In 2015, Columbus Saints took the field with a production centered around lively jazz and swing music. 

Titled “The Age of Swing,” the program took audiences back in time to an era of high-energy, grooving music. According to corps director Le Ron Carlton, that production was well-received.

Nine years later, Carlton and company decided it was time to, in a way, revisit what they see as one of the corps’ more memorable seasons. 

As such, with 2024’s program, “Lenox Avenue: Midnight,” Columbus Saints will once again journey back in time. This year’s time trip will be back into the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century, a period of United States history in which African American creativity flourished in the realms of literature, music, and art.

“We wanted to revisit one of our past shows that was very popular, and wanted to revisit the Harlem Renaissance,” corps director Le Ron Carlton said. “The excitement of the music, the culture, the fashion — we wanted to bring that back into the drum corps space.”

According to Carlton, much of the inspiration for the production comes from Langston Hughes’ 1926 poem which shares a name with Columbus Saints’ 2024 program.

From there, though, Carlton also noted Ken Burns’ “Jazz,” a 10-episode documentary miniseries released in 2001, as a source of further influence. Carlton said he watched Burns’ series while in music school, and it provided him with a wealth of information on both the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age.

“I'd say the documentary was a little bit of the inspiration, moreso on me than I think anyone else, just from an educational perspective,” he said. “It helped me understand a lot of the composers; I wouldn't know who Fletcher Henderson was, if it wasn't for Ken Burns’ ‘Jazz.’”

According to Carlton and music arranger Marco Iannelli, thematically, the Saints’ 2024 production tells the story of a high-energy night in New York City. 

The show’s central character, at the outset of the production, is in search of a way to Harlem. At the start, this protagonist hops on the subway, anticipating an exciting night. For this section, the corps plans to utilize Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.”

“They just barely make it onto the train, and they're all excited,” Iannelli said. “I would say the first movement is all about scurrying to get to the train.”After a hustling and bustling ride, the main character exits the train, only to realize they’ve arrived in Chinatown, as opposed to Harlem.

In order to capture the feeling and scenery of this second movement, Iannelli noted the corps’ decision to use Larry Conley and Gene Rodemich’s “Shanghai Shuffle,” which was recorded in 1924 by Fletcher Henderson and Louis Armstrong.

“Oh, no, we're at the wrong stop, we're in Chinatown,” Iannelli said. “The music shifts; it’s a little more of a party vibe, but we're waiting for the train to go by. And we're just going to enjoy the sights while we're here. It ends with the train coming back and our person getting on.”

The tone of the production will shift noticeably into its third movement, the show’s ballad. Featuring Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather” — which has been utilized in numerous DCI performances, including the Blue Devils’ 2016 “As Dreams Are Made On” — Columbus Saints will portray their main character having exited the train into unexpected rain. 

Iannelli described Saints’ third movement as “melancholy.” 

Luckily, though, the gloom is short-lived; Columbus Saints’ show turns happier when its main character finally arrives at a party and gets to experience all of the energy and excitement. 

This joyful final movement will be set to “Harlem Congo” by Harry Alexander “Father” White.

“The closer is a lot more of a celebration,” Iannelli said. “We’ve finally made it, so now we’re going to enjoy our time and we're going to dance the night away.”

As preparations move forward for Saints’ inaugural season as part of the newly-formed DCI All-Age Class, the corps is continuing to fill out its ranks, and invites young performers interested in the drum corps experience to audition. The corps, in particular, is seeking a trombone soloist.

The selling point is simple. Columbus Saints — an organization that is proudly sponsored by Donate Life America (LINK) — offers a low-cost, flexible, and fun form of the drum corps experience. 

In Carlton’s words, you can still “work your nine-to-five all summer.”

“We're also a great place for you to build your skills,” he added. “If you are building skills to eventually march in an Open or World Class corps, we have had so many alumni that have come to our program, that have been here for one, or two, or three years, and then go off and march somewhere else.”

Volunteers, Carlton added, are needed and welcomed on Saints’ 2024 summer tour, which kicks off July 2 in Mason, Ohio.

“It could just be helping us move the trailer,” he said. “It could be something as simple as helping us on show days serve food. Most of our stuff is local, so it's pretty straight ahead.”

View Columbus Saints' 2024 Tour Schedule