By Michael Boo
WGI Winds, in its fourth year of existence, increased in numbers from 20 units in 2015 to 45 units at the 2018 WGI World Championships in Dayton. Units came from 20 states spanning the breath of America, earlier performing in fourteen regional events staged across the country. There was a great degree of variety among the competing ensembles, with some telling a story and others focusing on the music to convey the theme.
Several groups utilized props and sets and had complex floor designs, while others left their visual program stripped down. Many groups also had a small guard component. Most groups had a small stationary ensemble of percussion instruments, except more often than not set at the back of the performing area to keep the front visually open. Amplification of these instruments has made it possible to place them anywhere.
“City Trees” of Lake Hamilton HS (Gold Medal – 92.650) created the scene of a city part, with trees, street lamps, a park bench, and a tall garbage receptacle sitting atop a floor of stone pavers. This wasn’t a show about nature, but rather, about the refuge one finds in their soul from visiting such a place, either in person or in their mind, with the main point being that we are all part of the same tree. With 36 brass and woodwinds, this was one of the larger musical ensembles, allowing for a chorale sound that approached organ-like.
“Blurred Lines” of Newnan HS (Silver Medal – 92.575) delivered a jazzy production not shy to flurries of woodwind runs. With a winds component of 36 brass and woodwinds complemented by five additional woodwinds from within the guard, this ensemble was able to produce sonorities during the chorale segment that were emotionally draining. The title was not meant to be taken literally, but it could have been had the winds not been so articulate and clear in how they presented the music.
Daviess County HS (Bronze Medal – 88.975) opened “A Study in Pink” with just one member attired in pink amidst the scenes of yesteryear London. Pink suitcases and a pink umbrella broke up the gray drabness of the Sherlock Holmes-like costuming of the winds, with long trench coats and British beanies accompanying the tweed trousers. A notable element of the music was the lack of any percussionists, with whatever rhythm there was delivered by a pre-programmed click track.
“City Streets” of Bellevue East HS (4th – 87.988) wasn’t locked into any one form of music, performing equally well in straight-ahead idioms as well as tango. Although there were evening cityscapes on small backdrops, the music was designed more to convey at attitude of city residents than tell a literal story of life in a city. The final work a bluesy ditty that sounded like something one might hear in a nightclub with live music, once the performers left work and let down their hair.
Fluorescent neon dabs of forest colors on the floor provided the abstract backdrop to “Woods,” the program of Pecos HS (5th – 86.788) that opened and closed with nature sounds to set and reinforce the mood. This was a show that did not use the music to tell a literal story. Rather, the music paid homage to the temperaments one might experience when strolling through a forest; feelings of elation of being one with nature balanced against feelings of repose from the tranquility being experienced.
Gulfport HS (6th – 86.525), with simple black uniforms that kept the focus on the music, was one of the groups that didn’t tell a story. “Circle in a Square” referenced arc segments and squares on the group’s tarp, the show continually building to the final few moments when all the music was slowly stripped away to reveal just the rhythmic framework as the members dissolved into the floor, individual utterances from solo wind players winding down as if a grandfather clock ran out of coil tension.
Hollister HS (7th – 83.625) opened “Into the Light” with members clad in black hooded robes and member of the guard clad in the white of goodness, while the rest of the guard members was dressed in black. Individual performers played from atop three giant teeter-totters as others manipulate the planes. As the show progressed from darkness towards light, the rest of the guard’s costuming changed to white, ending with the guard playing individual chimes proclaiming the victory of light over darkness.
A small group of 17 winds and just one percussionist, John I. Leonard HS (8th – 83.400) had to depend on every member to more than carry their weight, which they did. A white floor and white costumes made for a minimalist look in “The Emerald Order,” save for the large painted circle on the floor and emerald stripes on one leg and arm of each costume. The entire musical book was based on variations of the classic melody known as “Greensleeves,” providing a unified sense to the musical book.
Rock Hill HS’s (9th – 83.363) program of “The Gallery” showed the wind members with silver faces and bodies, standing upon podiums as if cast of metal. At night a lone custodian came into the room to clean up as the statues removed the art from the walls. Caught by the custodian, the statues had a change of heart and rehung the artworks, and the show ended with the custodian having turned into one of the statues while a “help wanted” sign was posted for a new custodian.
The lime green plumes of Greenwood HS (10th – 82.756), combined with lime green foliage on tree props, was quite a visual statement for the Greenwood HS show, “Once Upon a Blue Moon,” performed to selections by Claude Debussy. A large illuminated moon scene took up most of the floor covering, contrasting beautifully with the green flags and long green ribbons. At the end, the members filled in between the tree sets, freezing in position and seeming to become trees themselves.
