by Andrew Wheeler, DCW staff
June 18, 2004 — Oswego, IL . . . The drizzle that plagued the “Prairie Fest” for much of the day gave way to a short rainbow just before the opening of the 16th annual “Festival of Brass.” The evening was cool and breezy, but a great night for drum corps, and the show did not disappoint.
The late addition of Capital Sound to the lineup, the excellent standstill show by the Oswego High School Band and the exhibition by the Royal Airs added much to the long-anticipated opening night.
It was a joy to see Capital Sound on the field after all that the organization has been through this off-season. Their size and performance revealed some of the uncertainty of the winter, but their show has much potential and the corps will definitely improve over the summer. Several solos throughout were performed powerfully.
The guard added much to this show and the use of brown rifles matching the tan skirts of the guard uniforms was an effective staging device. The second number often sounded uncertain, but the other numbers were stronger, and the closer in particular was a powerful ending for the show.
The crowd showed its appreciation for both the performance and the corps. Their show title, “Fortune Favors the Brave,” is certainly an apt description of this corps and organization.
Marion Glory Cadets’ performance tonight was nothing short of amazing. “Terrestrial Journey” provided plenty of variety in both sound and visual. The brass handled everything from the fast, staccato beginning of the show to the smoother sections with ease.
The percussion was the strongest part of the show, looking and sounding in many instances like they were in mid-season form already. Staging in the show was done very well throughout. Lack of a color guard obviously hurt the show visually, but other than that this was avery strong show.
To say that Memphis Sound wowed the crowd with their show, “Elements of Blue,” is not an overstatment. A corps that started strong in their first year has continued to build, with returning veterans taking it up another notch.
A powerful opening standstill and excellent guard work, particularly with the rifles, highlighted the opener. The opener also featured a fast pace and full sound with good volume.
The second number opened with an effective back-and-forth passage in the brass and included some neat percussion visuals and side-to-side drill. As at the end of the opener, enthusiastic applause showed the audience’s appreciation.
The third number opened with a well-played horn solo and powerful standstill. The number ended softly and came off as very well-polished. The closer took the volume and pace up again and featured easily recognizable formations with clean lines. Again, the audience showed its appreciation of this second-year corps with a very enthusiastic response.
Pioneer’s show this year, “Return to Ireland,” continues the improvements the corps made last year. A crowd-pleasing show from start to end, the music and visuals are loaded with potential for a great year. The show opened with the percussion and the brass entered softly and very cleanly.
The brass handled both softer and louder moments cleanly and the guard work complemented the opener well. Formations and movement in the opener were well-designed, although some of the faster drill still lacks a bit of definition. Dawning of the Day began again with percussion, peaked in volume, then ended softly again. A large green/white/orange flag highlighted the visual in this section, which again brought cheers and applause from the fans.
Hand-clapping moving from section by section opened Ireland, Legend and Lore. Percussion and brass were both strong in this section. Riverdance also opened strong. There was some confusion in the drill in this number, but the music was well-played and the final formation most effective.
Pioneer definitely took the crowd by surprise and the fans responded very enthusiastically.
Right from the start, the Glassmen caught the audience’s attention with their staging of several black panels on the front sideline stretching out on either side of the pit. Used as blinds for guard uniform changes (two different changes during the show), the panels both hid the normal sideline clutter and highlighted the pit very well. This was an extremely effective device, one that more corps should consider.
“The Voice of One” opened, appropriately enough, with a horn solo. Percussion was staged backfield as the brass entered. The opening guard uniforms matched and complemented the corps’ uniforms extremely well, providing a sense of continuity in the entire show that can be hard to come by. Toward the end of the number, the female guard members change into uniforms with black tops and blue pants, matching the male guard members, who enter with rifles.
Diversions seemed a bit indistinct musically, but was played very well. Visuals in this second number were highlighted by white kerchiefs and then copper flags. For the third number, The Saint, the guard again changed uniforms to red pants. The percussion feature in this number was excellent and the brass entry was powerful and effective. Some issues with lines and formations will undoubtedly be cleared up quickly.
The final section of the show featured a couple of refrains from Simple Gifts, which received enthusiastic applause from fans. Some of the early parts of this section are still under construction, but the show closed very strong, both visually and musically, and was greeted with much enthusiasm from the crowd.
