2009 Blue Stars
After a construction delay that forced Drum Corps International to take its 2008 World Championships to Bloomington, Ind., drum corps were welcomed into the massive confines of Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time in 2009. With the shocking ending to 2008 still within memory, the Blue Devils bounced back to finish with an undefeated season, their "1930" show taking four of the five high captions awards. Carolina Crown's "The Grass is Always Greener" was a crowd favorite, along with Santa Clara Vanguard's stunningly beautiful "Ballet for Martha," which earned the corps the highest 5th place score ever recorded at a World Championship Finals. In between the placements of those two powerhouses were the Holy Name Cadets and the Cavaliers, the former corps changing its name for one season in recognition of its 75th anniversary. Both Boston Crusaders and Blue Stars surprised Phantom Regiment, knocking the defending champion out of the top eight. But perhaps the biggest news in the Finals line-up was the reappearance of Troopers for the first time since 1986. Blue Stars' 8th place show, "The Factory," took a peek at the domestic contributions to the World War II effort in America, where it was stressed that everyone was valuable to success in the conflicts on either side of the world. A wall stretched across the left 40 yards of the front line was emblazoned with historic photos of women working sewing machines during the early 1940s. Those women were responsible for sewing items such as military uniforms and parachutes. The pre-show opened with the brass and field percussion surrounding a factory floor of 36 tables, many which also had prop sewing machines. As the factory jumpsuit-attired color guard members sat down behind the tables to get to work, the brass players performed the Norman Rockwell-ish "Hardin County," from Alan Menkin's soundtrack for the original 1992 ABC television documentary, "Lincoln."
Lots of percussive industrial sounds were heard as the corps poured out into the open part of the field. With the music much more driven, 12 sets across the back of the field took on the colors of various shades of fabric, while the guard up front waved six large sheets of similar colored fabric and pretended to cut it up for their projects. Part of the horn line stood on the desk chairs for a feature and then the entire horn line poured into the factory section of the field as the guard went on break to the open part of the field. This was the last time the characters would have a chance to cut loose prior to the coming announcement that would change the lives of all. At the start of "The Factory," by corps arrangers Frank Sullivan, Brent Montgomery, Seth Adams and Tom Aungst, a radio announcer informed America that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. "Old One-Hundredth," the famous mid-16th Century melody from the Genevan Psalter that is more commonly known as "The Doxology," was performed by the lower horns as they moved into a single large arc from the left side of the field, while the upper horns executed a series of blistering gunshot-like volleys. The men of the guard, dressed in military blues, hugged the women they were about to leave behind. Played to the backfield, a solemn chorale based on "Taps" was overlaid with a mallet snippet of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" played by the front ensemble percussion. A lovely elegiac melody captured the solemnity of knowing so many military personnel were dying in battle overseas. The sudden formation of a star led into a dynamic and more heroic statement of the melody, ending with the return of one of the soldiers into the arms of the woman from whom he had been separated. A recording of President Harry Truman announced the end of the war, declaring, "This is a time for great rejoicing." The colors on the backfield sets turned much more vibrant as the corps introduced Leonard Bernstein's "Fancy Free," from the lighthearted ballet premiered in 1944 that told the story of sailors on leave in New York. From there to the end, it was one big party with rejoicing and unrestrained relief that the war was over. The soldiers and sailors came home and got busy catching up on everything they missed out on overseas. The remaining fabric from the workstations was thrown up high in the air as if confetti falling down on the "welcome home" parades staged across the country post-war. America was once again whole, stronger than ever, and about to enter its most glorious golden age. For this week only, you can save on the World Championship DVD set that contains this complete Blue Stars performance, along with all finalists from the 2009 DCI World Championships. Buy the 2009 World Championship DVD set. (Available this week only for $36. Regular price: $45.) Discount DVD offer ends Monday, Dec. 10 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Ind.