The 19 Baroque mirror frames of “I Am” and the ornate mirror emblazoned on the unit’s floor lent a sense of the historical past to the Kosciusko HS (11th – 82.425) production, though the show was more about how individuals evolve and toughen up throughout their lives. The mirrors, which were inferred by the frames, provided not a reflection of the individuals, but rather a reflection of their souls and their self-actualization that played off the narration, “I am strong and fearless.”
calendar of the year was the floor for the Hart County HS (12th – 80.938) production of “The Seasons,” which commenced with the Christmastime “Carol of the Bells” before evolving into the daisy flags and flower petal umbrellas of spring. A ringing school bell announced the real beginning of summer, as students poured out of school amidst the roasting intenseithy of blazing sun flags. Bronze-toned glitter spinning out of flags of changing leaves, the show returning to frigid cold of winter.
Marion L. Steele HS (13th – 79.575) performed “RA,” inspired by the lore of the ancient Egyptian sun god that head the head of a falcon. A backdrop of a pyramid and the introduction early in the show of a sun prop further drove home the historical significance. Costumes were based on the wrap-around skirts one typically sees in Egyptian docudramas. Music was of the sort utilized in epic movies about the era, with lots of soaring melodic passages and fanfares fit for a pharaoh.
Washington HS (14th – 76.725) kicked off “Tribal Effect” the plaintive call of an alto saxophone. Wearing primitive tribal costumes and spiked feather headdresses, this was not the look of a group you’d want to run into at night in a darkened alley. Six stationary horizontal bass drums contributed to the throbbing pounding that made the music edgy and disconcerting, and yellow flags against the primeval forest backdrop shocked the senses out of any complacency.
Gaffney HS’s (15th – 75.800) “Tell Me What You See” was based on the music of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” heard in its traditional form as well as contemporized versions. Psychoanalysts observed a patient who just wanted to play her trumpet, creating much paperwork that littered the floor. The rest of the ensemble members were faceless drones behind sunglasses and metallic silver hoodie costumes. Flags of Rorschach inkblots further traumatized the patient, who tore up the final report in one last act of defiance.
Nine sets of doors were spread across the floor during the Smith-Cotton HS (16th – 73.200) production of, “When a Door Closes.” Opening music was plaintive and somewhat sad, a musical commentary on the melancholy one experiences when a door in their life closes, such as a job opportunity. With twelve winds, and eight marching percussion, it was unusual to see an auxiliary component of ten members, mostly on flags. At the end, the music became optimistic as the doors were opened to reveal new opportunities.
Independent A Winds
Valley Christian Performing Indoor Ensemble (Gold Medal – 89.025) utilized four large staircases during “Chrome X” to present performing platforms and allow twirling guard equipment and wind members to sail over the rest of the floor. Glittering silver costumes, silver-painted faces, and several long silver ribbons filled the floor with a shimmering effervescence. The late-show appearance of large lamé flags of various colors, followed by silver lamé flags, delivered an explosion of silver.
Inertia Independent Winds’ (Silver Medal – 88.800) show, “Persona,” was a relatively abstract musical program that didn’t set out to convey an exact storyline. That said, each segment of music did seem to express a different element of one’s personality, perhaps as seen through the eyes of those wearing the glasses emblazoned on the vibrant green flags. At the end, a few members donned superhero costumes as we heard the narration, “We can be heroes, just for one day.”
LSM Winds (Bronze Medal – 85.225) utilized one drum set player and one synth player for “The Next Step,” a show not driven by an overt theme. However, there was a set of risers of three steps that was utilized on occasion by various instrumentalists. Basically upbeat and optimistic, the music, unaccompanied by a guard, was buoyantly happy, playing off the vibrancy of the iridescent blue floor.
“The Year of the Butterfly” commenced with lovely large and colorful butterfly wings displayed by the Fleurish Winds (4th – 81.375) guard, prior to the appearance of long white butterfly nets. The small wind component was notable for three flutes that often played in harmony. The entire show focused on the beauty of butterflies and the lovely music that captured the essence of the creatures gracefully flitting through the air. Few shows capture the “aaaaaaaaaaaah” of WGI Winds like this one.
Evidence from Evidence from William Carey University (5th – 78.275) saluted those veterans who gave their efforts—and in some cases—their lives, in “Heroes.” Music started out reverential in honor of those being revered, then turned aggressive to reflect the chaos of battle. Near the end, a recitation about their sacrifices as the winds faced backwards while kneeling led into a final salute as a member of the military presented a flag to a grieving widow of a veteran killed in action.
With just 15 winds and no guard or percussion section, In Motion Wind Performance Company (6th – 78.050) performed “Lunacy” to a pre-recorded rhythm track. Music such as “Moon Dance” and “How High the Moon,” as well as the floor of an outer space star scene, demonstrated this show wasn’t about lunacy as in craziness, but was about lunacy as in “lunar.” The small size of this ensemble proved that nothing should stand in the way of a group being able to enter WGI Winds competition.