Busido – The Way of the Warrior
Ronin – Masterless Samurai
Ken-jutsu – The Art of the Sword
Fumeiyo yori shi wo – Death Before Dishonor
The Cavaliers, as with Machine and 007, totally embrace the theme and character of their show from the very start, with the drum major bowing instead of saluting. The opening drill is symmetrical, which adds to the effect of Michael Gaines writing. The Cavaliers’ horn sound is very distinct – Instead of four different types of horns, you hear the sound of the same horn in four voices. The pit is in the same samurai uniform as the guard this year. The drill is incredibly clean for July, but I expect that with the way the Cavaliers utilize the dot system. The rifles in the guard aren’t white, but are what I would guess a bamboo-esque color. A great moment in the opener occurs with the horns in rapidly expanding and contracting boxes, chanting loudly while the percussion plays distinctly Japanese rhythms, complete with Taiko drums. The guard finishes the opener in some kind of Japanese symbol – not yin-yang, but close, and most likely related to samurai.
The second piece features a lot of pitch bending in the horns, a wonderful effect which also shows the strength of their ear training and ability to play in tune in general. The drill features both regular time and double time marching, with forms flowing through each other, another Gaines trademark. At one point, the horns form a block triangle, which, in and of itself, isn’t a big deal, but the transition drill to get there is incredible. Another great drill moment features a circle of tubas pushing down through a rectangular block of horns. As it does so, the horns scatter as if water yielding to a dropping stone.
The third movement opens with a classic Cavalier move not seen since 1998 – snake drill! This movement again features Taiko drums and chanting, as well as plenty of drumline high sticking and movement. The horns and guard get into the act, as well, complete with a guard member taking down a horn player.
The next movement starts off with the horns forming what appears to be Japanese writing before moving into a major statement, including more chanting and drumming. The tempo picks up after the statement and corps goes into pure Cavaliers Finale mode. While watching the multi-cam video from Denver, there is a great shot of the pit taken from the side as they literally ram 16th note runs in unison, followed by another where they’re pounding the snot out of their keyboards and cymbals while the horns and percussion punch out musical stabs.
Like Blue Devils, this is a championship-calibur show. There is, however, one weakness: The music. There are no major melodies throughout the show which remain with me and, while the corps has one of the best balanced hornline sounds in DCI, it does sacrifice some volume and impact to do so. This hasn’t stopped the Green Machine in the past (5 titles in 8 years attibute to that) but it does give other corps an opening a chink in the Green Samurai’s armor, if you will.