This year Drum Corps International was proudly represented by members of the Carolina Crown percussion section, who performed and presented an educational session on the construction of the group’s 2016 field show, “Relentless.”
Despite it being months since the end of the Drum Corps International Tour, Crown percussionists from California, Texas, New England, and numerous southeast states impressively reconstructed major parts of the show in a short window of rehearsal just before the performance at the Indiana Convention Center on Saturday, November 12 in downtown Indianapolis.
“It truly didn't feel like we spent a whole three months apart when we played our first note together on Friday afternoon,” said Jeancarlo Rodriguez who plays vibraphone in Carolina Crown’s front ensemble and is a sophomore at Rutgers University. “The chemistry we all had during the summer didn't dwindle a bit and that definitely showed itself this weekend.”
According to Carolina Crown Executive Director Jim Coates, members were responsible for getting themselves to Indianapolis, with about half of them transported by the corps from the Philadelphia area. Hotel housing for two days and some meals were provided by the Crown organization, which raised some of the funds through social media outreach.
Coates says the experience was particularly timely as the group gets set to kick off its annual auditions in the coming weeks. “The exposure from PASIC is the most focused awareness one could expect when talking percussion,” he said. “It offered us unique recruiting possibilities and gave the audience the opportunity to see inside the unique sound of Carolina Crown.”
As the basis of the session, Carolina Crown battery percussion arranger and instructor Thom Hannum and front ensemble arranger and instructor Jim Ancona led the audience through how the corps’ 2016 percussion show was put together and taught to corps members during the summer. The group started the presentation by breaking down individual phrases from the show’s third movement, “El Tango de Roxanne,” from “Moulin Rouge,” which had been mostly conceived as a percussion feature.
This allowed those in attendance to be brought into the evolution of the writing process. A particularly intriguing element of the presentation was Ancona’s explanation of how the mallet percussion parts were written alternating between the high and low ranges of the keyboards, requiring the performers to move from side to side as if dancing a tango. Audience members had the opportunity to watch the front ensemble performers’ feet as the piece was played, and in doing so, they were able to appreciate the intricate footwork the members had coordinated amongst themselves.
Ancona and Hannum explained in detail how the front ensemble and drum line parts interlocked to create a complex-but-unified whole. Each of the two major sections of the line broke down some of the smallest elements of the writing to allow the audience to experience the show from the perspective of the arrangers’ minds.
One of these specific elements was the demonstration of the different types of mallet rolls utilized on the keyboards during the production of “Hallelujah,” and how the combination of those simultaneously created a distinctive sound that enhanced the sonic presentation. That this came just a couple days after the passing of the work’s composer, Leonard Cohen, only added to the emotional impact of what the line was attempting to convey.
The presentation ended with “Morning Journey,” which combined elements of Samuel Barber’s “Medea’s Dance of Vengeance” with Simon Dobson’s “Journey of the Lone Wolf.” Utilizing the repeating ostinato figure of “Medea” as the glue that held everything together, it was shown how the two different melodies intentionally collided to raise the level of anticipation and agitation on the way to the show’s final statement, and how that collision of disparate elements helped elevate the tension and ultimate release of the music, as well as elevating the audience members out of their seats.
For age-out marimbist Kirstyn Norris, who is a junior percussion major at Kansas State University, having the opportunity to perform with her fellow corps members one last time this past weekend was something she says she’ll cherish for years to come. “This performance at PASIC was a chance to play the show for sheer enjoyment and to show the world what Carolina Crown has to offer.”
Executive Director Coates says what made him most proud was realizing, “The members came so prepared to play at a high level months after the DCI World Championships. Thank you to them, the staff, the volunteer drivers who moved equipment and members, our dedicated office staff for their countless hours of extra work, and our sponsors Yamaha, Vic Firth, Remo, and Zildjian.”