable ballads that stroked one's sense of wellbeing and uplifted the soul. This ballad is surely at or near the top of the list of all-time closers that could rip out your heart, present it to you and still elicit a smile and a sense of thanks from you through your teary eyes. During the JumboTron introduction to The Cavaliers, covering the corps' history and successes, it was mentioned that the corps had five DCI World Championships to its credit. (The montage was created before last weeks' DCI World Championships.) Upon Dan Potter's announcement that one small correction needed to be made to the montage -- that the corps just picked up a sixth title last Saturday -- the audience went appropriately berserk, just as they did again after the stunning percussive gunfight sequence. For the Green Machine's "Instant Encore," the horn line brought out its medley of the corps members' song, "We Are the Corps, The Cavaliers," woven into the corps' theme song, "Over the Rainbow." It's a beautiful melodic ballad that carried well in the Rose Bowl, demonstrating the corps pure symphonic training that might have been hidden to some fans who were more in tune this year with the corps' more bombastic side. Santa Clara Vanguard warmed up on the field with the finale to their 1988/1989 production of "Phantom of the Opera," just seconds after the 1989 finale was featured on the JumboTron video introduction. Vanguard's "Instant Encore" was the always emotional "Send in the Clowns," the tender closer from the corps' 1974 and 1976 seasons that is and always will be a tribute to corps founder and longtime director Gail Royer. It's difficult for anyone who's been around a while to listen to this work and not see Gail directing the piece after the corps' numerous victories. As a bonus, the horns threw in "Bottle Dance" from "Fiddler on the Roof," another corps classic from the 1970s. There are rumors that more than the horns might be involved in this production at the corps' home area show in San Jose this Saturday. The Cadets of Bergen County's Jethro Tull show went over quite well in this bastion of progressive jazz/rock, the LA area having given so much of the progressive pop repertory to the rest of the world. You are going to have to check out The Cadets' "Instant Encore" for any of the following to make sense. A small ensemble of six horns played a comic rendition of "William Tell Overture." It segued seamlessly into the corps' 2001 interpretation of Van Morrison's "Moondance." That evolved into the small ensemble's closing statement that featured (or almost featured) a tribute (?) to an old Santa Clara Vanguard warhorse, "Young Person's Guide to Drum Corps." Look, just check out the file tonight and you can hear for yourself that somehow, this all makes sense, in sort of a Cadets' way. The Blue Devils did something new for their warm-up -- they faced the audience so the fans could experience their grand chords. Blue Devils can make even the most-simple warm-up a thing of great power and awesome spectacle. "The SummerTrain Blues Mix" gave the fans a special treat. Due to the placement of the tunnel in the front corner of the field, the corps was able to duplicate its train-going-through-the-tunnel surprise ending from the DCI World Championships Division I Finals. There were certainly many in the audience who knew Jerry Seawright, the corps' founder and director for its formative years. Jerry passed away earlier this year, leaving the entire activity in shock. For their "Instant Encore," the corps performed the 1975 and 1976 closer that was so dear to Jerry's heart, "Chase the Clouds Away." It was Jerry who one day brought in a vinyl LP of the new flugelhorn sensation, Chuck Mangione, helping launch the corps on its legendary decades-long excursion into jazz. The corps then reprised its "Take the 'A' Train" segment from this year's competition program. There were over 400 horns on the field for the closing special segment, "Fanfare of Champions," written for this event by Jay Kennedy, who might be best known to many corps fans for the composer of the theme that opens the DCI broadcast. It was impossible to miss the 64 tubas spread out across the front of the field, or the six full sets of timpani in the center. The sound put out by this ensemble was chilling -- big, deep and brash. And then the fanfare evolved into "Simple Gifts," a melody known to all fans and the one perhaps most representative of the Americana aspect of our activity. Despite the grand finale sense of the above piece, the night wasn't over yet. "Sing, Sing, Sing," arranged by Frank Dorritie and Dennis DeLucia, brought all the horns of the massed corps together with the drum line of the Cadets. A special effect was the sequential lift of the 64 tubas in the front. The piece got louder and louder and louder, to no objection from the thousands of fans in the stands who rewarded the performers with an extended and very vocal standing ovation. At the end, it was saddening that the event was over, but it was so gratifying to know that DCI had brought all these corps together for this first-ever Tour of Champions, through the state that has given us so many DCI Champions, a state that has waited with the patience of Job to experience such an infusion of top corps at the top of their game.