Saturday, July 05, 2014

A Great Tradition

As an old Band Geek, things like Drum Corps Competitions (DCI) have always been fun. Last Sunday I had the opportunity to be at a local, early-in-the-season show featuring some great marching, music, and showmanship. It is called River City Rhapsody and featured 8 drum corps working on perfecting their shows over the next six-weeks of touring. They end in Indianapolis in August for the DCI Championship.

It is always impressive to sit in the stands as these marching groups of about 150 16-21 year old young people show off their hard work. They spend the summer touring and practicing- and pay for the privilege. They sleep on buses between events and on gym floors in schools willing to put them up. Each corps has its traveling entourage that keeps it all moving. The level of commitment is phenomenal! Don't let anyone tell you that youth are lazy. Maybe some are- but so are a lot of those over 21 (or even 60). It is for the music, the honor, the wonder of performance. What an experience it must be for them.

I was impressed last week by the energy that goes into the shows- and the ways they have to get creative in so many different ways. When the corps stretches across the whole 100 yards of a football stadium and still sounds together takes hours of practice. The ability to throw the "rifles" or "swords" into the air and then catch them- ON THE BEAT!- is remarkable. To memorize the music for the show and then play it while marching and moving in all different directions. I remember high school and college marching and how even after several weeks of playing the same pre-game show, I would have trouble remembering what I was supposed to do while still marching and hitting the yard lines. I even wrote one of our college drills - and had trouble with that one, too!

The winning corps last week was the Cavaliers from Rosemont, IL. They were the most accomplished of the groups, although the other top 4 were close behind and will probably tighten the scores and switch places in the winnings many times over the next weeks. I was struck by the Cavaliers use of space- the spacing of the different instruments and the way they allowed the sound to shift and move as a result. They managed subtlety in the midst of the loud and awesome, not an easy trick.

Here is part of how the Cavaliers wowed the crowd- a marimba feature.

I tend to be partial to the corps that placed #3 last week- the Madison (WI) Scouts, one of the pioneers in the field and one of the original founding corps of the DCI. For many years until the 1990s, the DCI Championship was regularly held in Madison. They seemed to lack energy and sound power, but it was also obvious that they knew they needed work on their show. It was obviously an excellent show, but it is early in the season. I have a hunch their proud heritage and commitment will keep them at the top of the corps.

Taking a look at the footage below, an early rehearsal footage with the explanation, I can see how they will have to really push the show in order to catch the crowd. It is a visually stunning show and could do really well if they can convey the energy across the field into the stands (and to the judges.)

The #2 Corps was another long-time favorite of many- The Phantom Regiment from Rockford, IL. Their theme this year was a beautifully done show on "Swan Lake." Here is one of their early videos showing the work that goes into it.

If you get the chance to see a DCI event this summer, you won't be disappointed. There is power and joy in what they do. These kids love it- and it shows.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

Old band geek and DCI fan here, too! have always loved Madison, and came THAAAAAAAT close to marching with Phantom way back in the day! Thanks for sharing your experience! And for all the other good stuff you share, too!