Brian Ellis, artistic and program director for The Battalion, noticed something about the Utah corps’ performers throughout the summer of 2023. 

They were quite good, he said, at embodying a character within their performance, and connecting with audiences.

“They were very willing to step up and really make some heavy connections with the audience,” Ellis said. “All these drum corps kids are, but they were really willing to put a lot of emotion into what they were doing.”

With this in mind, The Battalion’s designers wanted to give corps members as immersive a production as possible in 2024.

“If there's anything I took away from last year’s performers, it was that they were emotional people,” Ellis said. “And they like to express themselves. I think it was at that point that the design team started talking about what we could do to captivate that.”

In the eyes of Ellis and the Utah corps’ design team, The Battalion’s 2024 program “Dead Reckoning: The Folly of the Spanish Armada” perfectly fits the bill. Telling the story of the famed Spanish fleet’s rise and fall during the 16th century, the corps’ production will offer members the opportunity to personify powerful and intense emotions.

“In the big picture, the show is about the Spanish Armada fleet, and the journey it took from Spain to England,” Ellis said. “This is going to provide them a vehicle to be highly emotional on the field, and really make connections with the audience.”

Ellis was clear, though. The Battalion, in 2024, will tell the whole story of the Spanish Armada, both in its immense power and in its ultimate failures. The mighty Armada, which was sent to vanquish England in 1588, suffered decisive defeat in adverse weather conditions, and in doing so, ceded naval power to its English rivals. 

“This story has gone on for ages, different cultures that run in with a military might and think they're going to be successful,” he said. “And as it turns out, they're maybe not always so successful. The show is called ‘The Folly of the Spanish Armada,’ because the Spanish Armada did not win that battle.”

Visually-speaking, The Battalion will do everything it can to evoke the imagery of the Spanish Armada. Ellis described a corps uniform emulative of a naval officer, while also using prop pieces like ship masts and ropes to set the scenery.

“The whole idea there is that we're trying to make the performers feel really strong and fierce in the way we costume them,” Ellis said. “We want them to step out on the field and feel that strength in that uniform.”

And in terms of the corps’ musical package, Ellis described the repertoire as having a “war-like sound.” 

The Battalion plans to develop a high-energy production with music recognizable to longtime drum corps fans, including a pair of Chick Corea charts — ”My Spanish Heart” and “Spanish Fantasy.” 

Drum corps staples like Bill Holman’s “Malaga” and Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malagueña” will also play a notable role in the corps’ soundtrack. 

“We’re doing the iconics,” he said. “We've done about half of the show so far with the kids, and what they’ve played so far, the kids are just loving every second of it. It’s just high energy, high impact, requires a lot of the kids, and they're having a good time with it.”

As the 2024 season nears, excitement around the Utah corps is building.

For one, 2024 marks The Battalion’s 10th anniversary. The corps will also embark on its most extensive tour yet. 

As of the late 2010s, The Battalion’s tour schedules generally consisted of a single-digit number of shows, spread throughout the Western United States. 2022 and 2023 saw the corps expand its legs to the DCI World Championships, while still keeping its total number of performances right around 10 or fewer. 

This summer, though, the Utah corps will kick off its summer tour July 10 in Ogden, Utah, and essentially go non-stop for a full month, through the DCI World Championships in Indiana this August. In total, The Battalion will log 14 tour stops in about 30 days. 

“We're starting to see more and more every year that the locations of our students get more and more diverse and more spread out,” corps director Tyler Hess said. “So, I'm excited to be able to take this corps into states we've never been to before and show other communities what The Battalion has to offer.”

And while the subject of the corps’ 2024 production may not have been well-equipped for its lofty endeavors, The Battalion is readily prepared to set sail on the exciting journey ahead.

“This organization is really smart about taking steps forward every year,” Ellis said. “And I think this year’s schedule is definitely the next step.”

View The Battalion's 2024 DCI Tour Schedule