DCUK Championships report by Drum Corps World

30th DCUK title goes to Kidsgrove Scouts over Senators
by Steve Vickers, Drum Corps World publisher

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 38, Number 8) that was published on October 22. To subscribe to the publication that offers worldwide coverage of the drum and bugle corps activity or to see all the historical CDs, DVDs, history books and other items that are available, please go to www.drumcorpsworld.com.

September 19, 2009 -- Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, U.K. . . . Over the last 30 years, I’ve attended half a dozen Drum Corps United Kingdom Championships, including the first one in 1980. So I thought it would be enjoyable to take my vacation this year across the Atlantic. It’s been six years since my last visit and the activity has changed quite a bit -- most certainly for the better!

This event in the north of England drew a record number of participants, at least compared to the last four or five seasons. DCUK Chairman Alan Thompson and his board made decisions over the last year that changed the atmosphere and they issued invitations to groups that hadn’t taken part for awhile -- or ever. The result was an excellent roster of 17, including five Junior Class corps, four A Class units and eight in Open Class representatives. 

The Kidsgrove Scouts took home the 2009 title over a strong group of competitors that included the seven-time champion Senators (’93, ’97, ’00, ’01, ’03, ’04, ’05, and ’08 under the new International Open Class designation). Kidsgrove from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, topped the International Class in 2007.

In A Class, Staffordshire Knights from Stafford, Staffordshire, easily defeated 6th Hove Scouts from Hove, Sussex, and the 6th Hove B took the Junior Class title by a little more than a point over Kidsgrove Juniors.

The weather was perfect for a change (it’s been rainy or very damp just about every other time I’ve been there) and a very large crowd populated the covered stands at Field Mill Stadium to celebrate DCUK’s 30th anniversary and witness the 120-member Dagenham Crusaders Alumni performance.

The one-day schedule included a 12-corps prelims, the result of which split the dozen into Open and Class A for the evening finals. Five Junior Class groups competed following the prelims for their championship title. A special exhibition by one of the U.K.’s newest corps, the locally-based Spirit of Coventry, was staged before scores were announced for the Juniors.

The day began at 10:30 AM before a gathered crowd of several hundred that grew larger as the bigger corps came up for their prelim show.

Atherstone, from Warwickshire, led off with a strong performance to music from the movie “Car Wash.” With 30 members, the burgundy-clad group had a strong presence and the horn line of 12 filled the stadium with sound. It helped that most of the venues in the U.K. and across Europe have overhangs that tend to amplify the sound, making even the smallest brass section sound considerably larger.

Black Knights from Kent admirably performed their “Moulin Rouge” repertoire that included Can Can and even some bullfighting moves in Tango de Roxanne. They had excellent soprano and baritone soloists and the members were having a great time performing their show. Their 35-member corps had 14 horns, seven guard and 13 percussion.

The 37th Kingswood Scouts from South Gloucestershire put 36 members on the field as they marked their 40th anniversary with a production called “A Classical Renaissance.” Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony was followed by Rachmaninnov’s Second Piano Concerto. They even slipped in Phillip Glass’ 1000 Airplanes on the Roof for variety. Nice field coverage was used, along with a variety of fast and slow tempos to a well-designed drill. Ode to Joy and opposing company fronts concluded an enjoyable show.

I was particularly taken with the Pacemakers from Kent. Their white uniform tops with wavy purple “bars” caught everyone’s eye. The show included four painted panels depicting the four members of the British rock group Queen and the musical book featured Breakthru, Bohemian Rhapsody, Who Wants to Live Forever and Don’t Stop Me Now. They had a smaller group of 25, but showed lots of enthusiasm. The drum major, Stuart Barker, injured his ankle in the spring, then his other ankle. He showed drive standing on the podium leading his corps.

Cheshire Cadets from Warrington used the music of Hans Zimmer and his soundtrack for “Prince of Egypt.” Three dozen members, including 16 horns and excellent mellophone and soprano soloists, provided a very solid visual and musical package that the crowd really enjoyed.

The only true marching band in the competition was Trinity School Show Band from Nottinghamshire. They were invited in order to open up membership and encourage other up-and-coming groups to take part in DCUK contests. They fielded 68 members and performed a show that effectively used the woodwinds, both in drill and in the arrangements. Included in the repertoire: Malagueña, Evergreen and Time to Say Goodbye. This group also had the largest color guard of the day, numbering 20.

From Cheshire in the north of England, the Poynton Commmodores and their 35 members presented a unique “take” on slaves in America and “Dreams of Freedom.” Backdrops showed various scenes that went along with each musical segment, ending up with a panel showing the new U.S. President, Barack Obama, and the word “Hope.” Red, white and blue streamers brought this very entertaining production to a close.

The 6th Hove Scouts tackled the music and theme of “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Of course, the basic idea of the Broadway show and movie shows the title character killing off a variety of characters. Two large, red tarps representing spilled blood were placed near the front sideline and a barber chair was centered on one of them. From that prop several members played solos before their throat was slit. They did a lot with 26 members and this was the only group today without a color guard.

