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Previewing the DCI 2015 Shows

Tonight starts the almost two-month journey for the 20+ World Class drum corps of DCI. The DCI premiere at Lucas Oil Stadium and shown in theaters around the country kicks off the summer of drum corps as the corps then criss-cross the country before winding up back in Indianapolis for the championships in early to mid August.

With the season officially starting tonight, here is a very basic preview for 12 of the top corps for this season. The notes I have for each corps are based off their repertoire, theme name and whatever they had to accompany their show announcement. I haven’t seen any videos for the corps during their preseason workouts.

So without further adieu, here are the previews for 12 corps going into this season.

[accordion][accordion_section title=”Bluecoats”]

Bluecoats

Last year’s finish: 2nd

2015 show title: Kinetic Noise

Repertoire: Shaker Loops (Jon Adams), Electric Counterpoint (Steve Reich), Woods (Bon Iver), Gene Takes a Drink (Michael Gordon), The Animated Description of Mr. Maps (The Books), Dense (Univers Zero)

After taking the drum corps world by storm last year with “Tilt” and earning their highest ever finish in finals, the Bluecoats will look to continue that success this year with their 2015 program “Kinetic Noise” which, at least from the source material and how well the ‘Coats’ staff arranges pieces, will be the most anticipated show going into this season.

With the exception of Bon Iver’s “Woods” all of the pieces the Bluecoats have picked this year is fairly quick paced. Almost all of the other pieces have a lot of notes and a lot of “quirks,” if you will. A number of the material is also abstract in a way in the sense that they don’t really have that one melody that people will have stuck in their head after watching the show. Not that that’s a bad thing. With the way the Bluecoats arrange their pieces, it could turn out really cool on the field.

Which brings me to what’s likely to be their ballad piece, “Woods.” After absolutely nailing Vienna Teng’s “Hymn of Acxiom” last year, the Bluecoats selected another autotuned piece this year, and again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Iver uses the autotune to create interesting harmonies and chords, and even though the piece essentially the same two lines repeated over and over, there’s enough there for the Bluecoats to reach, if not surpass, last year’s ballad.

Overall, this show, at least from the musical point of view, fits this whole kinetic and movement theme. Outside of the ballad, this ought to be a fast-paced show with a lot of movement. There’s obviously not a whole lot known about the visual side of things, but after what the Bluecoats did last year, I feel like this show is in very good hands.

I can definitely see the Bluecoats challenging the Blue Devils for the top spot this year.

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Blue Devils

Last year’s finish: 1st

2015 show: ink

Repertoire: Dark Forest (David Glyde), Sweeny Todd (Stephen Sondheim), Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (Gordon Goodwin), I Like You (GOT7), Children Will Listen (Stephen Sondheim), Last Midnight (Stephen Sondheim)

Last year the Blue Devils blasted their way into the DCI record books, finishing with a 99.65 score in finals — the highest in drum corps history. They finished with a perfect 40 in general effect and a perfect 30 in visual with only a .35 deduction in music keeping them from perfection.

This year, though, will be a different story. The Blue Devils will have to start at ground zero with everyone else and work again towards that title. Their 2015 program, “ink,” wins the title for hardest source music to find, but it should be another good one. This show, at least from their repertoire, takes a bit of a dark turn. “Sweeny Todd” opens with a great big organ sound that will really pop with the brass and sets the sort of “evil” tone that I’m guessing the show might have.

“I Like You” sort of breaks away from that mold, though the South Korean (I think) piece sort of fits in with the Da-da show they did a few years back. The the darkness returns with “Children Will Listen” and “Last Midnight” from “Into the Woods.” I like “Last Midnight” the best with the soaring brass and dark jazz feel that just screams for the Blue Devils to park-and-bark it.

Overall, there’s a lot that remains to be seen. Obviously, the Blue Devils have the on and off field talent to make this show into a winner, but I have to wait to see how it all comes out with the visual side of it to really make a good judgement on this. Still, expect the Blue Devils to be there at the end, looking to defend their title and go for that ever-elusive perfect score.

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Blue Knights

Last year’s finish: 8th

2015 show: Beacuse

Repertoire: Because (The Beatles), Rush (Boocock, Shah and Jackson), Apres Moi (Regina Spektor), I’m Alive (Adam Watts), Fly to Paradise (Eric Whitacre)

Last year the Blue Knights surprised me and others with their show “One Second” and ended with a strong eighth-place finish in finals. After weird shows such as “Avian” and “No Beginning No End,” they came through with a very relatable and a very well done show.

