Here are a few random thoughts about the corps from their Semifinals performances. For a deeper look at the programs, please refer to the blog from yesterday's Quarterfinals.
Spirit Taking us to a rock concert was a fun idea. Spirit is a prime example of the surge of quality in the activity over the past few years. As solid as this show comes across, it's kind of amazing to realize they were on the bubble for even progressing to the Semifinals.
Crossmen This is the darkest show the Crossmen have ever put on the field. For sure, they aren't your father's Crossmen (for those old enough to remember the Oldsmobile commercial), but unlike Oldsmobile, Crossmen are still kicking. After those many years exploring jazz, it seems like the staff is trying to reinvent the corps. After the competitive challenges of this season, it will be most interesting to see what direction the corps goes in next year.
Madison Scouts After last year's surge into Finals, there was little reason to expect that this season would cause fans to wonder if Madison Scouts would make Semifinals, and for part of the season, there were doubts. I have to admit it's a bit of a challenge to figure out why the various captions haven't scored higher, but last night in the Quarterfinals, only the Brass made it as high as 12th place.
The Academy Since making the successful leap to what is now the World Class two years ago, placing 13th (after being as high as 10th in San Antonio), the Academy took a step backward last year by finishing out of Semifinals in 18th. But this year, they've again found their "voice" and are a corps on the move. I fully expect to see this corps in the Finals, and soon.
Colts DCI Hall of Famer Dennis DeLucia stated during the "Big, Loud and Live 6," the live Quarterfinals theater broadcast, that he couldn't figure out why Colts weren't scoring two points higher. Many have asked similar questions. Yet only two captions were in the top 12 yesterday and the corps was down to the Troopers by 0.90 in total Music. The corps has often lived on the edge competitively: Five of the eight times Colts have made Finals, they were in 12th and they've known the immediate other side of the bubble more than once. (Today they jumped 1.85 from yesterday, darn close to DeLucia's conjecture.) (PS: After being down 0.90 to Troopers last night, the corps closed the gap by 0.60 and came within 0.30 of a Finals placement.)
Troopers Judging by the enthusiastic reception the corps received just by walking out on the field, a lot of fans were hoping to witness history today by seeing the Troopers break into the top 12 for the first time since 1986. This isn't to take anything away from the other corps on the bubble; but seeing Troopers back in Finals after so many years out and especially after the year they took off in 2006 would mean a lot for all who cherish perseverance and a never-give-up attitude. (PS: Welcome back, Troopers.)
Blue Knights After being admonished by some fans over the past few years for being too dark in their programming, Blue Knights came out this year with a show that is one of the easier ones for fans to grasp, full of sonority and melodies that can actually be described as "hummable." And the guard made snow angels. Snow angels!
Glassmen Safely in Finals, it seems that Glassmen were cutting loose a little more tonight than in the past. There's more energy coming out of the horns and it appears the corps is enjoying itself more. Glassmen have been known as having an analytical coolness to what they do, meaning that often in the past they have attempted to make us think a bit more than most other corps. The theme this year can still be regarded in that sense, but the music is a lot of fun.
Blue Stars This season proves that Blue Stars returning to Finals last year was not a fluke. Earlier in the season, the corps knocked off a couple of the corps now in front of them. What impresses me most about this organization is how they managed to never give up after falling out of World Class Finals in 1980. Their absence from the big Saturday show until last year was for a longer period than even Troopers.
Boston Crusaders For the past few seasons, Boston Crusaders have gone off on a slight intellectual tangent. This year's show reminds me so much more of the earlier shows that existed mainly to thrill us. Hearing the exotic eastern sounds of the synthesizer, I can't help but reflect on how the corps was the first to bring a synthesizer out on the field many years ago and took a penalty for doing so.
Phantom Regiment Perhaps way too much has been made of how Phantom Regiment hasn't been in contention for a medal after winning it all last year. There's been a lot of hand wringing from fans about what it all means. What it means is that the corps is still in the top echelon of all units in the world, the kids are still being fed well, they're learning responsibility and they're still having the time of their lives.I know this is essentially a competitive activity, but sometimes too much emphasis is put on placement as the end all to everything.
Bluecoats Over the years, some really excellent jazz has come out of Bluecoats. The past few years-when the corps tapped into the top six-have been an especially interesting time to watch their programming evolve. The corps has seemed to take a number of sharp turns in that department, never content to stay with one particular idiom and reaching for themes that have nothing in common with prior shows. The constant evolution is what makes them so interesting to me.
Santa Clara Vanguard I'm not really sure what to write about this show, especially since I don't want to miss a single second of it. Every year, Santa Clara Vanguard exudes class in abundance, but this year perhaps runs the risk of retiring that word from overuse. SCV, take this show and bottle it. Release it in the future if you ever have trouble trying to figure out who you are or what you stand for. I can't come up with anything adequate to sum up how I feel about this show, other than, "Thank you."
Santa Clara Vanguard
The Cavaliers For the first time in the corps' 61-year history, founder Don Warren isn't serving as the president of the Cavaliers. He retired at the conclusion of the corps' 60th anniversary last year. Had it not been for Don, I wouldn't have had a life in drum corps, one that has been wonderful and supportive ever since my three years in green back in the mid 1970s.
Holy Name Cadets Seventy-five years of continuous entertainment, innovation and pride. There might be a handful of people in the stadium who are as old, but likely no more than that. To stay at or very near the top for so long is remarkable. To think that George Hopkins (who celebrated his 25th year as director of the corps two years ago) is still a youngster within the organization is quite something. Let's have 75 more, Holy Name.
Holy Name Cadets
Carolina Crown Carolina Crown is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. During their first year, I was sent a photo by a Crown parent of their first performance at a women's festival in Charlotte. There were more balloons attached to the chairs than there were people to hear them perform. That would never happen now. I'm absolutely transfixed at how far this corps has come over the past few years with their musical maturity and how they've become one of the most interesting corps to watch for body movement.
Blue Devils This corps has been so dominant all season; it might take a meteor crashing through the roof of Lucas Oil Stadium while they're on the field to change the dynamics. But then, the meteor would probably just burn "1930" into the turf and give the corps additional General Effect points. Such a season is a reason for fans to watch and realize, that it doesn't get any better than this. How the corps continually puts out such strong brass lines, drum lines and guards, year in and year out, is a testament to a foundation that is bedrock solid.
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 print and Web 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.