Boston Crusaders’ ninth-place production “Thy Kingdom Come” celebrated the corps’ 70th anniversary, telling the story of the allure of an omnipresent throne that continually enticed members to seek the power that could be achieved by conquering it and making it one’s own.
The show was inspired by “The Tudors,” a 2007-2010 television series about the reign of Henry VIII, set in 16th Century England and produced for the Showtime cable network. It was difficult to see in person, but the top of the throne featured a carved “LXX,” the Roman numerals for “70.” Above the “LXX” was “Waldo,” the corps’ logo, a split-tailed lion.
One of the fun elements of the show was watching the long line of pretenders to the throne attempt to seize their own personal moment in the sun, ultimately to no avail. Others were continuously prepared to knock anyone else off the lofty perch in a constant game of King of the Hill. Indeed, ascending to the throne was like having a target on one’s back. Throughout the show, the color guard members, drums and horns constantly pushed each other around the field in a game of strategy, represented by chess pieces printed on the flags. Of additional interest was the wide-variety of choreography the brass players employed throughout, a dramatic increase over the corps’ previous use of dance techniques.
The pre-show opened with corps members drawn to the allure of the throne, accompanied by the strains of an originally by staff composer Jay Kennedy, “Throne Procession and Fanfare.” The procession was a quietly regal introduction upon which members of the guard carried aloft a caped figure who was their choice for ruler. A block of horns accompanied their own choice for ruler, while musically intruding on the opening played in the front ensemble percussion section.
The announcement of the corps led into the beginning of the fanfare segment and the judged portion of the show. Brass players played while sitting on “human thrones,” comprised of the legs of others, imagery that appeared in various forms throughout the show.
After the heroics of the opener, the scheming got serious with the oppressive relentlessness of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 10, Movement 2, Allegro.” Long persecuted by the Russian government, Shostakovich wrote this symphony shortly after Stalin died. Many have described the work as a musical portrait of Stalin, with the second movement representing a musical mockery of cruel dictator. During this piece, several members were drawn to stand upon the throne, but none were chosen by their brethren to stay.
The corps moved away from the throne during the backfield mood change of Jay Kennedy’s “Power Shift,” but was drawn back during the drum solo that soon followed. Kennedy based this transitional material on the melody and harmony of the preceding Shostakovich piece. Two competing sections of percussionists coalesced around the throne before joining forces, allowing the bass drums to momentarily trap a color guard soloist on the throne before climbing upon it themselves. An interesting visual element of the ongoing power shift was watching the flags change colors as the leadership changed, in this piece and throughout the show.
The relentless intensity of “Planet Damnation,” originally a 2007 work for solo timpani and orchestra by Greek-New Zealand composer John Psathas, was intended to create a sense of unease as the throne remained empty. The citizens were without a ruler and didn’t know which way to turn, and at the same time, less savory characters attempted to proclaim themselves as the new ruler to gain advantage over their foes. A tight form of brass appeared to manipulate the color guard.
Unable to break the stalemate, the brass marched away and the percussion took over guardianship of the throne. Much dissonant tension captured the unsettling nature of the visual theme. A solid block diamond formation of horns was divided up into four smaller diamonds, each pointing a different direction and crescendoing independently as if each was expressing desire for its own ruler.
2010 Boston Crusaders
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation 18” provided a much-needed counterbalance to the constant aggressiveness of the prior music. During this time, the various factions on the field were momentarily at peace. Two guard members, their passion more intense with the ever-louder music, appeared to have a romantic liaison, but were suspected of romancing the throne more than each other.
The horns formed a heart around the two lovers and the female leaped off the throne into the waiting arms of her lover, just as the tight circular block of horns, off to the side, reached the climactic apex of the movement. It was one of the most perfectly timed events on the field that year. Afterward, half the horns reclined on the field with their legs up and bent, providing “human thrones” for the rest of the horn line.
Regal purple flags came out during Jay Kennedy’s “Quest for Glory,” leading into the corps’ familiar song, “Conquest,” starting with the famed bugle calls that have made their way into many of the corps’ productions and moving into the main melody during a company front push.
Several more horn players tried to claim the throne, with each lasting only a few seconds. At the very end, the throne was defiantly claimed on behalf of the entire corps, now looking forward upon its next 70 years.
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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, Indiana.