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July 27, 1999, Cincinnati, OH - DCI

The following is a review of last night's Cincinnati show. One thing to consider while reading this review is that this was my first and last show of the summer due to my work schedule, therefore I probably did not get a good read on many of the shows. However, these are my first impressions.

Cincinnati Tradition - Exhibition They only utilize a brass line (about 25) and an honor guard. They will be adding a percussion line next season. This group performed well and have much to be proud of. Their show was titled A Tribute to Tom Slade Sr.. Tom was an honor guard captain who passed away after the 1998 season. Show selections included Taps, Hymn in F, Spain, You'll Never Walk Alone, and Amazing Grace. I was impressed with their playing. The average age in this corps can't be over 15, but I thought they did a great job and I look forward to seeing them grow as a drum corps in the next century.

8th place - 51.6 - Cincinnati Glory
For some reason I thought the Cincinnati Glory was a bit larger than they were. The program says 20 brass, but I only counted 10 (maybe 12). I was a bit disappointed with this show which was titled An American Storybook Hero. The music was all composed by James Horner, but from what I heard, I could barely recognize any of it. Lots of effects writing but very little lyrical line. My hats off to the kids for doing their best to sell this show, but I feel the staff has given them a product not practical for a corps that size. I do not understand how a corps from Cincinnati, a very large metropolitan area, could not field at least 80 total members or more. I was more impressed with Cincinnati Tradition.

7th place - 62.7 - Troopers
I feel the Troopers got robbed in terms of score. I thought they had both the Mandarins and Les Etoiles beat. Don't ask me how Les Etoiles pulled that score but I had them below both Troopers and Mandarins. The Troopers are fielding a bigger corps this year compared to the past few years. They had about 48 brass, 20 percussion and 20 in the guard. The show is very entertaining, and I loved the drill--simple, readable, and effective. The brass sounded nice (good balance), and the soloists were some of the best at this show. The Soprano soloist for the Troopers was much stronger than the soprano soloist for the Vanguard in terms of control, tonal beauty, and technique. The show features music from Copland's Billy The Kid. Anytime a corps plays music of Aaron Copland, I know I will like the show (9 times out of 10). Copland's music just works so well on the field, and the Troopers do it justice this year. Yes, they have some serious marching problems and musical details to clean, but this is the best I've seen Casper in about 4 or 5 years. Bravo guys and gals!!! Keep it up.

6th place - 63.5 - Mandarins
The Mandarins have another great show this year, one very reminiscent of the mid-1980s Garfield Cadets. Their show is titled Transformations, and features the music of Leonard Berstein (another one of my favorites). Selections include: Overture to Candide, Make Our Garden Grow, and the symphonic suite from On The Waterfront. The treatment of all three works reminds me of Garfield 1985 and 1986, but they add their own unique interpretation to the arrangements, visuals, and staging. The show is very well performed, the horn line is excellent and can pump out some sound for a smaller corps, and the guard does a wonderful job of establishing mood. I wasn't so upset when they beat Troopers, although I would have placed the Troopers a tad above the Mandarins, but more so when Les Etoiles beat both of these corps. What a joke that was, but that is my opinion. Great show Mandarins!!!

5th place - 65.2 - Les Etoiles
What happened here? When Les Etoiles entered the field, I thought somebody was going to build a house or try to fix the stadium lights due to all the scaffolding they were bringing out. What the heck are they thinking? I hear scaffolding adds an element of aesthetic beauty to a drum corps show?!@ NOT!!! As for the corps, I didn't hear any type of linear music happening, just lots of sound effects (horn pops, dissonant chords, lots of long tones going nowhere, and the occasional loud chord to wake the audience up--to bad that didn't work). Their program is titled Ice Storm which is an original composition by Gilbert Lamothe. I don't know what kind of ensemble the original work was written for, and I don't know how it's supposed to sound, but something tells me that I still don't know based on last night's performance. This is my own opinion, and feel free to offer yours, but I think the staff of this corps needs to wake up, stop giving these hard working kids a bunch of trash to perform, and find some decent music to play. Les Etoiles membership is way down from about 3 years ago. I wonder why? HELLO!!!

4th place - 79.1 - Carolina Crown
Crown's show for this year is the music from the Broadway show Jekyll & Hyde. I have never heard this music before, but based on what I heard last night, I like it. The music is beautiful, very lyrical. There are a number of dissonant sections in the music as well, but these sections are used to depict the contrast in characters, which also happens to create some wonderful tension and release moments. The best moment in the show, and one of the best of the night, is in the ballad which features some great guard work and some beautiful music. I love the guard unis. My only complaint with this show is the marching. The show is designed very well, the drill is great, the music is effective, and the brass, percussion and guard all perform well, but the marching is sloppy. The drill is not easy, no doubt, but to be this sloppy this late in the season is one of the reasons the Colts are beating Crown by as much as they did. It would be a shame if Crown didn't make the top 12 because they couldn't clean their drill. I do like the show, and the corps is very talented, but you have to be able to march it. If this show cleans, the fans in Madison will have a lot of fun watching Crown.

