by Danny Lloyd, DCW staff
June 25, 2002 — Winston-Salem, NC . . . It was the show that almost never happened. From January through early April of this year, the Piedmont Summer Music Games (formerly known as the Carolina Drum Classic) had no sponsor when the previous one backed out, but thanks to the diligence of a determined group that became the show committee and a partnership between an established top 12 corps, Carolina Crown, and a corps that only exists on paper at the moment, Piedmont Mission, the drum corps memories have continued for the 15th consecutive year in Winston-Salem, NC. But then again, isn’t “working together to achieve the impossible” an unofficial mantra for the drum corps activity anyway? It came true tonight for more than 2,000 happy corps fans in Winston-Salem.
Speaking of things “rising from the dead,” the first corps on was the Magic of Orlando, who used their own special brand of magic to return to competition with a vengeance. It was heartening to see the corps in such obviously fine performing shape after a two-year competitive absence. The unfamiliar but dramatic music of “The Wind and the Lion” provided a sweeping score of music for the corps to use in very musical ways, but probably the most noticeable part of the show was the drill, which flowed seamlessly from beginning to end. The horn line had presence and strength and the percussion pushed the corps through the show with plenty of momentum. Magic is easily prepping for a welcome return to the top 12 — oh wait, they have to win division II first, don’t they? (Seems kind of silly, right?)
The Kiwanis Kavaliers sported a hatless corps this evening (the old “if one of us forgets their hat, none of us will wear it” rule!), which may have affected the energy level of the corps. The Kavaliers with a “K” have an accessible show of super hero music from scores such as “Spiderman” (the original), “Batman” and “Flash Gordon” (the very hip music by Queen done for the film). The corps’ strength right now seems to be in the rather large drum line that resulted from the Kavalier/Tampa Bay Thunder merger (10 snares, six tenors, five basses), which is playing well and with good ensemble work from front to back at this early stage of the season. The color guard was a very hard-working group that is still waiting for more work to be added, but are communicating well with the moves they have thus far. The horn line never really seemed to pick up any steam, try as they might through the humid Carolina evening.
The decibels were definitely turned up several notches by Spirit of JSU, who sport a horn line with incredible presence and volume, destroying most any argument against drum corps using B-flat horns. The Easter Symphony of David Holsinger works well in the drum corps idiom, as most Holsinger does, and the quasi-religious feel and references in the show are reminiscent of classic Spirit shows. While this show seems to carry out themes of “honor” and “majesty,” the energy level had dipped by the end of the show, leaving an appreciative but not overly-excited audience.
Show Sponsor Carolina Crown has another promising show in its “Greek Mythology — Stories of Gods and Heroes,” but has yet to add many visual elements that will provide for better communication with the audience in the weeks to come. While the horn line is not getting the power that Spirit does right now, it has a great, well-tuned and balanced ensemble sound. One would suspect the impact will continue to be turned up notch by notch as the show progresses. Having said that, the horn hit in the ballad One Day I’ll Fly Away (to represent the god Icarus) was a very emotional and effective high point of the show. The Crown drum line is charging ahead with great intensity and musicality throughout the show and is especially effective during the dual-tempo transition from the ballad to the closer, driving right to the end of the show. The guard has already added a lot of work since their preview show four days ago and is executing well right now. The show lacks visual punch currently, but many may remember this was the same case with Crown’s incredible “Industry” show last year that grew into a memorable production of 2001, and one could suspect the same will happen this season as well.
After the break, the crowd was promptly nailed to their seats by a phenomenal Crossmen corps. No one seems to remember the Crossmen ever being so well-prepared so early in the season. The opener Heat of the Day by Pat Metheny means business. The horn line effectively flies through some very fast licks with accuracy and plenty of impact. Their presence on the field was easily matched by the percussion and guard, each getting in plenty of highlights for the hungry crowd. The gorgeous ballad showed the corps’ sensitivity and musicality all around. Strawberry Soup is a familiar closer to drum corps fans and the Crossmen did it justice once again with energy and intensity throughout, especially noticed in the red uniforms of the guard setting off a bright yellow flag at one point, leading to a satisfying visual and musical ending — the first audience “roar” of the evening.
You know you have a good show line-up when the Blue Devils are second to last on the schedule. They played like they were the corps to be chased all season, but with a noticeably different tone to the show than many of the past years’ darker-themed shows. This production screams fun from the choice of familiar music to the screaming red/orange/purple guard uniforms (could someone please turn those uniforms down — they are drowning out the horn line!). While the opener ragtime medley has a much lighter and more enjoyable approach, the Gershwin medley sounds like the corps stopped by the local Kripsy Kreme and had way too much coffee and doughnuts. The tempos are off the chart on the I’ve Got Rhythm section and there are plenty of screaming sopranos — I mean trumpets. This show is aimed directly at the audience, literally. It is difficult to remember a show with so many horn blocks. That is not a complaint, except from a few eardrums that are still ringing from the volume the horn blocks generated. Channel One Suite is a condensed version of the classic tune that is associated with BD as much as it is with Buddy Rich, and it propels the audience along familiar ground to the end. The Blue Devils have a very satisfying show to watch and listen to.
At the time the Blue Devils left the field, most everyone in the stadium had given to contest to them in terms of points and enjoyment. How could you top a show full of fun and classic drum corps tunes? Suffice it to say, the Cadets stepped up to the challenge. On paper, this show that is a tribute to New York during World War II seems a puffball mix of patriotic music that is capitalizing on the recent surge of nationalism after September 11. On the field, the show is an amazingly entertaining vehicle that will leave every audience on its feet screaming for more. The Bernstein music starts the show out in familiar territory for the Cadets and the music from the “Field of Dreams” soundtrack is stirring, but the show high light has to be Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. The Cadets may have taken the “bugle” out, but they definitely left the “boogie” in. This tune absolutely rocks at breakneck speed and is reminiscent of the dancing in “Swing Swing Swing” from the 1995 show with the laid back feel of last year’s “Moondance.” Be sure to be out of the way at the end of this tune as the horn line just might walk right into your lap while blowing triple forte. It happened literally to one lucky audience member during the encore. The closer had to feature a few seconds of almost every show the Cadets have done for the last 20 years, and the movement-within-movement drill has to be seen to be believed. For those who have been hoping drum corps would re-focus on entertaining the paying audience, Christmas has come early in the form of the 2002 Cadets.