The “Green Machine” started its next winning streak tonight with this year’s production, “007.” Featuring music from the Bond Movies “Die Another Day” and “Tomorrow Never Dies,” along with shorter references to other movies and a repeated refrain of the Bond theme, the show was clearly a crowd favorite. The Cavaliers performed it with a precision that many corps would aspire to in mid-July.
Noticeable in the pit, but not that noticeable in the show, was the presence of amplification equipment. It was hard from an audience perspective to tell exactly what was being amplified and when, though a section of finger snapping and another of whistling are the most likely candidates.
Though many in the audience may not have been in favor of the introduction of electronics, the presence of the equipment did not seem to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm for this excellent show.
The show began with the percussion and pit snapping their fingers to the Bond theme played by the brass. Guard movements in this number were a bit reminiscent of some of last year’s “Spin Cycle” drills. A strong whole-corps entry to the Bond theme was enhanced visually with red flags and some excellent staging in the guard.
The second number opened with a percussion feature, followed by some brass triple-tonguing that drew gasps from the crowd. This section was one of the strongest of a very strong show, featuring in turn percussion, brass and guard. Staging was particularly effective and drill was performed with the accustomed Cavalier precision.
The third number began with another percussion feature and the corps facing backfield. A few corps members came up to the front sideline and whistled the Bond theme, probably making use of amplification, and doing it very effectively. Guard movements in this section were particularly reminiscent of the silhouetted pre-movie scenes from the Bond movies.
The corps finished strong with more effective staging. Some rifle drill toward the end seemed imprecise — whether by design or execution was difficult to tell. A hint of “For Your Eyes Only” led into the final drill, which will undoubtedly evolve as the season progresses.
The Royal Airs, performing this year as a senior exhibition corps, have taken their show up yet another notch. Unlike in the previous two years, the corps starts not on the starting line, but at the 50-yard line, perhaps a bit of an evidence of the evolution of the activity from the 1960s into the 1970s.
Drill in this year’s show is more complex than in years past and the color guard is a considerable presence. Solos were played cleanly and the presentation of the colors brought the audience to their feet. Enthusiastic applause, several foot-stomping episodes and a standing ovation showed the audience’s appreciation for this corps that represents so much of drum corps history and yet also seems to be looking toward the future.
The Oswego High School Band performed an excellent standstill exhibition in the middle of the show. Full, rich sound and great volume characterized their multiple numbers, which included Sweet Home Chicago, to the audience’s delight. By their performance and their enthusiastic support of the corps, which they watch from the backfield stands, the band did their school proud this evening.
The objective here is to review the show as a whole and give some sort of indication of how the overall experience was.
For Show Promotion, I give 20 out of 20 points. The show’s Web site was excellent and ticket ordering over the phone was superb; actually getting to talk to someone and having a sense of where the seats are is a great plus. The Web site included the address, corps lineup and links to several of the corps’ Web sites. Additionally, the program was excellent — the large amount of advertising in it clearly underscored the community’s support for this show.
For Corps Lineup, I give 16 out of 20 points. The return of The Cavaliers to this show highlighted a strong lineup of very entertaining corps. Two other division 1 corps, the Glassmen and Pioneer, along with Memphis Sound from division II and Marion and Capital Sound from division III, rounded out an excellent early-season lineup.
Show Venue (by sub-category). For stands, I give 20 out of 25 points. The stands were high and roomy from side-to-side, but a bit crowded from front-to-back. For concessions, I give 10 out of 10 points. The presence of the fair and lots of food opportunities, both outside and inside the stadium, contribute to this score. Concessions were extremely conveniently located. For bathrooms, I give 8 out of 10 points. I did not get a chance to check out the stadium bathrooms, but port-a-johns were readily available to supplement them.
For parking, 4 out of 5 points. The parking seemed better this year than last year, perhaps due to the use of another parking lot on the other side of the school. For Show Organization and extras, 8 out of 10 points. The excellent programs mentioned earlier were free. Souvenir stands were conveniently located and included entries from The Cavaliers, Glassmen and Memphis. The announcing was particularly good and the show flowed smoothly.
Retreat was well-organized, except for a bit of an issue with the Glassmen bass drum line that no one seemed to be able to figure out. The only complaint about this aspect would be the unusually lengthy acknowledgments and announcements after the end of the show and before the retreat.
As with years past, the Oswego community and many others really get behind this show and the resulting acknowledgments add significant time. One suggestion for future shows would be to move the acknowledgments to occur during the intermission.
The overall score for the show, then, is 86 out of 100 points, making it obvious why many consider this one of the best-run shows in the Midwest.