And The 2008 World Champions Are…

Last night, we went out to the Rose Bowl for the DCI World Championship Finals. First, however, a digression, as not everyone is familiar with DCI or the sport of Drum Corps. I tend to describe it this way: Take a group of between 120 and 135 (soon to be 150) of young adults (aged 13-22). Break them into three units: marching brass, percussion, and a color guard. The brass group is typically on the field, and consists of sopranos (trumpets), mellophones, baritones and euphoniums, and contra basses. Percussion is both marching [marching snare drum, tenor drums (also known as “quads”, “quints”, or “toms”), marching cymbals, and marching tonal (pitched from high to low) bass drums] and off-field in the “pit” [marimbas, xylophones, vibraphones, glockenspiel, timpani, various types of drums, cymbals, gongs and many other auxiliary percussion instruments]. The color guard has all sorts of flags, rifles, sabres, and anything that gives good visual effect that you can throw and catch. Have this group develop a show of around 15 minutes. Put them in competition with similar groups from around the country, judging them on visual and musical general effect, visual performance, visual ensemble, color guard, brass music, percussion music, and the overal musical quality. Have them tour the country all summer continuously competing against each other (just like pro-sports), culminating in the “world championship” game. That’s drum and bugle corps. You can also read this FAQ.

DCI is special to my wife, as she marched (in her youth) in the Royal Cavaliers Youth Band. This group was in numerous exhibition with the Drum Corps of the time (pre-DCI) such as the Kingsmen, and often scored highter! She got me interested in the sport/spectacle, and thus we’re in Pasadena.

In any case, for the first time in its 35 year history, the DCI finals visited the west coast, holding their finals in the Rose Bowl. A few comments about that, before I go into the show proper. The Rose Bowl was constructed in 1921, and has a current capacity of 92,542, although only half of the stadium was used for the show. It was last renovated in the early 1990s. Although the Rose Bowl Association claims that the stadium “will continue to be the model for stadiums throughout the nation due to the stadium’s continued emphasis on patron comfort…”, I can tell you that is bullshit. The seats are narrow, with a pitch that is worse than a fully-packed United 575. I just couldn’t move the entire show. I’m reminded each time I go to the Rose Bowl why I hate the Rose Bowl. I don’t even go to UCLA games, and I’m a UCLA Alumni!

On to the show. We were attending the finals, which presented the top 12 of the 22 Division I (75-135 members) corps. The marching order was determined by the semi-final scoring. Here’s what we thought of each corps:

