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Review and results of DCUK Leicester contest - 17th July


A Sunday afternoon in July, Leicester (home of the Premier League champions), Saffron Lane, an iconic venue and a glorious sun drenched summers day could only mean one thing. Yep that’s right. It must be a Drum Corps show in the Midlands to bring the curtain down the the first half of the DCUK season before the summer break.

Whilst driving along Saffron Lane on the way to the stadium I passed the park where there were the usual Three or Four Corps already set up and waiting to start playing. From my own past experience I’m sure one or two of them might well have sent their advance truck crews to the park the night before to claim the best rehearsal spots at this legendary rehearsal site.

So on to the stadium itself, not to the old Velodrome as many old timers would remember with a sense of both fear and joy in equal measure but to the athletics stadium next door. The stadium itself affords the spectator a large stand with a great viewing angle and although there is a six lane running track this does little or nothing to detract from the Corps performances throughout the day. In fact I’d venture to say that the environmental conditions and acoustic properties of the stand actually enhanced the spectator experience particularly in the case of the junior class and emerging corps in the Open Class.

With ten performances to look forward to which consisted of one in Junior Class and nine in the Open Class including a very welcome addition to the line up in terms of Spirit of 52 form Germany the scene was set and I settled into my seat ready for the get go.

First on the field to set the tone for the day was the only competitor in the Junior Class today The Concord Allstars (1st - Junior Cass) from Sheffield, South Yorkshire with their Show entitled “Viva Las Vegas”. Well this show took us through musical classics from “Luck be a Lady” from “Guys and Dolls” to Queens “It’s a kind of Magic” Off the line we were treated to some great performances from the members of this established organisations young members who were certainly enjoying themselves and in turn thoroughly entertaining the audience with their fine performances.

So onto the Open Class and first on today were Liberty (9th - Open Class) from Northampton under the direction and Drum Majorship (if that’s a word) of Mr Dale Willis. The Show for 2016 is entitled “The Despicable Murder of Trixie Malone. Some great musical choices including “King of the Swingers” this group followed the narrative that the show theme title suggests. The costumes this team are wearing this season perfectly suits the show concept and the show has more than a few similarities to the famous film starring Jodi Foster and Scott Baio.

Our second Corps in the Open Class the Phantom Knights (8th - Open Class) from Warwickshire took to the field in their familiar blue and white uniforms looking in fine form and one could sense that we were in for a treat today from this group. Their 2016 production is simply called “Phobias”. The title in itself might be enough to send shivers down many a spine as this Corps explored the fear of Spiders, open Spaces, Masks, enclosed space and last but not least death. The interesting musical choices chosen to portray these motifs included music form the film Beatlejuce and Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. This was a solid and polished performance for this stage of the season and I am sure there is more to come for this established but young corps during the rest of the season. 

Performing their 2016 production and show “Under the Canopy” saw Revolution Show Corps (7th - Open Class) take to the field. Michael Jackson “Earth Song” got us underway and what a cool piece it is. One of my particular all time favourites “Puma” was performed with style, class and balance and in particular this piece brought pace and variation to the show and like other team performing today this show will surely develop and become stronger with reps and rehearsal time to give the young member even more confidence and projection in their performance.

East Coast Elite (5th - Open Class) were up next. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I know it’s only my opinion but I love this Corps Uniform. The shade of Purple, the Silver flashes, the helmets, and it all comes together with great effect, style and presence. This team have continually grown in stature over the last few years and their 2016 show “We are gathered here today” is another step in the right direction. From the musical choices to the Props and general flow this is a show that has it all. From Pachelbel to Bach and onto Felix Mendelssohn’s wedding march the program didn’t need too much explaining in terms of its concept, Clear? yes, Precise? Yes, but still with intellectual properties and nuances? Yes. Great job ECE. 

With their Show entitled “Aqua” Beeches PE (6th - Open Class) took to the field,. Straight away the 2016 new uniforms set the scene perfectly and the props positioned on the rear midfield enhance the overall picture right from the start. This is a group where the musical arrangements are a great fit to the talent levels of the performers throughout each section. It is clear that the writers understand the capabilities of the group and write accordingly which allows the performers to be challenged but at the same time capable of playing and performing the show to a high standard. Far too often we see young people being pushed to play musical pieces far in advance of their capabilities and thus lacking in confidence and competency but not with Beeches PE, Spot on and congratulations all round in the department.

