In Indianapolis two weeks before the end of the 2003 Drum Corps International Tour, the Blue Devils managed to end the Cavaliers' 64-show win streak that extended all the way back to the 2000 DCI World Championship Finals. And when the Devils went on to win the DCI World Championship in Orlando's Citrus Bowl Stadium, the corps became the only organization to have won a title in all four decades of DCI's existence.
The World Championships' fourth visit to Orlando featured a number of extremely tight competitions, including Spirit knocking the Blue Knights out of the Finals competition by only a tenth and a half.
Both the Madison Scouts and Carolina Crown returned to the Finals after missing the cut the year before, and Pacific Crest earned the last berth in the Semifinals competition during the corps' first year of touring through the end of the DCI season.
Santa Clara Vanguard ended 2003 in fifth place with “Pathways,” a show inspired by the different paths one must choose while passing through life. At many points during the production, the color guard and brass sections created a literal maze via their drill formations, labyrinths through which others travelled toward the unknown and unexplored.
The show opened with part one of Wojciech Kilar's “Orawa,” a 1988 work for chamber string orchestra written by the Polish composer for both concert halls and movies. The title refers to the geographic region located between Poland and Slovakia, as well as the river that flows through the region. Kilar, known for his film score to “Bram Stoker's Dracula,” created a musical progression that others have said “can be viewed as a stream flowing rapidly through rocky recesses, revealing again and again in various landscapes with their raw beauty.”
As the show opened, the musicians were split in two and set up on opposite goal lines, each section calling and responding to the other in a musical dialogue as they approached the middle of the field. The color guard members were often seen running through the pathways in between the straight lines and arcs created by members of the brass section.
The next selection was Jeff Beal's “One Man Show” from the 2000 film biography, “Pollock,” about the boundary-pushing American painter Jackson Pollock, who popularized the abstract art field of drip painting. Beal, a composer for film and the concert hall, is known to many for his theme and score to the Netflix drama, “House of Cards,” as well as his score for the documentary, “Blackfish.”
Sparks of peach and other related pastel colors visually accented the hypnotic music, leading into unrelated horn arcs quickly gelling into two interlocking rings. The section ended with the front ensemble percussionists recapping the main theme of “Orawa.”
A lone rifle toss led into Richard Danielpour's “Anima Mundi,” Latin for “Life of the World.” The title represents the concept that all living things are connected to one another, comparable to how the soul is connected to the human body. The work was written in 1995 for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, depicting both the seasons of the year and the stages of human life. Danielpour, who cites The Beatles as an influence on his work, strives to create contemporary music that is accessible by the audience, and, as such, has no qualms about writing memorable melodies.
The opening of the piece was dark and violent, coming from “Musica Verna (Spring Music),” the first of the ballet's four movements. It's been written that this segment of the ballet evokes “wide-open spaces and rays of sunlight.”
At first, it appeared that two different sets of rifles were used by the color guard, one painted yellow and one white with accents of a red stripe. But on closer view, the yellow devices were just shaped like rifles. They were sometimes utilized to form barrier walls, and when attached to other yellow items of the same shape, were opened and closed like the blades of scissors to create a variety of forms that provided separation within the drum line.
The piece ended just as the Beal selection had, with a quote from the theme of “Orawa,” except this time, it was loudly raucous.
The show concluded with part two of Kilar's “Orawa.” Large silks with colors of deep purples and blues at first provided the main visual attraction before the guard performers picked up flags in shades of a light blue the same color as their costumes. The brass players coalesced into a single squiggly line and led themselves down a curvy path of their own making, leading into a block obtuse triangle that provided a brief moment of silence that allowed the audience to shout out, “Vanguard!”
Toward the end, the five members of the cymbal line ran to the center front of the field through the pathway created by two lines of horns moving in opposite directions. They were followed by 10 guard members who once again utilized those earlier yellow scissor-like contraptions.
The cymbals performed the “Viper,” their trademark acrobatic head-chopper maneuver where the outer two players each pass a cymbal over the heads of their neighbors as the center player jumps high for added effect. During this, the 10 guard members ran around the cymbals and then flattened their equipment to form an outline of the Vanguard logo crest as the cymbals formed a giant “V” with their plates.
It was a classic Vanguard moment set amidst the innovative sensibility of the show. But then, cutting-edge innovation is classic Vanguard.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than 35 years 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, Indiana.