By Michael Boo
The WGI Winds World Championships in Dayton, Ohio, now in its fifth year of existence, hosted 45 units from 16 states and one European country. Most groups utilized a special floor covering to convey the theme, with some choosing to go all in on a storyline and some focusing solely on the music as the storyteller.
Increasingly, more groups are utilizing rhythm tracks for most of the percussion contribution, some not even having a percussion section and most others having a relatively small complement of percussion. When groups have percussion, the section was sometimes just two members—one a drum set player and the other playing synthesizer. This is largely due to many of the lines in both Independent and Scholastic divisions also having indoor marching percussion lines competing both the same weekends of the WGI regional events and the final week of the season.
Although there is a defined structure, the rules of what can be done in Winds are fairly open; so each year, more ensembles feel increasingly free to experiment with different and unique setups, visual complements and instrumentation. The result is a variety that keeps things fresh for the audience and keeps people guessing about where WGI Winds will go from here.
As Wayne Markworth, Director of WGI Winds, states: “We are really excited about the jump in performance quality this year in all classes, and the variety of styles and instrumentation is fascinating.”
Scholastic World Winds
Cleveland HS (NC) (Gold – 95.00) presented “Joker,” opening with Michael Daugherty’s frenetic “Desi.” Wearing joker masks, the show didn’t really tell a story as much as it created a sense of a joker character—his impishness, his thumbing his nose at the strictures of societal norms, and his overall tweaking of the nose of the establishment. This group really knew how to swing, leaving no energy left behind on the floor.
Flanagan HS (FL) (Silver – 94.35) performed “Paralyzed,” an abstract portrayal of a love story; a romance that was never meant to be. Set to music of “Animal,” “Love You More,” and “I’ll Always Love You,” a couple met for the first time and had apprehensions of whether either wanted to go down the road of romance again. After they fell in love, they realized they weren’t right for one another and broke up, realizing that even apart, they’ll always care about each other.
Mililani HS (HI) (Bronze – 92.975) performed “At My Last Breath,” passing through one’s years towards the ultimate conclusion of life. Performed to no rhythm section, the program implored the viewer to make the most of every day, to waste nothing and to live life one small moment at a time. The unit ended the production under a giant white scrim, creating one of the most indelible sights of the weekend.
“Leave No Trace” of Avon HS (IN) (4th – 92.95) captured the romance of old movies set in the expansive deserts of Africa, akin to “Lawrence of Arabia.” A floor of sand and sets resembling palm trees were enhanced by costumes resembling what one might find at the great market of Marrakesh. At the end, the entire unit disappeared behind the back walls, leaving no trace as their footprints were covered up by the blowing sands of time.
Burleson Centennial HS (TX) (5th – 92.75) presented the haunting story, “Just Like Me,” telling the story of Harry Chapin’s life lesson, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” including both that song and Glinka’s “Russlan and Ludmilla”—the latter utilized to represent the fun of childhood and a youth’s play with his father. The star of the show was a young boy, conveying the joy of being with his dad and the loneliness of his dad being away from him so often, heard during “All by Myself.”
Azle HS (TX) (6th – 90.875) wore monks’ robes and hoods for “Voltaire,” inspired by the writings of the French philosopher who strongly promoted the ideas of freedom of speech and the separation of church and state—ideas of which the United States of America was founded. As the robes came off, multi-colored costumes of a jester quality introduced the artistic freedom of being one’s own self, unbridled by the restrictions of societal norms. Of special note were ten members playing on mouth keyboard Melodicas.
“Whose Side Are You On” of Greenfield Central HS (IN) (7th – 88.75) presented the idea that there are often two sides of every story, with half of the members in red uniforms, and the other half wearing blue. Visual gestures directed towards each other side was often of a threatening nature, heightened by the strains of “The Wild Ride” from “North by Northwest.” The two opposing sides rarely came together, but started to do so once a soloist from each side got together to introduce “True Colors,” culminating with “Stand by Me.”
Plymouth HS (IN) (8th – 85.25) performed the music of Jack Stamp’s “Gavorkna Fanfare” and William Bolcom’s “Machine” during “A.I. – The Beginning of the End,” a dystopian peek into the future. The members wore masks to cover their personal identities and make themselves appear as automatons. Banks of blinking LED lights reminded all that technology was in charge, and a clarinet soloist at the end was strapped into a rotating wheel, capturing the essence of being thoroughly dominated by artificial intelligence.
Independent World Winds
Rhythm X (OH) (Gold – 96.60) explored the music of The Beatles with “A Day in the Life,” wearing costumes inspired by those of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The ensemble utilized no sets or props, generating visual effect via extensive and smooth marching. Members of the Fab Four were heard discussing the band’s origins, the ensemble interpreting the narration with songs relevant to the narration. Much of the music was performed in a symphonic manner, demonstrating that the music of The Beatles is timeless enough to withstand being ported over to just about any activity—provided it’s done with the quality of Rhythm X.
“The First Gift” of STRYKE Wynds (FL) (Silver – 93.025) was inspired by the creation of the planet and the gift of light—exploring the opening of new vistas at a time when everything was new and begging to be explored. The show was all about leaving the darkness and shadows of the past, venturing out into the wonders untold waiting under the radiance of the sunlight of the daytime hours.
With “The Other Side/El Otro Lado,” University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Winds (TX) (Bronze – 92.30) told the story of life on both sides of the wall separating the USA and Mexico. Except for one soloist, all the other performers started behind the wall, half in wildly colorful Mexican costumes and the other half in more formal attire. Music conveyed the excitement of the cultures on both sides of the border. The show ended with all once again behind the wall, the drab side facing the audience in contrast to the festive colors painted on the other side.
The main visual focus of “Elevate” of Orion Winds (TX) (4th – 90.250) was four large teeter-totter assemblies that allowed eight performers to spin and soar in the air, and served (when not spinning) to divide the floor into different performance areas. Music included Radiohead’s “You” and “Paranoid Android,” sandwiched around Flume’s “You and Me.” The show was based on the concept of elevating oneself physically, mentally and emotionally, allowing oneself to soar to new heights in everything one does.
Crossmen (TX) (5th – 86.375) delivered “Off Center,” a quirky production based around the concept of being visually askew in how one stands, kneels and sits. Members constantly explored different ways of presenting their bodies, often leaning to the side or balancing on one foot. Trumpets were held from falling over by being held by one outstretched leg. Equally off-center was the group’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony.”
FIU Indoor Winds (FL) (6th – 85.275) delved into the counter-cultural phenomenon of the Burning Man festival in “ReBurn,” exploring rock hits such as The Doors’ “Break on Through” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Rock guitars on a stage created the sense of the rock concert atmosphere of the festival, and a representation of the Burning Man construction stood in the center of the floor—the attraction for all in attendance.