This year’s program might be somewhere between those two points. In their promotional video unveiling the show title and pieces, the Blue Knights get pretty deep, so the thought is that it’ll be somewhat of an abstract show.

As for the musical selections, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. I couldn’t find “Rush,” but the other pieces had a feel of being a ballad piece. There’s not really a fast-paced piece to break it all up (unless of course “Rush” is that piece). “Because” has an interesting chord structure that should come off really cool with the brass playing it. “Apres Moi” is not really my favorite piece of the bunch; it just doesn’t come off that good, but who knows what it’ll sound like with the Blue Knights’ arrangement. “I’m Alive” is okay, but the best is Whitacre’s “Fly to Paradise.” Any Whitacre piece is usually really good and this one is no different.

I’m really curious to see how this all plays out on the field. This could be a really good show or it could be just a “meh” program. Either way there will be anticipation to see what the Denver corps can do and possibly get into the top five this year.

[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Boston Crusaders”]

Boston Crusaders

Last year’s finish: 10th

2015 show: Conquest

Repertoire: Game of Thrones Main Title (Ramin Drawadi), Conquest (Alfred Newman), Palladio (Karl Jenkins), Take What is Ours (Brian Tyler), Five Variants from Dives & Lazarus (Ralph Vaughan Williams), The Battle (Hans Zimmer), Original Music (Ryan George and Ellis Hampton)

The Boston Crusaders had an interesting take on “Animal Farm” last year, throwing in a hint of controversy in their semifinals performance, but finishing with a solid 10th-place showing.

This year’s show, at least from the source music looks to be just as, if not more interesting compared to last year. The Crusaders’ 2015 show is entitled “Conquest” and their music certainly foots the bill as far as that’s all concerned. There is a ton of epic music (both in the style and in the sense of the literal meaning of “epic”) and pieces that seem like they were just made to be played by a drum corps.

Obviously “Game of Thrones” and “The Battle” are going to get the most attention from the fans, and with good reason; both pieces are really well done and just feel set up for a conquest. “Game of Thrones” will set up the show very nicely and “The Battle” will close it very strong.

All of the pieces have that action-y feel to them and are pretty quick paced, setting up for a lot of movement on the field. It all sounds very dramatic with a dark feel, which the Crusaders pulled off very nicely last year.

As with everyone else, there’s still a lot that remains to be seen as far as the visual aspect goes. That being said, there is a lot of potential here for this show and the music sets up the visual part very nicely this year. This is one show I can’t wait to see come prelims time in August.

[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Cadets”]

Cadets

Last year’s finish: 3rd

2015 show: The Power of Ten

Repertoire: Symphonic Movement (Vaclav Nelhybel), Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93, Movements II and IV (Dmitri Shostakovich), Mulholland Drive/Love Theme (Angelo Badalamenti)

Last year the Cadets sort of drew the ire of the drum corps world with their patriotic show and the overuse of narration. And yeah, the narration was way too much. Every time I would relax and just be able to listen to the music, he would come back and talk over the music and it was very annoying.

Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson on that issue with their 2015 program “The Power of Ten.” I’m not quite sure what to make of this piece after going through the source music. Each of the pieces are pretty good and really enjoyable, but they don’t quite put a theme together like the Crusaders for example. It just seems like a mishmash of pretty good musical selections.

The second movement of “Symphony No. 10″ might just be the most interesting and fun piece in the repertoire with fast runs that ought to challenge the high brass and hopefully will sound just as good on the field. But other than that, I really don’t know what will happen with this show.

But maybe that’s the beauty of the preseason and early season in DCI. There’s a lot of changing and growing that happens with both the corps and their respective shows. Who knows? Maybe this becomes a fan favorite. Or maybe it just becomes a dud. I don’t know, but I’m curious to see what they have at the premiere and how it changes over the course of the summer.

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Carolina Crown

Last year’s finish: 5th

2015 show: Inferno

Repertoire: Gates of Hell (Thom Hannum and Tony Nunez), Dies Irae (Giuseppe Verdi), Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (Aaron Copeland), Adagio in G Minor (Remo Giazotto), Symphony No. 9 (Ludiwig van Beethoven)

Last year Carolina Crown finished with a disappointing fifth-place spot in finals just one year after winning it all. It was the largest drop for a defending champion since Phantom Regiment went from first in 2008 to ninth in 2009; however, it wasn’t because of a poor show. Rather all of the shows last year were just really, really good.

This year Crown will look to regain its spot on top of the drum corps world with a really interesting show theme: Inferno.

