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Indianapolis  –  August 11-13, 2022:

Drum Corps is alive and well. From my seat in Row 1 on about the 48-yard line, I turn around and look up to the top row where it meets the rooftop of Lucas Oil Stadium. I nearly need binoculars to see that far. Fans are packed in from top to bottom, goal line to goal line. When a corps such as the Troopers claws its way back into the top 12 after all the years of being outside looking in, the massive crowd roars in a way that confirms to the corps they have achieved something special. I turn and look up, scan the masses, and soak it all in.

Lucas Oil Stadium

Lucas Oil Stadium

In the space of 10 or 12 days, I take in as much DCI as possible: Annapolis, Allentown, and Indy. Like pulling an “all-nighter” for a final exam, it is total submersion! Nothing else seems to matter – a great escape!

The Bluecoats Alumni on Friday night was a major hit as expected. They brought out their greatest hits and knocked the stands back a few feet. The soloists delivered what the horn fans were waiting for: Double high Cs and then some! With over 400 alumni on the field, the Bluecoats were able to give the fans everything that had been hoped for ever since the idea was announced some time ago. The concept of having an alumni corps such as this perform on Friday night is something I hope to see for many years to come.

 

Random comments now on various topics and corps: The Madison Scouts seem to be on the comeback trail. I believe I heard hints of “Malaguena” here and there, or at least some similar harmonic content. This type of sound can sizzle and get the fans pumped. I am now hoping to see Madison catch up to the top 12. I am waiting for the season where Madison knocks on the Cavaliers’ door, matching up these two great ‘ole drum corps.

Music City needs to revamp their music book. Sorry to say, there is nothing but sound bite after sound bite in their show and when it is over, it leaves the listener high and dry. There is so much great music already in existence making it perplexing to me that a corps would spend a year playing a book such as this.

Speaking of great music….the Crossmen began their show with a section from “Mahler’s Symphony No. 2.” The theme returns at least 2 other times during the show and segues into their finale. By using a theme by one of the masters, the Crossmen were able to build on this beautifully. After the second recurrence of this theme, my wife whispered that it gave her goosebumps. I replied, “because it is Mahler!” By the way, Carolina Crown used the opening of “Mahler’s 2nd” some years ago in one of the most powerful openers I have ever seen or heard.

The Cavaliers based their show musically on Bach’s “Little Fugue in G Minor.” They took a well-known work written by one of the masters and managed to twist and turn it into another crazy Cavalier show – complete with dizzying arrays of color, movement, and musicianship. Their drum feature, up on 2 ramps, introduced a whole new geometric dimension never seen before.

The top soloist of the season, I believe, was the leadoff baritone soloist for the Blue Stars. He is a musician destined for greater things. The show opened with 16, maybe 24 bars of solo that included beautiful phrasing and technique not commonly heard within DCI. Then he comes back to the forefront later in the show for more. The Blue Stars have made great advances over the past few years and I am looking forward to more of their shows.

The competitiveness of DCI is incredible. The Colts, Mandarins, and Troopers have willed their way into the top 12, forcing the Crossmen, Blue Knights, and The Academy (of a few years ago) out of the top 12. Some have suggested that finals should include the top 15. I believe things are best left as they currently stand. If expanded, DCI finals week would become like the NFL…..endless playoffs. Finals night featuring the top 12 seems to be the right length for a show.

My top drum feature: the Santa Clara snare line. The line comes forward, front and center in a typical feature, and begins bending left, apparently going off to the left and fading out. But the feature continues as they curl their way to the backfield in a large half-circle pattern, all the while mesmerizing the fans with their amazing technique. A former drummer sitting in front of me just shakes his head when it is over. I say to him as Vanguard leaves the field, something I find myself saying a few times every season: “That snare feature was in itself worth the trip to Indy.” He agreed of course.

Now jumping to number one. After the cutoff of the Blue Devils’ opener, the crowd goes bonkers. I turned to look at the face of the man behind me, He is a member of the Buglers’ Hall of Fame, marched in one of the greatest corps of all time, and is still involved in the activity. He looked at me and said, “It is so simple, yet so effective.” And hence the Blue Devils were on their way to another championship. They come back year after year with innovations, but their roots are very evident every season…..the very recognizable jazz harmonies, the look of their uniforms, the relentless brass sound, you name it. On Thursday night, my son is in the theatre watching the show in Virginia. He sends only one text the whole night: “Blue Devil sound….unstoppable!”

I could not agree more!

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