  1. Spirit from JSU (85.925 QF, 85.550 SF) from Jacksonville FL. Spirit’s show was called “Genesis”, and focused on three main facets that a new life will encounter; Creation, Controversy and Celebration. The production included Jun Nagao’s “Fluttering Maple Leaves,” Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” and David Gillingham’s “New Century Dawn.” We thought that Spirit’s performance was technically proficient, but had no “wow”, no volume.
  2. Colts (87.075 QF, 87.000 SF) from Dubuque IA. Their program, called “Equinox”, which featured “With One Look” from Sunset Boulevard, “Troika” from Lieutenant Kije Suite, “String Quartet No. 4, mvt 5” Allegro Molto, and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard. We thought the show was nice and had a fair amount of pizazza. They were the only one with show music, that we could tell.
  3. Glassmen (87.175 QF, 87.025 SF) from Toledo OH. Their show was called “Gitano”, and was an original program inspired by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, and Maurice Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole, celebrating the Spanish Gypsies. When they came on the field, the gypsies were the first thing you notices, especially their attitude. They formed a great guard… however, the music was only good. Where has all the accessible music gone?
  4. Boston Crusades (89.350 QF, 84.450) from Boston MA. Their show was called “Picasso Suite”, featuring In Pace (Patrick Doyle), Cruzados (Jay Kennedy), Oblivion (Astor Piazzolla), and La Fiesta (Chick Corea). The show was interesting: the guard brought easels on the field, and used open-square flags as frames, eventually ending with Picasso-style flags, framed. The brass tended to play to the back stands, and thus didn’t have the power one wanted. They had a weak start and a weak finish.
  5. Blue Knights (90.2 QF, 90.45 SF) from Denver CO. Their program “Dark Dances” featured music from Dmitri Shostakovich, specifically Piano Concerto No. 1 and Symphony No. 10. This was a more traditional guard, and the corps had good volume and good modulation. The brass section did a really neat hat trick, and they had good sabre work.
  6. Bluecoats (93.7 QF; 93.75 SF) from Canton OH. Their program “Criminal” told the story of a jailbreak and followed the journey of a criminal mind. Its music included Criminal (Fiona Apple), Battle Music (David Holsinger), Small World (Trilok Gurtu and Robert Miles), Room Service (Michael Legrand), Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson), Hummingbrrd (Stephen Bryant), Timbuktu (Holly Cole), and Every Breath You Take (The Police). We found it an inventive show. The guard started in orange prison jumpsuits, they then changed costumes on-field to something more ninja-like. They worked their theme well, and had lots of great effects. I’ll note when they came on the field, the audience mooed “Blue”, which sounded like they were being booed.
  7. Carolina Crown (93.325 QF; 93.875 SF) from Ft. Mill SC. Their program, “Triple Crown”, featured “Theme from Dreamer” by John Debney, “The Trap” by James Newton Howard, “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones, “The Red Pony: Happy Ending” by Aaron Copland, “Manny’s Story” by John Debney, “William Tell Overture” by Gioacchino Rossini, and “Last Race” by John Debney. This was a fun show, with wonderful crowd-pleasing effects, including a “photo finish”.
  8. Santa Clara Vanguard (93.2 QF; 94.05 SF) from Santa Clara CA. Vanguard’s show, called “!”, featured Introduction from Daphnis and Chloé (Maurice Ravel), War Dance from Daphnis and Chloé (Maurice Ravel), String Quartet in F Major – 2nd Movement (Maurice Ravel), Romanian Dance for Orchestra, Sz. 47a (Bela Bartok), St. Gregory the Great from Church Windows (Ottorino Respighi), and Finale from Daphnis and Chloé (Maurice Ravel). This was a very technically spectacular show, with good volume, formations and guardwork, but wasn’t that accessible and not a grabber. Oh where is the SCV of old that blew everyone off the field?
  9. Phantom Regiment (94.6 QF, 95.4 SF) from Rockford IL. Their show was “On Air”, and featured selections from Vespertine Formations by Christopher Deane, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof by Philip Glass, Flower Duet from Lakme by Leo Delibes, Suggestion Diabolique by Sergei Prokofiev, and Firebird by Igor Stravinsky. Another technically-wow, but not a grabber. Very etherial. They did have a baritone horn screamer, which was unusual.
  10. Cavaliers (96.225 QF; 96.775 SF) from Rosemont IL. This all-male corps presented a program called “And So It Goes”, featuring music from Billy Joel: Angry Young Man, Invention in C Minor, Pressure, I’ve Loved These Days, and Scenes From An Italian Restaurant. They had a spectacular guard, and did very many strength-dependent movements. There aren’t many all-male corps left.
  11. The Cadets (96.5 QF; 97.25 SF) sponsored by Youth Education in the Arts from Allentown PA. The YEA connection is very important here, as their program “This I Believe. Truth, Value and the Personal Experience Called Drum Corps ” was encouraging youth to go into music. The program featuerd Symphonic Movement, Blue Shades, Chorale VI, Cantus – Song of Aeolus. They had good energy and good music, but a very non-traditional show that featured four microphones and spoken words selections throughout the program emphasizing the “This I Believe” notion. This upset the traditional fans in the bleachers, some who even yelled “Shut Up” — poor form in my book. I enjoyed the show.
  12. Blue Devils from Concord CA (97.2 QF; 97.3 SF). The program was called “Winged Victory”, and featured Pegasus Fantasy, The Ascension, and Heaven. This was typical Blue Devils: a jazzy, technically-adept non-accessible show, with great field coverage, fun costume changes, and blowing everyone else off the field. No one does it like BD, and there is a reason they win year after year.

So what were the final scores:

  1. Blue Devils. 98.0. Captions: Visual Performance, General Effect, Percussion, Brass
  2. Cadets. 97.025.
  3. Cavaliers. 96.35. Captions: Color Guard.
  4. Phantom Regiment. 94.85
  5. Santa Clara Vanguard. 94.175
  6. Carolina Crown. 94.15. Spirit of Disney award.
  7. Bluecoats. 94.05.
  8. Blue Knights. 90.275.
  9. Boston Crusaders. 89.1
  10. Colts. 86.15.
  11. Glassmen. 85.75
  12. Spirit from JSU. 84.5

Overall, we noted that Drum Corps has really changed from what it was in the 1970s. It has grown, and the music has become less accessible. It is like studying for the test, instead of studying for the joy of it. The pit has changed, and thus the music has changed. It is still good, but drastically different. Those who want to watch the performance can see it on ESPN2, September 5, at 10:00 pm Eastern. For the next 10 or so years, the finals will be in Indianapolis IN, so we likely won’t go. We’ll stay with the local shows.