Listening to the repertoire, it’s very clear that this will be a darker show, vastly different from their shows in recent history. I wasn’t able to track down a couple of pieces from their repertoire, but what I was able to listen to is quite interesting. There’s a potential field day for the Crown brass, which ought to put them back into contention for the best hornline award again. “Dies Irae” might just be the best piece in the show with strong brass parts all the way through.

The Copeland piece kind of feels out of place given that it has more of a quirky feel rather than a dark, menacing, loud tone that the others do. And of course, Beethoven’s ninth is thrown in there.

As for the visual aspect, I can’t wait to see how this all comes together. Crown hasn’t been shy about trying new and interesting things on the field — see the trampolines from last year — and I doubt that they’ll hold back this year as well.

Overall, this ought to be a show that puts Crown back into contention for at least a medal position and possibly the world champion title.

[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Cavaliers”]

The Cavaliers

Last year’s finish: 6th

2015 show: Game On

Repertoire: Fetes from Nocturnes (Claude Debussy), Macrotus (James Newton Howard), “On the Shoulders of Giants (Peter Graham)

Last year saw the return of the Cavaliers to a very competitive form with a really good show. A lot of the “Cavies” magic returned, especially with the epic on-field marimba feature halfway through the show.

This year, however, is a bit of a toss up going into this year. When I first saw that the title for their 2015 program is “Game On,” I immediately about sports (“game on” is a term frequently used in soccer), but it doesn’t appear that might be the case. All three of the pieces are good in their own right, especially “Macrotus” and “On the Shoulders,” but they don’t seem to fit that theme, or at least right now they don’t.

“Fetes” opens with a big brass section and features the brass predominantly in the second half of the piece. “Macrotus” from “Batman Begins” is a great lyrical piece and an optimal choice for the ballad with a dark turn to the end and “On the Shoulders” has a lot of big grandiose sounds to it; however, none of those pieces say “Game On” to me.

Of course with every drum corps show there’s also the visual side to it, which could connect those pieces with the theme and I’ll hold off my final judgment until I see it on the field. In that respect this is one of the shows I’m looking forward to see this year.

[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Crossmen”]

Crossmen

Last year’s finish: 12th

2015 Show: Above and Beyond

Repertoire: Fly to Paradise (Eric Whitacre), Jubal Step (Wynton Marsalis), One Day I’ll Fly Away (Joe Sample and Will Jennings), Butterfly (Ratajon)

Last year the Crossmen were nearly on the wrong end of a really bad mistake. During the semifinals, apparently the drum line warmed up in the wrong spot, costing them a full-point deduction on their score. The result had almost disastrous consequences as the Crossmen came within .3 from getting knocked of finals by the 13th-place Colts. In the end, the Crossmen advanced to finals and finished with the highest score of any 12th place corps (which tells you how hard last year really was).

This year the Crossmen might just have the best show idea of any of the corps competing to get into finals. With their repertoire for “Above and Beyond,” the Crossmen have a lot to work with and a lot that can go so right for them. As I mentioned with the Blue Knights, Whitacre’s “Fly to Paradise” is another great piece from him and I’m interested to see the Crossmen’s take on it.

“Jubal Step” might take the award for most interesting piece to be included in a drum corps show this year. The original piece combines vocals, winds and drums in one of the most interesting ways I’ve every heard and I’m sure it will just pop off the field if done right. “One Day” works really well as a ballad piece with a great solo section and a great soaring, full ensemble moment towards the end. Finally, “Butterfly” is an a capella piece that has a lot of interesting sounds with a really nice melody, very similar to Pentatonix. That could end up being a really cool end to the show.

Overall, I think there’s a lot to like here, especially with the musical side. I’m very curious to see how the staff has arranged the music and how the show looks on the field. There’s still a long ways to go, but I feel confident that the Crossmen will be back in finals this year.

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Madison Scouts

Last year’s finish: 11th

2015 show: 78th and Madison

Repertoire: Gene Kelly MGM Musicals

Last year the Scouts went away from the emotion of their 2013 show and went with an interesting show in “Time Warp,” going from a black and white feel to full on technicolor. Their efforts earned them 11th in finals, but again, that’s more about how great everyone’s shows were last year.

This year appears to be along that track once again. Their 2015 program “78th and Madison” pulls all of its music from some of the classic Gene Kelly Musicals, including “Singing in the Rain” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The thinking, or at least my thinking, is that this show will likely be more of a theatrical show, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

I’m not exactly familiar with the source music for this year, and listening to a bunch of musicals was a little too much. About the only song out of Kelly’s list of musicals I can peg is “Singing in the Rain,” and if that’s in the Scouts’ show, I guarantee that will be a fan favorite.

