The 2004 Drum Corps International World Championships came to Denver's INVESCO Field at Mile High. The newly built facility was only three years old at the time, having replaced the earlier Mile High Stadium that hosted the DCI World Championship Finals in 1977 and 1978.
Among a large number of tight contests, Glassmen made it into the Finals by just 0.075 over Spirit, and the Cavaliers won their sixth DCI title by just 0.175 over the Blue Devils.
Starting with the 2004 DCI Tour, amplification in the front ensemble percussion section was permitted for the first time, and no corps embraced it with the fervor of Carolina Crown. The corps' seventh-place "Bohemia" production utilized poetry and singing with an unapologetic fervor. The show captured the mood and ambiance of the movement of largely impoverished artists, musicians, actors and intellectuals who lived beyond the edge of established society. The movement attracted those who were not enamored by the lure of material goods and a normal 9-to-5 job.
The show started with Bedrïch Smetana's "Ma Vlast (My Fatherland)," from a series of six works written in celebration of the historic Central European country of Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), a nation that dated back to the time of the Holy Roman Empire. Smetana wrote the works after he had become completely deaf in 1874.
During the opening moments of the show, the words "Freedom," "Beauty," "Truth" and "Love" were quickly spelled out in the drill formations. They were words that would later return as part of the corps' narration.
A brief snippet from Giacomo Puccini's "La Bohème" opened the next segment. Puccini is often regarded as the greatest Italian opera composer after Giuseppe Verdi. The 1896 premiere of the opera was one of the first conducting successes of Arturo Toscanini, arguably the greatest symphonic conductor ever. The libretto of the opera portrays young bohemians of the 1840s living in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
Jonathon Larson's "Seasons of Love" from the Broadway musical "Rent" came next. The rock musical was an update of "La Bohème," set in New York City's Lower East Side instead of Paris. Singing had never been put on the drum corps field so unabashedly, with five corps members belting out the verse about the number of minutes in a year. Members then yelled out those four words that were seen in the first few seconds of the opening drill formations, "Freedom," "Beauty," "Truth" and "Love."
The segment from "Rent" led into "The Beat Generation," based on "Epistrophy" by jazz pianist and composer Thelonius Monk and drummer Kenny Clarke who is widely credited with the development of the ride cymbal in jazz drumming. Many jazz historians regard this 1942 jazz standard as the first classic, modern jazz composition.
A lone guard member recited a Beatnik poem by Jack Kerouac as the percussion provided the accompaniment. Kerouac was an icon of the Beat Generation for his impulsive writings that seemed to flow effortlessly from a stream of consciousness, with little sense of traditional structure. He coined the term "Beat Generation" to refer to a group of post-World War II writers who came together in New York, before most of them floated to San Francisco. The writers celebrated what they perceived to be an underground movement of non-conformists.
No show about Bohemia or bohemians would be complete without "Bohemian Rhapsody," the 1980s smash hit penned by Queen's flamboyant Freddie Mercury. The work was written for the band's 1975 album, "A Night At the Opera," and became the most expensive single ever produced up to that time. Topping the charts in many countries, it only hit number nine in America, but it soared to number two in 1992 after it appeared in the film, "Wayne's World," the year after Mercury's death.
At the end, the members of Carolina Crown sang the "Nothing really matters" lyrics from the end of Queen's piece, with the color guard spelling "Bohemia" in the center of a lopsided heart formed by the horns and drum line.
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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.