The Devils found themselves in fourth place after the Prelims competition after a half a point warm-up infraction that put the California corps behind Carolina Crown, Bluecoats, and the Cadets. The corps battled back each night before winning the title more than a half a point ahead of the nearest competition.
Among the most intriguing visual moments of the year, the Cadets changed all yard line markers to “10” for its “The Power of Ten” production, and Santa Clara Vanguard started its show in the form of Tesla Coils that “ignited” color guard members to toss their equipment. Drill forms representing Parisian icons filled up Phantom Regiment’s show, and Blue Stars featured a member who was a world-class juggler.
The Blue Devils weren’t the only corps at the 2015 DCI World Championships facing the ramifications of a penalty. Audience members almost didn’t see the 12th place Crossmen in the Finals competition due to a massive 1.4-point infraction for going overtime in the Semifinals.
The corps’ “Above and Beyond” production opened with electronic bird sounds that corps members relied upon to get the show underway, but problems with the electronics system delayed the start. The penalty placed the corps less than a tenth of a point (0.075) over the 13th place Troopers.
Crossmen’s production incorporated visual imagery centered on discovery, the dream of flight, and the world above, with numerous tarps and screens spread across the field depicting fluffy clouds.
The bird sounds previously mentioned led into Eric Whitacre’s 2013 composition “Fly to Paradise,” a choral work written for his “Virtual Choir 4” ensemble. The composer is best known for his choral works, though drum corps have performed several of his wind works over the past two decades.
Color guard members introduced various pastel wings and flags, while a lone female vocalist introduced the work, which was relatively short. Shorter yet was “Ascent,” a percussion interlude written by Crossmen arranger Andrew Markworth.
Next came “Jubal Step” which is the first of 12 movements of “All Rise,” a massive 100-minute work composed by Wynton Marsalis in 1999 on commission of the New York Philharmonic. Marsalis is famed as a trumpet player and jazz educator who’s long glorified the blues, which he believes is a foundation of much of America’s music. According to Marsalis, the magnum opus, featuring a full orchestra, a jazz orchestra, and three choirs, “is about the rise from destruction to creativity, about drawing joy out of tragedy and refusing to be beaten down.”
The piece brought featured brass players to a big cloud tarp set up in front of the front ensemble percussion section and also introduced a giant paper airplane prop. It was said that those props were particularly challenging in which to move about, being that the points stuck out so far in front, it was difficult for performers to see what was directly in front of them. At the end of the piece, the entire horn line marched into a giant paper airplane formation and piloted it toward the left front corner of the field.
The corps then transitioned to “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” a work co-written by Joe Sample, a pianist who was one of the founders of the jazz fusion group Jazz Crusaders in the early 1960s. The other co-writer was Will Jennings, best known for writing the lyrics for James Horner’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the blockbuster film “Titanic.” The melody is based on Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” from “The Nutcracker Suite.” The song perhaps achieved its widest recognition when sung by Nicole Kidman in the 2001 movie, “Moulin Rouge.”
Several white kites affixed to 16-inch poles rode the breeze over the field during the ballad, while the entire horn line moved to the cloud tarp in the front of the field.
During the transition into the closing piece, the snare and tenor drummers took over the front tarp, whirling around as each sequentially chased a drum roll across the tarp. This created the effect of the roll evaporating into mid-air, one of the truly Kismet-like effects of the season for fans of percussion.
The female vocalist returned to introduce the final work in the show, “Butterfly.” Mia Marakoff wrote the music and lyrics for the piece for a track on Finnish a cappella vocal ensemble Rajaton’s 2001 album, “Boundless.”
While the earlier props represented things leaving the bounds of earth and going up into the sky, for “Butterfly,” Crossmen staff members figured out how to give the impression of someone clinging to a parachute while gently falling out of the sky and returning to earth.
The corps’ staff saw the show as offering a sense of arriving somewhere. “You can do whatever you want to do,” Crossmen show designer Ed Devlin said about the theme. “When you look at the sky, you dream about what’s up there and if you can push beyond and go further in your life.”
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.