So in that respect, this shows more of a mystery than the others. But there’s a certain beauty to that I think. It’s fun to sit and watch a show where you don’t know what to expect. So who knows, this might be a very strong show. There’s only one way to find out.

[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Phantom Regiment”]

Phantom Regiment

Last year’s finish: 7th

2015 show: City of Lights

Repertoire: I Like Paris (Cole Porter), Horoscope (Constant Lambert), Claire De Lune (Claude Debussy), An American in Paris (George Gershwin), Symphony No. 3 (Camille Saint-Saens)

I’m not going to lie, last year’s Phantom Regiment show was really disappointing. Swan Lake set up for a really cool show and a lot of deaths, a Phantom tradition, but it just kind of petered out and wasn’t good as it could have been.

This year looks to be in a different direction. “City of Lights” feels much more similar to their 2010 show “Into the Light” as opposed to “Swan Lake” and “Juliet.” For one, there’s no real set story line, which is a strong suit for the corps.

But what it might lack in story telling, it makes up for in music. This is a really good repertoire that could take the corps far this season. “I like Paris” features very interesting and unique rhythms and melodies to set the tone very well. Claire De Lune is a really strong ballad piece and “American in Paris” is a typical Gershwin piece, which is to say it’s really good.

Overall, I think there’s a lot to look forward to with this show. No, no one is going to “die” in this show, but between the music, the uniforms and hopefully the visual aspect, this should be a very competitive show this year.

[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Santa Clara Vanguard”]

Santa Clara Vanguard

Last year’s finish: 4th

2015 show: The Spark of Invention

Repertoire: Virus Attack (Amin Bhatia), Original music based off of Invention No. 13 (J.S. Bach, Paul Rennick, Sandi Rennick and JD Shaw), Pure Imagination (Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley), Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (John Corigliano)

Last year Santa Clara Vanguard returned to one of its best shows in “Scheherazade” and was rewarded with a solid fourth-place finish in finals against tough competition. This year, however, will see SCV move away from the stories they’ve told for the past couple of years and into an interesting conceptual show in “The Spark of Invention.”

The music for this show is interesting to say the least. “Virus Attack” is a very techno piece, that has more of a percussion field and it will be interesting to see how that is translated to the full ensemble on the field. “Invention No. 13,” which sounds like it will be the inspiration for original work rather than just being used, is another sort of “eclectic” piece that could be really cool with the full ensemble. And “Pure Imagination” has great potential to be an awesome ballad this year.

With this theme, I can imagine that the visual side of things will have a field day as well. I’m sure there will be a few props in the form of inventions and other sort of creative tools.

Overall, this doesn’t have quite the same feel “Scheherazade” and “Les Miserables” had, but it still has the potential to be a very strong show that can compete with the best of them this year.

[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Spirit of Atlanta”]

Spirit of Atlanta

Last year’s finish: 15th

2015 show title: Out of the Ashes

Repertoire: Tara’s Theme from “Gone with the Wind” (Max Steiner), Southern Harmony (Donald Grantham), Full Pull and Cage Match from Redneck Songbook II (Scott Mcallister), Harmonium: Wild Nights (Jon Adams), Original Music (William Pitts, Ben Pyles and Greg Tsalikis)

Last year Spirit of Atlanta came off as a bit of a disappointment, finishing well off pace for a spot in the finals; however, this year shows a lot more potential for the corps.

This year’s show is entitled “Out of the Ashes” and when I first saw the title and the repertoire, I thought about the South’s recovery following the Civil War, especially in areas burned in Sherman’s march to the sea, but the program announcement says that it’s simply about a general recovery after some sort of disaster, which is kind of disappointing.

That being said, it still should be a really good show, especially with this repertoire. “Tara’s Theme” brings it all back to the southern roots of the corps and should be interesting to hear with brass instead of strings. “Southern Harmony” was already one of my favorite pieces and I can’t wait to see what a drum corps can do with it. If the listing of the repertoire is any indication as to the order in which the pieces will be played, these two pieces create an interesting opening given that they’re sort of more on the melodic/ballad side of things.

The music then swings into a more ominous side of things with “Full Pull”, “Cage Match” and “Wild Nights,” each of which present a darker and darker tone, which leads me to believe that the listing isn’t the exact order. Still, these three pieces are each strong drum corps. Couple all of this with the original music and the musicality of this show should be the strong point.

Like all of the other corps, there’s a lot that remains to be seen with the visual aspect of the show. I think there’s a lot of potential here visually, though hopefully the corps learned from the Boston Crusaders’ baby powder incident of 2013 and will not have literal ashes on the field. But overall, it’s safe to say that I’m excited for this show and what this corps can achieve this year.

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About Jacob Martella

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