3rd place - 80.5 - Colts
Believe it or not, the Colts were my favorite corps of the night. Great music, readable drill, and good performance levels. They are doing a show titles Voices, which includes music from Verdi's Requiem, Nicholas Len's Flamma Flamma--The Fire Requiem, Eric Levi's I Believe, and Francis Poulene's Stabat Mater. The Colts are sporting an excellent drum line this year, an excellent brass line, and very good guard, and a drill that works with the show. The only thing I found to be unfortunate were the 4 wholes in the horn line, especially considering all the block rotations the Colts do, the wholes stick out like a sore thumb. Other than that, I loved the show. The ballad was incredible and powerful, and the closer is one of the few that I saw last night in which the music really developed and built as the corps pushed to the close of the show. With many of the shows last night it seemed as if the closer just appeared out of nowhere, making me wonder whether they were done or not. I hope the judges realize that this corps has excellent show design, and I hope their general effect scores are indicative of this. Bravo Colts!!!

2nd place - 89.3 - Cadets of Bergen County
I'm sure by now that most of you know that I am a huge Cadets fan, but I am going to be a bit critical of them this year. Overall, I like the show, but probably less than most other Cadet shows of the past. When you watch and listen to this year's version of the Cadets, there is no doubt that they can play and march. From that standpoint they are incredible, as always. I believe they won the brass caption last night, I'm sure they won guard, and they were probably close in drums, Visual and GE to the Vanguard.

The problem I have is that the shows seems somewhat disjunct to me. There are moments that the audio and visual are incredible, and then there are moments when I am not sure what to think. The only time they play music from the Big Apple by Johan De Meij is in the opener and the closer. Hells Kitchen is music by another composer (not sure who, but this is the section that was the gun fight in their 1996 show), and the ballad is also from another work. Of the music from the Big Apple, I wish they would have done more with the Aaron Copland motifs which De Meij purposely included since this was not just a work about depicting a typical day in New York City, but it was also a tribute to Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and John Adams (as stated by the composer in his liner notes from the CD). This is obviously just my opinion, but the original work has some wonderful themes and driving rhythms that I feel the Cadets were unable to capture. I usually like how Jay Bocook arranges, and in all fairness, he arranged Crown's musical book as well and I loved it, but I was unable to follow his thought process with the Big Apple arrangements. Well, we're all human, and I could not have done any better.

One other negative was the way the show ended. It seemed to me like the show came to a sudden close--not enough development to help build to the final impact. On a positive side, the Cadets guard is fantastic. SCV's guard is not even in the same league with the Cadets--not even close in my opinion. There are also some wonderful jazzy moments in the Cadets show that simply rock the house. Musically, the brass was incredible last night and will only get better now that Donnie Van Doren is back on board for the remainder of the tour (according to the 3 Youngstown State University students that I spoke to who are marching with the Cadets this year). In my opinion, only BD can beat them in brass come finals, but then again, one never knows. The drum line is awesome and seems to be mastering the difficult drill they have, and the guard is simply TOO GOOD!! I guess the Cadets put in a number of changes before the show last night, so many of the members I spoke to feel the corps can now work on cleaning for finals. My only worry for the Cadets is the musical arrangements. I think the drill is excellent, with the exception of the repeat rotating block from last year, and I love the performance levels. Still 2 plus weeks left, and a little fine tuning can go a long way. The performance levels are there for a championship, but we'll see about the rest.

1st place - 90.0 - Santa Clara Vanguard
Santa Clara's show, Inventions for a New Millennium, is a medley of sorts of some fine contemporary music arranged in a way so that it not only works on the field, but that the average fan can follow without scratching their head. This show is a great show from top to bottom. The horns are solid and powerful, the percussion is FANTASTIC, the guard is good (a few problems last night but nothing major), and the audio/visual connections is just stunning at times. Much like the Cadets, I don't care for all of SCV's music (especially the swing section in Blue Shades which sounded awkward to me), but SCV's total show is easier to follow and understand, and they perform it incredibly well.

My only concern for the Vanguard is that they seem so clean to me that I think they may be maxed out, although I'm sure there is still more room for improvement. They don't have the demand in their show that the Cadets do, but they are much cleaner at this point. This is where I see Vanguard having trouble. I think they will have a tough time beating BD the next time those two meet, and the Cadets may catch them as well. To be honest, I would have put SCV about a full point in front of the Cadets last night. I think the Cadets are still a little dirty, due to all the changes, and SCV had one heck of a show last night--very clean. I just hope they haven't peaked. Well, who cares about all that stuff anyway. That's for the judges to decide. All I know is I love SCV's total show, and whether they have peaked or not is not important, what is important is that they are entertaining and awesome. Great show SCV!!!

