Monday, November 19, 2012

Anatomy of a Burning Bird

The final show of the fall competition season is over.  The band is SCJA Division 5 champions for 2012, a very well-deserved honor.  Now that the season's done, I can finally reveal the behind the scenes story of The Year I Set the Drum Majors on Fire (The Making Of).

Every year I've worked with the band (seven, at last count), in addition to the other tasks I've done, I've had a small part to play in soft goods props- whether it's been for the drum majors, the entire band, field props, flags, or front drop covers.  I've done color-change surprises, of which I have no photos (my old desktop died a sad and gruesome death, and took the first three years of band photos with it, darn it).  

I've shopped with the drum majors for formal gowns, which then had to be altered to make them safe enough to climb up and down ladders and run around the field, as well as making sure they left arms free to conduct without the danger of being too revealing (while <cough!> hiding the fact that I allowed them to choose a color that wasn't pre-approved by the directors).  Again, no photos.  Darn PC.  

I've done a magically appearing neon scarf for a drum major salute (the only surviving photo of which I cannot locate at the moment), as well as custom painted gauntlets:

I've constructed large prop covers:
That's 85 yards of fabric you see me buried under, there.

Monolithic veil.  Same yardage, different venue.
Made custom drum major baldrics (sashes):

Made several secret pockets for wireless mikes:

Made color guard flags for special occasions:

Helped create front drop covers (which I thankfully did NOT have to sew or construct - just source fabric and give dimensions/directions for):

The Monolithic front drops, behind the drum major. The drum major, along with 100+ students,
is wearing a grey veil matching that of the giant field prop.
All of which also had to be calculated, sourced, cut, & finished (thankfully, I was able
to get a lot of help producing these).

And helped with covers again this year, after our prop masters constructed brand new front drops:

Bare frames, in front.

Really impressive work done by our prop masters - back view

Front view.  Miles ahead of what we did the previous year.

Now that everything was set for the field, the drum majors approached me for one last favor:  could I come up with and construct special baldrics that would reflect the theme of this year's show (Fire)?

You know me.  I have a really difficult time saying the word, "No."  

The three drum majors and I met several times to hash out what they had in mind, while keeping the show's focus uppermost.  One of the drum majors came up with a rough design draft after all the discussions:

Gorgeous, no?  Only one problem with the design - it had to remain hidden because the bright fire colors didn't hit the field until more than half-way through the show.  If the drum majors wore it the entire time, as soon as they turned to face the field, the fire/feathers would be showing to the audience, while the band & color guard were still wearing & using the smoke colors.  The drum majors would pretty much be upstaging the entire ensemble.  (Nope - no good.)

The silver/black fabric in the upper left will be the front of the baldric sash.
The grey, sheer fabric at the lower left might work, but was too transparent
to go over the bright colors of the fire/feathers.
Did you recognize it, by the way?
Yep.  We refashioned some of those veils.
How to hide it, how to hide origami styled setup that would be the same smoke color as the new front baldric I was making?

The origami style hidden pouch was too stiff in the silver/black fabric and looked like something Alexander Calder might have constructed.  (Nope.)

Maybe I could have used several layers of the veil fabric to hide the fire/feathers, but that ended up looking like an egg-sac from a Monolithic Spider.  Plus, the fabric would have made a quick-release using Velcro nearly impossible.  (Double nope.)

C'mon, Neko - give me an assist, here.

I AM.  I'm being the world's best pattern weight.  Or at least the heaviest.

It wasn't until I was really under the gun, with only a week left to go (with three comps, though) that I finally figured that the simpler, the better.  I made the front baldrics separately, from the silver & black fabric:

For the back portion of the baldrics, I constructed three semi-matching manila-folder-like setups that matched the back of the drum major uniforms. I used more of the grey veil fabric attached to the outer cover for the "smoke" (with the fire/feather wings sandwiched in the middle of the "folder").  The whole setup was pinned to the back of the drum major jackets, and all three had a quick-release tab that they were able to reach up and pull (sort of like a ripcord) while still conducting:

Here is the drum major, with the "smoke" billowing out behind him.
Can you spot the sandwich?  

Drum major after the quick release - now you can see the
Firebird wing, along with a trail of grey smoke which
moved out to the side with the slightest breeze or swing
of the arms.  The fabric "folder cover" of black is now
hanging to the right, and just looks like an extension of
the drum major's jacket. 

A better view of the flames during awards. 

Dang, I love it when things work out right.  Especially since we didn't get in trouble with the band directors, who were in the dark about the entire project.  :)

Color Guard captains, all three drum majors, drumline captain, and the two directors.  The young man without the hat
happens to be my son, who is graduating this year.  He represented the front ensemble when they went out for awards.
The head drum major still appears to be trailing smoke.  (LOL!)

I'd do it all again, in a heartbeat.