Two penalties assessed during the 2015 Drum Corps International World Championships in Indianapolis were among the most talked about competitive themes as the final events of the summer unfolded at Lucas Oil Stadium for the seventh consecutive year.
After placing fourth in the Prelims competition due to a half-point warm-up penalty, and after finishing second to Carolina Crown in the Semifinals, the Blue Devils managed to come from behind and win their 17th World Championship title.
Another corps, Crossmen, was hit even harder in the Semifinals, suffering a whopping 1.4-point penalty for a delayed start. That almost dropped the corps to 13th place, with the San Antonio corps keeping its spot among the top-12 advancing finalists with only 0.075 points to spare.
Boston Crusaders celebrated 75 years with its 10th-place production, “Conquest,” playing off the title of the corps’ celebrated theme song by Alfred Newman. The composer won nine Academy Awards, including one for the “Conquest” theme which came from the 1947 Hollywood epic, “Captain from Castile.” The corps supplemented the main musical selections throughout with original compositions by corps staff arrangers Ryan George and Ellis Hampton.
As the visual cornerstone of the production, the corps utilized 34 fabric banners surrounding a central stage in the shape of a diamond. Each side of the diamond was flanked by the moveable banners, in four different colors (purple, red, blue, green) representing four different kingdoms. As the show evolved, one-by-one all but the final color of the banners disappeared, successively replaced by those of the victorious side.
Kicking things off, on and in front of the stage were 17 large war drums that dominated the sound of synthesized bagpipes and the “Main Title” from the televised series, “Game of Thrones.”
Eventually the well-known bugle calls of “Conquest” emanated from the corners of the field which then led into “Palladio” by Karl Jenkins. The composer wrote the piece for a 1993 De Beers Diamond commercial and then worked it into a 1995 three-movement string work of the same name. The Boston Crusaders design team specifically chose the piece to pay homage to the corps’ diamond anniversary.
During this segment, color guard members with sabers assumed a battle pose, anticipating the coming combat strife as numerous banners changed colors to reflect new alliances.
All eyes focused on a solo vocalist next, who took center stage to introduce “Take What is Ours,” composed by Brian Tyler for the 2013 video game, “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.” Tyler is renowned as a film composer, writing for movies as diverse as the “Fast and Furious” franchise and the 2018 hit, “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Propelling the storyline, the vocalist sung in native dialect, welcoming outsiders into the territory in the belief that survival of the kingdom was best served by being open to the outside world. As the tempo picked up and a battle ensued, the first side to fall was green which was absorbed by purple. By the end of the piece, the blue side had also fallen, absorbed by the red victors.
The solo vocalist returned for the next selection, “Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus,” by famous British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. The composer wrote the piece in 1939 for harp and string orchestra, based on the same folk song he quoted in the opening movement of his popular 1923 “English Folk Song Suite.”
The vocalist sang atop the stage, surrounded by color guard members who utilized fencing foils as part of their dance. This movement ended dramatically as the singer hit a sustained high note while stabbing an individual she felt betrayed the cause.
Setting off a final clash between red and purple sides, the corps utilized noted film composer Hans Zimmer’s “The Battle,” which came from the soundtrack of the 2000 Academy Award-winning movie, “Gladiator.” The action quickly reached a fever pitch as all banners turned red with a snippet of “Conquest” soaring across the field.
As additional nods to the history of the Boston Crusaders during its milestone 75th anniversary season, the front ensemble snuck in the official corps song “Giant,” and a final drill maneuver saw brass players up front rotating into a diamond.
As the corps played its final notes, the 34 red banners now in the traditional color of corps’ uniforms, stood victorious across the field as waymarkers to the corps’ next 75 years.
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.