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Review and results of DCUK Hednesford Contest - 4th September


Situated near the M6 and the M6 toll road , its pretty easy to reach the football club that was our venue at Hednesford.

This venue has been used in the past by BYBA to run its national finals and its a venue that offers the requirements needed for a present UK competition.

Arrived at the venue at approx. 9.25am to see Stafford Brigades marching through their visual book, hear Nexus playing through their brass book and was able to watch a part of Beeches full field rehearsal.. this and treating myself to a bacon roll for breakfast.

The event as with the previous show held at Barnsley back in June was a combined event with the BYBA part of the day in the morning and the DCUK part in the afternoon. Due to my involvement with a unit that was competing in both parts of the day I was unable to review the BYBA part of the programme.

As with Barnsley the crowd became noticeably bigger at the start of the DCUK part of the show-at present BYBA is lagging behind in terms of what's on offer of course which includes the top 2 in the UK.

Anyway enough of the waffle on to the performances-

Concord Allstars-The first thing you notice about Concord is the numbers marching, its pretty obvious that the staff have the right game plan and offer a package that appeals to large amounts of youth and then teaches them in the art of performance not just on the field of competition. The show has some great touches and at times is fairly expansive for the younger group-musically it harks back to days of Concord past and the great Jazz shows when Concord were chasing the Open class British title-now I think they are achieving far more Luck be a lady, Viva las Vegas is played and marched with a sense of purpose and understanding, all sections are equally involved and their is understanding that at times goes beyond the age group on the field. Its a fun show and they enjoy performing it which shines through. If we are to see a re growth in the UK then Concord are a fine example of what can be achieved.

First up the Comets - please forgive me for my report on these guys as I am a staff member/visual writer for the corps. Its been a hard battle this year-its one of those you know you get to the point when you know you have done the wrong thing. As is one of our aims we try to play music that is known by the audience Phantom of the Opera has been a difficult move Being so well known everyone has their own idea of how it should be portrayed. From my own personal perspective I hold my hands up to the visual show just not being good enough, I failed to write a book that is sympathetic to the story line and even having changed things it still is not right you have to admit your mistakes !! Musically its a disjointed book the arrangements don't help the members and its very bitty in approach. As to the performance the members came out with some purpose and managed to march with more confidence and pushed through, their were some nice spots especially the Music of the Night segment. The younger guard members certainly should take some credit for stepping up in level of performance-its a case of tightening up the show and working as hard as possible to get a fitting finals performance and then move on with the already in motion 2017 season.

Phantom Knights
Starting with the guard portraying the fear and factor of phobia. The corps has obviously worked hard to change the feel of the show and how its performed. The opener has a good driving feel with bottom end brass and percussion section working hard together to keep a sense of purpose. The ballad had the use of some colourful silks used by some of the battery did find the use the 3 guard at the front then to be distracting might have been better if they were staged more in the picture. At times the top end brass still struggle with some of the music and its a harsh sound that takes the ear at times. Duet I thought was very good and loved the piece of music it had some real good feel running through it-Kashmir closed the show and the corps has really worked hard to get a higher level of intensity into the piece. Overall this is a younger corps and its quite an ambitious book musically-you can tell they have worked hard to make the whole performance level stronger.

The Pacemakers
This was the first time I have got to see this show and it was a pleasant surprise-as it was thoroughly entertaining. Morning has broken set the tone as the preshow introduced a day at school. Strong confident opening number the only issue I could see was timing issues through the stick work by the guard. Good sense of fun in the baggy trousers feature, then followed by a theatre production in Hallelujah opened by a very good singer and then followed by some sympathetic brass-did find the percussion to be a bit loud at this point might may to tone it down a little. Novel use of the desks and plastic cups in the percussion feature was a refreshing idea. Don't stop me now has some great electronics feel and good drive throughout, I did find the brass a little harsh at times. The show seemed to end a bit abruptly asking the question is there something more to go on for finals. Overall a very entertaining show.

Inbhear Mor
A most welcome visit from this group from Ireland-if I wanted an example of what could be presented as a show by a small group and with some style this would be it. Using a brass section and a small group in the pit including using electronics they performed a show that was competent and perfect for the numbers they had. The use of the base guitar in the pit added some depth to the brass sound and the drum kit allowed a continued driving beat through the show. The lone guard member did a very good job in terms of fitting to the music in terms of role playing to fit to each piece. Using the brass as a percussion section was also a show of competence from this group. The musical choice including could it be magic and masquerade fitted the size of the corps perfectly. Closing using the members wearing blindfolds again added to the concept and finally the young lad did a magic trick and the corps vanished. The whole show was quite simplistic in approach, yet it worked and a had a real sense of warmth a feel good product.

