SIKESTON - It was classical music with sweat equity.
Under Sikeston's sweltering sun Thursday, the 144 members of the Crossmen, a competitive drum corps, rehearsed for their Saturday performance in Atlanta, Ga. Their music was by Beethoven, Holst, Strauss and Mahler. The sweat was all their own.
Fred Morrison, executive director, said the mid-way stop was a rehearsal day for the group, which performed Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Kan. The Kansas and Georgia performances are all part of the group's 60-day tour which takes them some 14,000 miles this summer crisscrossing the United States from Rhode Island to Texas and Mississippi to Maine.
Making up the Corps are a drum line and front percussion ensemble, 64 brass instruments and 40 members of the colorguard, who display their dance skills with flags, sabers and rifles. In addition to the members, ranging in age from 15 to 22, there are 25 staff and a dozen volunteers who fill the buses and vehicles which make up the caravan.
Students compete for the opportunity to sweat and play. Morrison said the initial auditions are held Thanksgiving weekend, then the competition begins for the 150 spots. By February the membership is set and the directors begin to build their 9- to 11-minute show -- this year's theme is based on Gustav Holste's work "The Planets."
The program seeks to display the group's musical excellence, marching precision, color, drama, dance, humor and emotion. All members of the corps (except the front percussion ensemble) are required to march intricate patterns, formations and transitions which are coordinated with a musical production, according to the Crossmen's Web site.
In May, the young musicians arrived for intense work before starting their tour on June 14 with a performance on the Capitol steps in San Antonio.
Working 12-hour days, the Corps members typically will spend their evenings sleeping on their buses as they travel to their next destination -- either for rehearsal or competition. There are more than 30 stops including a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and 27 competitions on their schedule.
Morrison said while they have yet to win one of their competitions, their scores are steadily improving. His goal, he said, is to end the season as one of the top drum corps at the Drum Corps International competition at Bloomington, performing the final evening.
While the participants have spent their summer honing their musical skills, Morrison said they gain even more from the experience. "We believe they gain interdependence," he said. "The ability to work together for a common goal."
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