Blue Devils’ "Rhythms… At the Edge of Time" explored how the evolution of music is influenced by rhythms from various cultures, with a heavy predominance of Latin percussion.
The show earned the Devils their 10th DCI World Championship title, tying at the Finals with Santa Clara Vanguard while winning the visual, brass, color guard and ensemble captions.
It was the last year the corps played on G-keyed bugles, 2000 being the season that Blue Devils and The Cadets moved to B-flat horns. It helped open up the floodgates of transition for most other World Class corps in 2001.
Blue Devils' Pounding 1999 Opener
This opener!! 💪 🤩 📰 dci.fan/1999BD #DCI1999 | Blue Devils Drum & Bugle CorpsPosted by Drum Corps International on Wednesday, April 19, 2023
The show explored the rhythmic styles of Afro-Cuban, rhumba, samba, tango, jazz and swing, united by a heavy dollop of drum features; such as the grounded Latin surdo drums that opened up the show with a lengthy pounding proclamation that could be heard in the next county. When the bass drums joined in, it was almost a shock that the drumming could be even louder.
The first featured rhythm to hit the field was the Afro-Cuban-inspired "Malambo: Danza Final" from Argentinian composer Alberto Ginestera's "Estancia." Almost more rhythmic than melodic at times, the piece let the horns rip some major volume after sneaking onto the field backward before turning around for the opening fanfare.
A wide variety of Latin percussion in the front ensemble offered a richly complex cauldron of beats, each drum color skillfully scored to be heard individually and to complement the other intertwined rhythms. One of the joys of this show was watching the color guard members interpret each featured rhythm with body movements reflective of each of the six different styles.
The main rhumba segment from Australian composer Graeme Koehne's "Powerhouse, Rhumba for Orchestra" was the next selection, kind of keeping the lid on the boiling rhythms underneath.
The following samba section from the same work gave the sopranos a chance to unleash a flurry of continuous fast notes that was a hallmark of the corps' brass charts particularly through the 1990s. It was during this segment that the horns aptly demonstrated that they could deliver as much volume as the drums.
Astor Piazzolla's "Adios Nonino" offered a tango feature for the color guard, paired as couples for much of the piece. Toward the end, the horns formed a block triangle and moved to the upper left corner the field. The weird thing about this was that it seemed the further the horns got from the stands, the louder they became.
Koehne's "Unchained Melody" got a running start out of the end of the Piazzolla piece. The drums kicked in as the horns were tapering off to silence, the drums moving from backfield, left of center to the front center of the field as the horns held a long final chord off in the corner. This Koehne work represented the (modern) jazz segment of the show, full of articulate stabbing brass chords.
The drums then kicked in with a swing beat to introduce Brian Seltzer's "Dirty Boogie," with the surdo drums making another appearance as the horns casually ambled to the front. They then poured into two solid block triangles to cut loose in a classic drum corps "park 'n' blow" before turning backfield, the mallets unleashing a flurry of fast notes and the guard picking up blazing yellow flags backfield.
The entire last minute of the show was a continuous build of volume, intensity and drama; with a fake-out ending that only served as a springboard for the final 15 seconds.
If the show had gone on any longer at that point, I don't know what would have given out first: the lips of the horn players, the hands of the drummers, the hips of the guard members or the ears of the audience.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He wrote about the drum corps activity for more than 35 years while serving as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. During his lifetime Boo wrote for numerous other publications including an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. He also was an accomplished composer. Boo passed away in 2020 and was inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame posthumously in 2021.