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updated: 6/20/2011 9:24 AM

Cavaliers bring drum corps competition to Lisle

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  • The Cavalcade of Brass, hosted by the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps of Rosemont, features eight corps performing with precision. The competition is part of the corps' season leading up to the world championship.

      The Cavalcade of Brass, hosted by the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps of Rosemont, features eight corps performing with precision. The competition is part of the corps' season leading up to the world championship.
    Courtesy of Tia Patron

  • The Cavaliers of Rosemont, a drum and bugle corps founded more than 60 years ago, has a history of placing among the top corps in international competition.

      The Cavaliers of Rosemont, a drum and bugle corps founded more than 60 years ago, has a history of placing among the top corps in international competition.
    Courtesy of Michael Duebner

  • The Cavaliers of Rosemont spent more than two weeks in May at Benedictine University as the corps trained for the 2011 season.

      The Cavaliers of Rosemont spent more than two weeks in May at Benedictine University as the corps trained for the 2011 season.
    Courtesy of David Kowalczyk

 
 

An exciting spectacle of sight, sound and movement will fill the Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex Sunday, June 26, when eight drum and bugle corps roll into town to compete.

Each corps has a number of coach buses, semitrailers and a mobile kitchen to transport participants, support staff, equipment and instruments.

The corps will compete starting at 6 p.m. on the football field in the 28th annual Cavalcade of Brass headlined by the Cavaliers of Rosemont. The event will showcase the meticulous precision and musical talents of some of the best corps, including the Carolina Crown of Fort Mill, S.C.; the Blue Stars of LaCrosse, Wis.; Glassmen of Toledo, Ohio; Troopers from Casper, Wyo.; Pioneers from Milwaukee, Wis.; Colt Cadets from Dubuque, Iowa; and the Racine Scouts from Racine, Wis.

A special performance by the Classic Cavaliers will highlight 30 Cavaliers alums.

The competition is an intense, choreographed musical experience with music from Bach to boogie, big band to Broadway. Performances are judged on various musical and visual categories.

The Cavaliers 2011 program, "XtraordinarY," features the music of "Footprints" by Wayne Shorter, "Jungle Tango" by Jazz Mandolin Project and "Nature Boy" by Eden Ahbez.

Adult tickets range from $20 to $35. Children younger than 12 are admitted free. Tickets are available at the gate and in advance at cavaliers.org or call (630) 968-0419 for details.

So how does a drum corps differ from a marching band? Drum corps consist of brass and percussion instruments along with a color guard. A corps has no woodwinds. Among the horns are: the fluegelhorn, mellophone, French horn, baritone, euphonium and contra bass. The percussion section has snare, tenor and bass drums, along with cymbals. Some corps may include a xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, timpani, castanets and triangle.

The Color Guard part of the drum corps adds pageantry and contributes to the visual story. Participants in a color guard do not need to play an instrument and often are dancers or gymnasts.

The Cavaliers will compete 35 times during its 11,000-mile summer tour leading to the Drum Corps International Championship in Indianapolis in August. The Cavaliers have won the world championship seven times and placed second in 2010, with less than 10 points separating the top 10 finishers.

"This year's Cavalcade of Brass is a great venue for an awesome display of drum corps," said event co-chair Craig Rasin. "With being so close to Chicago, this gives us an opportunity to invite all our local fans out for a night of pure entertainment."

The roots of the Cavaliers sink deep into Midwestern soil.

In 1948, a Chicago Logan Square Boy Scout Scoutmaster, Donald Warren, saw a troop from Wisconsin perform in a Scout drum corps exhibition and thought his Scouts were capable and interested in doing the same. Within a few years, Warren's Scout troop officially organized as the Cavaliers and kept its all-male tradition. Along the way, the troop was dubbed the Big Green Machine for its distinctive green, black and white uniforms.

Similar to any sport, belonging to a corps takes hard work and team obligations. Last fall, roughly 350 to 400 individuals auditioned for the Cavaliers in Rosemont and in Austin, Texas.

"Our members come from all over the world and are mainly college music students aged 20 to 21, with a few high school seniors," Rasin said. "At call backs in December, maybe 160 are selected with alternates, and that is roughly 80 brasses, 35 percussionists and 35 in the color guard."

The summer tour is preceded by a rigorous four-week pre-tour schedule with 12-hour practices each day. The first 16 days of pre-tour were held in late May in Lisle, then it was on to a week at Eastern Illinois University.

"Members pretty much know the music, which they learn throughout the winter before pre-tour," said Rasin, who was in the Cavaliers color guard from 1972 to 1975. "In pre-tour, they will learn the choreography and drill that goes along with this year's 11-minute routine."

The drum corps summer tours are intensive. For instance, the Cavaliers will be in Grand Rapids, Mich., Saturday, June 25, the night before coming to Lisle. When that show ends around 10 p.m., the young men will have a planned snack from their mobile kitchen and board buses for the trip to Lisle. All corps will arrive between 2 and 3 a.m. and settle into different locations in the area, often at a local high school with a football field.

Corps members camp for the night on the school's gym floor until 9 or 10 a.m., when they have breakfast and practice in sections.

Lunch is around 1 or 2 p.m., followed by practice on the school's football field until late afternoon. Following a shower and dinner, corps members dress for the competition and arrive at the Lisle sports complex. After the show and official judging, the schedule repeats as the Cavaliers travel to Minneapolis, Minn., for a one-night show Tuesday, June 28. The complete summer schedule is at cavaliers.org.

When asked whether members are paid, Rasin said it was "just the opposite." Dues are approximately $2,100 for the 12-week tour, with four meals a day.

"The kids are devoted to the hard work and team work that goes into making their corps its best," Rasin said.

Wanted: talented and devoted students to join a summer tour of endless practice, critical evaluations and rousing applause. Learn discipline and hard work. No salary. Make good friends while you visit cities from San Antonio, Texas, to Allentown, Pa. No one older than 22 need apply. Guaranteed to give you an exceptional lifetime experience.

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