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Friday, May 6, 2016

Bringing the big sound

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bluecoats marching drum and bugle corps offered a field of motion and waves of sound in their perfornmance on Friday on the field of Burl Fowler Stadium in Monett. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
The Bluecoats, one of the top eight marching drum and bugle corps in the nation, stopped in Monett on Friday to perform on their way to a competition showdown on Sunday with their rivals in Fort Worth, Texas. The Bluecoats offered their show in full dress uniform for the crowd gathered at Burl Fowler Stadium in the evening.

Unlike typical marching bands, the Bluecoats had no woodwinds or trombones. The troupe consisted of a brass section with trumpets, mid-sized mellophones and 16 tubas, plus 10 stationary percussion units, a flag corps and riflemen.

The group arrived in Monett around 4 a.m. on Friday and stayed at the high school. They rehearsed through the day, walking back and forth to the stadium. Players put on an extended drill on the football field, working on specific techniques and show areas, prior to giving the show.

Watching them during the day and present in the evening was Danika White, Monett High School band director. White and others, including students from Monett, make the annual pilgrimage to the marching band festival in Broken Arrow, Okla., where she has seen the Bluecoats many times.

White said she watches for footwork and warm-up drills that she may be able to incorporate into Monett's routines. She sees one of the biggest benefits of the visit coming from her students being able to see what can come from the degree of discipline focused by the Bluecoats members. White recalled she has had past students call her and ask to go with her to Broken Arrow just for the chance to see that level of performance again.

David Glasgow, the Bluecoats director, gave an official thanks to the audience for supporting the Bluecoats visit. He said the uniforms had just arrived, so the Monett stop gave the high school-aged participants a chance to try out a real show on the eve of their critical contest appearance. Glasgow asked that no audio or video of the show be taken to avoid any advance posting of their performance on the Internet.

The performance, "Brave New World," ran around 13 minutes. Band members sweep in large lines across the field, intersecting, moving in arches punctuated by rising and waving flags and rifles thrown into the air. The music came in finely crafted waves, in fanfares and sustained lines. The sound built and subsided several times, rising again for an impressive finale as all the players intersected in patterns crossing the field.

The audience burst into applause at several points and provided a standing ovation at the end. To conclude, the corps gathered in a large semi-circle and played their theme song, "Autumn Leaves."

According to Renatta Courey, from Ohio, whose son, Michael Jr., plays trumpet in the corps, the Bluecoats are a national organization, Only two of the present members come from Ohio. Michael's father is himself a Bluecoat alumni, and Michael said he too wanted to be part of that "wall of sound."

Renatta volunteers on the chuckwagon, serving four meals a day. She said the students are on an athlete's diet, eating to maintain muscle tone. She explained the corps' "family" cheers "Bluuue!" from the stands, which the uninitiated may not recognize and hear as booing.

"We had a great day," Glasgow said. "We had an opportunity to put the uniforms on before a competition situation. Everyone in the community was nice and helpful. I hope we can come back to Monett in the future."

Monett attorney Brian Smith, himself an alumni of the Bluecoats from the 1980-81 season, was instrumental in arranging the stop, which was sponsored by the Monett Chamber of Commerce. After the show, Smith shared clippings from his days in the Corps.

"I had an opportunity to see changes made in the last 30 years," Smith said. "The quality has skyrocketed. The staff is so organized. They were an absolute delight to work with. Everybody who showed up was just blown away. It was beautiful."

The Bluecoats left Monett at 10 p.m. Friday to arrive in Texas late on Saturday for the weekend competition. A film of the finals with all the bands will be shown at a Joplin theater tonight. Scores will be announced on Tuesday.

Last year, the Bluecoats won third place in the world championships, the best they have ever done, Smith added.

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