After the break it seemed as if the audience had swelled in number even further. Now I’m sure the audience number increase was due to all the members of the corps who had already performed deciding to watch the last four Corps in action. Well either that or maybe the Pokemon gods had decided to place a rare “Arcanine” Pokemon in the stand which was mistaken for the theme of the next schedules Corps show “Arcana”. Anyways the stand was full and the show was ready to recommence.

Cadence Drum and Bugle Corps (4th - Open Class) from Guildford, Surrey received an extremely warm welcome onto the field to ready themselves to perform their 2016 show entitled “Arcana”. This Corps is another group that has made significant progress whilst staying true to their core values in recent years. Their choice of music program included pieces by Philip Glass, Beethoven and Stravinsky amongst others which helped them recount the mystery and projections of the Tarot reader, Five movements, five Cards, Five outcomes. This Groups show is developing at a fast pace and I am sure that this is one of those that has a lot more to come as we move towards the second half of the season. 

It’s not often we have the pleasure of being able to welcome groups from mainland Europe to shows in the UK during the season so what a treat it was to see Spirit of 52 (3rd - Open Class) from Rastede, Germany make the trip to perform for us here and what a job they did on the Field with their show “Out of the Dark” An extremely strong and evocative concept began with the scene being set with just the front ensemble visible on the field and a heavy sinister electronic sound effect creating a dark menacing feel and then entering stage right running onto the field in character came the the Guard, Brass and Battery gradually building to a wonderful hit that was tight clean and extremely effective. The show feature individual characters throughout the show to portray the narrative which worked well and kept the audience engaged and entertained. I for one am hoping that this group along with others from the near continent decide to come back to the UK in the future for more of the same. 

Next up and seeded second in the current UK rankings were The Kidsgrove Scouts (2nd - Open Class). Under the Direction of their Corps Director Rob Swindells and led today by their Drum Major Kerrie Brett the Scouts entered the field and readied themselves for a big show. These guys were out to put in a good run today and boy did they ever. Off the line we were treated to an arrangement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony that was so loud and awesome the great composer himself would have been able to hear in all its glory. A rock solid and oh so powerful horn section which was well supported by a more than competent battery and front ensemble. The Colour Guard looked resplendent in costumes with more than a little Dutch orange on them they performed with the force and energy that we have all come to expect from this great team. From the classical to the modern we then moved into “Welcome to Cuba” with flair and aplomb and more than a little Kidsgrove swagger, In all the Scouts were on it today I thought they had a great run and it was going to take something special to beat them.

The final Corps to take the field today were The Company (1st - Open Class) from Chesterfield with the show entitled “Inspire me”. Well from the very beginning with the words “White a blank page or canvas” this team were slick, tight and crisp. The show is built around some great original compositions which are complemented with selections from “Sunday in the park with George” and has a flow, a tempo and pacing throughout the visual and musical design that’s truly inspiring. The use of the electronic effects particularly with the reverb though the featured artists on the mini staging worked well with the Trumpet, Flugelhorn and in particular the Mellophone solo which I think from a personal perspective could have been a little bit longer but all so beautifully played and balanced. I was impressed with the subtle way in which the colour palette on the props, screens and silks changed almost without notice until complete which is testament to the design team in terms intention and design focus. All in all this is a great show and without doubt will be a strong contender leading into the final furlong of the season as we head towards championships.

All performing members after the results at Leicester

So there it is a short review of the performances from one individual’s perspective. It wouldn’t however be right if I didn’t make mention and reference to what was at the end of the day a fantastically run event pay tribute to the teams of helpers, staff and organisers who worked so hard from manning the catering trailer which served up some fantastic fair I have to say, to the judges and marshals, the 50/50 ticket sellers to the lifters and shifters form all the corps. Top Job you all made my day one to remember. 

Jethro Edwards
Reviewer and e DC fan

Photos by Mark Neilson

Scores and recaps are available on our Results page as we now enter our summer "break" with the next contest taking place on Sunday 4th September in Hednesday, Staffordshire.  See you all there.

21st July 2016



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