If a rainforest could pick its own musical selection then I reckon this might be it. This corps is a point of focus to what the activity can be with around 60 members of which the large percentage is on the younger side-the essence of recruiting large amounts of youngsters and adding in a small amount of older members to maintain experience and leadership on the field. Earth song portrayed with multi staged layering in the visual book and some sympathetic sounds from all sections all wrapped up with an excellent solo from Greg Hampson. Appalachian Morning had some very good driven beats and sounds across the production- we did get a few niggling execution issues at the back end of the number. In terms of the ballad it felt tome as if it could be toned in feel just a little more to allow the warmth/depth of the piece to come across even more The closer is just well driven it has great balance from all sections and everyone is pulling in the same direction. Overall this show made me smile its suffering a bit in execution levels but by finals its going to be great.

The show is a follow on in terms of production values to 2015 with strong musical and visual books that fit the members of the corps like a slipper. Using the feel of the water you are given sounds and sights in all pieces the corps lives the ebb and flow of the tides as they cross the earth. The production has a strong feel with each segment seemingly to flow from one to the other. Swan lake I felt lacked a certain warmth associated with the piece-in fact overall the show seemed a little one level in emotional value. which it didn't seem to do in the first half. I'm guessing the changes made to the production have not yet settled in fully as the members get used to performing the full books again. The end of the show shows some real strength in visual movement and expressive value-it lacks in execution but as with Revolution you can sense its going to be a finished full value show come finals the battle for4th spot between Beeches, Revolution and East Coast Elite is going to go down to which one gets the most out of their concept on the night. 

This was the first time I had seen this show and had to admit felt a little disappointed by the production-luckily I had videoed the show and when watching again got a better reflection of what was on offer from Big Red. From the opening segment there is an obvious strong production value that runs through the whole show from all sections.The musical selections fit the concept and are portrayed with logical purpose, visually the book has some very strong interpretation and some great ideas coming in and out reflecting the musical passages with some ease. I found the concept to be quite difficult to get into but appreciated the full production value and thought process to the show. There were a lot of execution eras in the visual book especially towards end of programme but as before its going to be a very solid show in the last few weeks of the season. The show is pretty much a lock for 3rd spot at DCUK finals and it will be good to see how high they can get in the European finals. Overall the show is a real credit to the design team and the members in their performance values-good step up from 2015

and so to the big two- Kidsgrove and the Company
In the first half I came to the conclusion this was going to be a one horse race as the Company seemed to have their show locked and Kidsgrove seemed to be in a struggle to relate their programme onto the field, would it be the same conclusion 2nd half.

Up first Kidsgrove Scouts
Wow what a change from a disjointed show we had a complete reversal, the design team has almost bi passed the concept and put back on the field what Kidsgrove do best-loud proud and in your face drum corps. From the start to the end of the show the audience was drawn into the production we had open drill, a battery that was driving the show with real aggression, a pit that seemed to have a real sense of belief, a horn line that soared with screaming sopranos, and back beats from the rest of the brass. The guard were even stronger than first half and now seemed to rule the roost with a production value that at times was to say the least brilliant in its performance.
Tucker hit the solos and it just seemed to drive Kidsgrove to even greater heights-at the end the audience reaction merited the show presented to them and we certainly had the emotional winner. As always its dirty and that's pretty much down to the major changes made-these guys know the game and will be cleaning like demons over the next two weeks, ad in some of the staff of the Blue Devils coming over to help tweak the product and this could be a sensational show come either finals night.

The Company
This show is still the clever production that was put on the field in the first half but with a lot of subtle changes in all areas-as always all sections are strong and there are no real weak links to the production values, the use of the white at the start and adding of coloured screens keeps the simplistic feel in full sight and allows the corps to tell the full story. You are drawn into the production by its sympathetic value-the brass play a committed book complete with some excellent solos, the pit is still the best in the UK, the battery lay down some mean beats with full control and the guard sale the product with some ease. Again lots of changes lead to execution eras which you know are not going to be there by the time they get to the European finals. For me while I still found this to be the most complete and technical production on the field it did seem to lack the impact that the show had in the first half almost being to clinical at times.

When it came to the scores it left us with the following conclusions - there will be mini battles at DCUK finals for bragging rights- Phantom Knights and Pacemakers in one group, then East Coast Elite, Beeches and Revolution fighting for the next placements, Cadence a solid lock for third baring disaster on the night and finally the two very different shows in the battle for top spot-its going to be a good DCUK finals and then look out the rest of Europe the British are coming post Brexit and hungry for the top placements.

My end conclusion the biggest crowd of the season were entertained and rewarded the corps with their support.

Review by Andy Hulbert

Photos by Mark Neilson

Scores and recaps are available on our Results page

13th September 2016



Drum Corps United Kingdom 2016
DCUK is a member organisation of Marching & Performing Arts United Kingdom