Staffordshire Knights from Newcastle-Under-Lyme performed an unusual combination of tunes under the main theme of “ShonK 2009.” Included was Vesti La Giubba from “Pagliacci,” Unexpected Song and Music of the Night by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky and the “William Tell Overture.” The 30 members were committed to the production and the four-member color guard even donned white masks during one segment toward the end.

Northern Star from West Yorkshire put 39 young people on the field and utilized a variety of “sets” and props, all having to do with transportation. The show title was “A Journey from A to B,” most effectively demonstrated by the nine guard members. Tires, hubcaps, street signs, a toolbox and suitcases suggested forms of travel by foot, car, plane and train.

The many-time and defending champion Senators put 53 members through their paces in a production that represented the organization’s 25th anniversary in “Reflection.” New York-themed music like “On the Waterfront” and New York, New York helped show off a very talented and solid corps. Their arrangements were particularly outstanding, they had an expansive horn and drum arc during parts of the drill and the pit was producing incredible sounds.

Kidsgrove Scouts drew the final prelims slot and produced a corps of 54. Their “Heart” show represented both psychological and emotional aspects in a five-part program. There were plenty of subtle touches to the musical and visual design and the periodic beating of a heart eminated from the group playing in the pit. There were instances of chord-bending similar to The Cavaliers’ show last year and the selections drew from such composers as Craig Armstrong, John Powell, Thomas Newman and Ilan Eshkeri.

The five corps that made up the Junior Class line-up put some of the youngest kids I’ve ever seen on the field through sometimes challenging paces, performed admirably. 

The Concord All-Stars’ 18 young people did a standstill concert and represent a 25-year continuous string of the Sheffield corps’ participation in DCUK competition, unequalled by any other group in Great Britain. Their fanfare group also appeared to open the finals, made up of older members from the Concord organization. Director Roger Steele is working hard to give his members a great experience in the activity.

The 37th Kingswood Cadets had 21 in the drill, performing to a James Bond-themed show that also included selections from “The Pink Panther.” Their staff was all dressed in suits that gave a very good impression for this group.

Black Knight Cadets performed tunes from “The Lion King.” One guard member was hard to not notice as he was having a fantastic time spinning his flag and enjoying performing. They put out 19 members and showed great promise for future spots in their “big brother” corps.

Also a feeder corps, the Kidsgrove Scout Juniors had a theme called “Take A Chance” and their 21 members belted out a show that they thoroughly enjoyed performing. Again, this group bodes well for the future of their Open Class corps.

The final corps in the Junior Class was 6th Hove B with another James Bond-centered production. The 15 members had uniforms similar to their older corps and have a good sense of what it takes to put a solid show on the field.

A large and quite enthusiastic crowd gathered for the evening final competition that not only showcased the best Open and A Class corps, but began with the first appearance of the Dagenham Crusaders Alumni, sporting a huge number of past alumni and supplemented by many who always wanted to be part of the corps when they were younger, now getting a chance.

The crowd of 2,000 no doubt was bolstered by the fact that Dagenham was going to make an appearance. Everyone was quite impressed with the size and quality of their program, drawn musically from past seasons and including Magical Mystery Tour, Eleanor Rigby, Norwegian Wood, My Favourite Things and A Nightingale Sang in Barkley Square.

The corps was invited back to the field before the retreat and announcement of scores to play through their repertoire one more time for the eager fans who wanted to relive a time when Dagenham Crusaders dominated competition in DCUK, including winning the first title in 1980.

I not only attended this show with my friend Steve Hars, who used to be director of the Basildon Blue Eagles, but I got to see some people I hadn’t visited with in many years, including Jim Vaughan, John Boyington, Trevor and Linda Haworth and Selwyn Bottomley, among others too numerous to mention here.

During the week between the DCUK and DCE Championships, I was able to reconnect with some friends from Basildon who I’ve known over the years and we even got together at a local pub to catch up. It was great to see Pauline Scanlon, Andrew and Kathy Marck, John Harrison and several others.

I’m assisting Rob Swindells and Mike Mayer as they make plans to bring the Kidsgrove Scouts over to the U.S. next August for a regular-season DCA competition and the championships in Rochester. We’re currently working on securing buses, an equipment truck and pit equipment that will help make it easier to transport their group over here. As part of the organization’s 100th anniversary, current indications are that they will bring a contingent of 100+ in the competing corps, plus staff and fans. If anyone can provide assistance, please send me an e-mail at publisher@drumcorpsworld.com.

I haven’t done this much writing in a long time. It was a pleasure sharing an overview of my European drum corps vacation. I hope you liked what I had to offer about the drum and bugle corps activity across the Atlantic. 

DCUK would like to thank Steve Vickers for this report and also for attending our 30th Anniversary event.


16th November 2009



© Drum Corps United Kingdom 2004