Box Center Episode 2008-6 – Interview With the Abbotts

After over three months, the latest episode of Box Center is finally available for download. Join Drum Corps Planet Managing News Editor Kevin Gamin as he takes a look back at a wild DCI regional weekend, looks forward to the drum corps events of July 19th and 20th, and features an interview with the Abbott family, a drum corps family which is a little different than the norm.

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2008 Cavaliers Show Review

2008 Program:

2008 Repertoire:
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.

2008 Blue Devils Show Review

2008 Program:
Constantly Risking Absurdity

Main Theme from Sweeney Todd
Phrygian Gates
Bach Intervention
Serenada Schizophrana
I Will Wait For You
The Untouchables

Similar to last year, BD’s pit opens the show before the corps is announced. The music from the pit matches the the mood of both the show (Constantly Risking Absurdity) and the actions of the guard, who use balance poles while pretending to tightrope walk on the yard lines.

The show proper begins with the horns playing chords backfield. It’s a typical BD hornline – In tune and powerful. Percussion actually dominates the intro with the snares and tenors on some kind of small single tenor drum, creating a very interesting effect. Once the percussion finishes with the single tenors, the tenors have a cool moment where guard members carry their drums and rotate around the tenor line as they play.

I’m not very familiar with the Sweeney Todd music (yet) but I do enjoy the Gordon Goodwin quote they use from his take on the Bach Intervention in C (or D, can’t remember that right now) minor. This is also one of the better drills from BD.

The 2nd piece is purposely schizophrenic, with the hornline playing backfield at a slow, chorale tempo while the drum line plays very phrenetically, interspersed with stabbing melodies from the horn line.

The corps uniform has received many alterations this year. The silver sequins on the front of the uniform are now a plain white material, matching new large white plumes, providing a strong contrast in colors on the uniform. The stripes added in 2006 are still there. Also added is a type of skirt on one side of the uniform, black on the outside with white trim and white on the inside.

Near the end of the ballad, the balance polls form a stick figure on the field which looks like a tight rope walker. Either that or one of those strange figures from South America you can only see from the air. Either way, it’s very cool.

After the ballad section of the show, the drum line expands on the body movement used during their solo a la last year. It is a very intense, difficult moment, both visually and musically, and they pull it off incredibly well.

The closer sounds like the close of a movie, most likely about acrobats or circus performers from teh sound of it, complete with closing theme pronouncements, a reprise of the pit theme from the pre-show, and a high-paced, loud ending. the corps also forms the stick figure which appeared earlier in the show, turned 90 degrees, almost as if it’s Superman flying across the field, before moving into the big finish.

This show has the total package and the corps is already performing it at a championship level. It will be difficult for other corps to top this show, although not impossible, but I forsee a 2nd straight title for BD in 2008.