Just one quick note before I close:

Bringing more fans to the shows to help support this activity starts first and foremost with the individual corps, not DCI, YEA, DCM, or DCW. Certainly organizations like DCI, DCM and YEA need to take part, but if each drum corps would take it upon themselves to entertain first and foremost, I think we would see more fans and better attendance. This means playing music that can be translated to the field so that the audience isn't left scratching their heads. This means designing shows with the audience in mind, not the judges, and this means understanding the performance capabilities of your corps' performers.

Case in point: Les Etoiles performing that 11 and 1/2 minute clinic on how to chase the audience away while forcing your members to perform a show that is over their heads. It's one thing for a corps like SCV to attempt something this complex and contemporary because they have the talent to pull it off, but not Les Etoiles. Why force young kids into such a situation before they're ready? In addition, at least the Vanguard arranged the complex music in their show in a way that it spoke to the audience, although I prefer a bit more lyrical show. The Cadets have been good at this over the years as well, but I feel their music is sort of half and half this year--part of the time it speaks to the audience, and part of the time it doesn't. Cincinnati Glory did the thing as Les Etoiles, only with music that should be more linear in thematic design and very lyrical.

Good music arranged well equals ENTERTAINMENT!!! In my opinion, this is part of the problem with attendance. When SCV played Send in the Clowns last night during their victory concert, I thought about how beautiful that was, and how I wished I could have heard more music that beautiful during the show.

Thanks to Jonathan Willis on r.a.m.d this review!

Editorial notes:

It's late, but I'll try my best.

The Cincinnati Tradition performed an exhibition first. We (yes we) played for what seemed like too long. I know we didn't sound too good, but all I could hear from my positioning was the french horn next to me. Oh well. Any comments about our show would be greatly appreciated. [But,] I stand corrected. I talked to a few folks from the stands and they thought we played darn good. I'm glad that the sound blended well enough to elicit those comments. We'll be in Centerville next week if anyone wants to know.

I unfortunately missed Glory while I was changing. 'Twas a pity too, I really wanted to hear them. It looks like they dropped a couple horn players since Dayton. I hope they still played well.

The Mandarins played next. Gosh, did they sound good! I was impressed. They had a very interesting show and performed it well. The music seemed a lot stronger than the visual though. Something to work on, I guess.

Troopers took the field next. I like the theme of their show quite a bit (Billy the Kid) but it didn't improve as much as I wished it would have since the Dayton show. The guard and acting was much improved but the music seemed lacking some.

Les Etoiles had a very abstract show. I'm not into the interpretive dance thing they liked to have. They did it well, but it wasn't my thing. I personally thought that the Mandarins would have beat them. But I think they clinched their spot with their visual performance.

Intermission - somebody strangle that goofy announcer!

Colts. YES!! I love their show. And boy did they play it. The musical performance was practically flawless, and marching got much better since the last I saw them. I hope they keep up the work because this show is top 6 material. The drill is almost there. They have some really tough maneuvers and they come sooooo close to pulling every one of them off. Maybe next week.

Carolina Crown's show, honestly, bored me. They play magnificent. Really, I love the sound, but visually... what...? Nothing seems to happen. In the very beginning, the guard does some cool thing with their outfits. (Black on the left side of their bodies, white on the other) but the rest of the ensemble seems to just sit around and play. After a while the novelty of the guard's unis wears off and then- blah. The ending was nice. Like the last five moves were what the rest of the show should have been. Musically and visually. But, I guess they wanted to save the best for last.

The winners of tonight's show, Santa Clara Vanguard came next. It seems that absolutely everything this corps does on the field is cool. From placing the people in the first set, to setting their instruments on the ground for retreat, wow. Their show absolutely killed me. It actually wore me out watching it. I have not seen a finer performance in a very long time. The music is cool and well arranged. And they way that the Vanguard played it was amazing. I can pick out every part because the members playing that part are so perfectly in tune, that they match and sound like a drum corps should. Drum line solo also wowed me, and that doesn't happen often (I'm a brass player). I even liked the way that their coolest move ( the sideways T that pushes through itself and melts into a box, yeah, that one) was used again at the very end because it was so darn cool. When I say it the first time, I said to myself, "Self, you need a rewind button so you can see that again." This corps is going somewhere this year. (I know because they are already there)

The Cadets of Bergen County did their usual type of show. Extremely fast past marching, big props (taxi cab pieces), and perfect performing. The marching seemed flawless, but I may have blinked once or twice. I like the music. They played it well, it just didn't have as much following the Vanguard. I like their guard though. They featured them quite a bit in the first half. Guys spinning rifles in silence to the sound of the catches was cool. And that guy who caught the saber (I think is was a saber) when the girl ran up and hugged him (he caught it behind HER back). The statue of Liberty flags are a bit cheesy, but then again, they did get the point across.

Overall, the announcer started out nifty, and then started to suck because he keep ad libbing too much. I was disappointed with my own performance (I need to work on memorization!) and I was really glad I got to head Santa Clara play 'Send in the Clowns'. That songs rocks, especially when played by a great drum corps!

Over and out,

Scott Hand
Cincinnati Tradition

Thanks to Scott Hand on r.a.m.d this review!

Editorial notes:

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