If you ask fans of Carolina Crown when the corps’ rise to become one of the perennial competitors for the DCI World Championship, a good number of them would point to the 2003 season. After dropping out of finals the season before, Crown made a number of changes, not the least of which was the addition of Matt Harloff as brass caption head, a position he still holds as of this article. Crown’s horn lines are legendary for their power and dexterity, but it took time to build to that level, and 2003 was step #1.
The theme of the 2003 show was “Bellissimo”. Much of the music in the show was inspired by religion, such as Debussy’s Engulfed Cathedral, or by how the selection used bells, such as when the guard used rifles with bells as part of the handle, ringing with each catch or slap of the rifle in the guard member’s hand. The guard uniforms, a mixture of gold, silver, and bronze, panels, provided a visual complement to the metallic sounds used throughout the show. The closer, though, is why I’ve added this show to my list, the classic Carol Of The Bells.
Crown’s rendition of the Ukrainian Bell Carol was a show within itself, starting, fittingly enough, with the front ensemble and many bell sounds during the intro before the brass came in. This was the first time Carol Of The Bells was used as a full musical selection, and Crown used it to full effect, building the intensity throughout the song until the mellophones, in a diamond block front and center on the 50, played the melody at full volume while expanding the block and marching in a high stepping half time, all while the rest of the horns, in three similar formations behind them, rotated at full speed before all four diamonds expanded and joined together to form a full horn diamond before finishing out the song and the performance, a brief touch of winter and Christmas during an otherwise hot and humid August Orlando night.