Between the 2019 movie Yesterday, a new Disney+ documentary, and even a recently launched master’s degree, the Beatles are in our lives and in our hearts as much now as they were in the 1960s. Their music is classic, their outfits iconic, and now, thanks to the 2019 and 2021 Bluecoats, they are cemented in drum corps history forever. Let’s take a closer look at Bloo’s two vivacious Beatles shows from the last two DCI seasons and see how you can incorporate the music of The Bluecoats and Lucy into your next marching band show!
It is rare for a drum corps to program similar shows, let alone two shows with music from the same band during back-to-back seasons. But the Bluecoats did not shy away or let the pandemic get in the way of their two-part Beatles showcase: 2019’s The Bluecoats and 2021’s Lucy (the 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic). Fans were in awe of The Bluecoats after its debut and were both overjoyed with and taken by surprise by the 2021 announcement of Lucy, a show based around the eponymous main character in the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. However, as Bluecoats Program Coordinator Dean Westman revealed on a live Q&A, the Bluecoats’ creative team was planning a sequel even before The Bluecoats was complete. “Pretty early on… like in spring training of 2019… [the creative team] started talking about this thing as a two-act show,” Westman explained. He was all for this idea, “especially when I saw how many awesome things were not going to make it into this show [The Bluecoats].” Both shows were immensely popular in the drum corps community.
Both Bluecoats Beatles shows feature multiple Fab Four massive hits, including chart-toppers Come Together and Eleanor Rigby. Each show had a unique set list, with 1969’s The End connecting the two.
The Bluecoats Official Set List
• A Day in the Life
• I Want to Hold Your Hand
• Within You Without You
• Come Together
• I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
• The End
Lucy Official Set List
• The End
• With a Little Help from My Friends
• Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
• I Am the Walrus
• Tomorrow Never Knows
• Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
• Golden Slumbers
• Carry That Weight
With so much incredible music, these two shows made Beatlemaniacs out of even the most casual fan. Justin Daly, lead trumpet and featured soloist in the fourth movement of The Bluecoats, had not listened to much Beatles before joining Bloo. The Bluecoats, the show he calls “a musical masterpiece,” fostered his love for the Fab Four.
Lifelong Beatles fans loved the show as well, being wowed by the sheer number of tried-and-true hits dovetailed into each segment. Bluecoats Associate Stage Manager Daniel Armistead, a Beatles fan way before his time with the corps, was in awe of the composition of the shows, particularly how the Bluecoats were able to “arrange and mash together nearly twenty different songs seamlessly and in such an impactful way.”
No matter when they first started listening to the Beatles, audience members were captivated by these two Bluecoats shows. Whole crowds sang along to Hey Jude at the end of The Bluecoats – unheard of for a drum corps show, an event as extraordinary as the Beatles themselves.
The Bluecoats highlighted the Beatles through their set design and props along with the music. Each show featured a variety of movable platforms with intricate backgrounds, vibrant ramps, whimsical vinyl screens on the field and more, all fitting in with the show theme. In The Bluecoats, the mobile-platform backgrounds were black and white on one side and colorful on the other. With just a simple turn, a change in the mood of the music was reflected in the set design. Many 2019 spectators were in awe of what the Bluecoats members called “mints”: cylindrical, color-changing props used as decoration, as platforms, and as dance equipment. The ensemble was constantly interacting with these pieces, adding color and excitement to the show. Both shows had unmoving platforms behind the front ensemble to give height to featured players – white tiered “cakes” for The Bluecoats and yellow circular platforms for Lucy.
Besides their aesthetic value, the props were also incredibly functional. The ramps, for instance, were used for secret storage. As soloist Daly recalled, “During the ballad, my flugelhorn was under a ramp on some hooks. I had to crawl underneath and wait for my audio cue to pop out of a hatch in the middle of the ramp. After the ballad, I had to come back around and grab the trumpet I originally played on.” The ramp made great storage for Daly’s instrument, while its secret door added some Beatles whimsy to his appearance on the ramp.
Between the music and the design, both Beatles shows really began to come together. How did the uniforms fit in?
The Bluecoats took creative uniform design to a whole new level with their Beatles shows. In both shows, the band looks like a cohesive unit, but upon closer inspection the individual uniforms were not identical. For The Bluecoats, multiple versions of the suit jackets and pants were made in various fabrics and patterns to reflect different Beatles eras, like waves for Yellow Submarine and paisley for Beatles Ashram. In Lucy, all musicians wore black-and-white patterned tops and white slacks with a vertical black stripe. This kept a cohesive look among the group – cohesive, but again not identical: there were variations of the striped patterns hiding among the uniforms across the corps. Some members had diagonal stripes across their chests while others had the stripes radiating from a black circle near their hearts.
For bands looking to accomplish a similar united-but-varied look, Bluecoats Costume Designer and Choreographer Greg Lagola shared the following advice in a Marching Arts Education interview: “You know that if you keep a color range in a certain context, either warm or cool, or even within those ranges, you make some selections… Start to eliminate things that don’t work. Start with basic ideas of color mixing and matching.” For The Bluecoats, Lagola kept the musicians in cool blues and the guard in warm oranges, allowing the black-and-white characters like Sgt. Pepper to stand out among the colors.
It is important to note that set and uniform design happen hand in hand. In a live discussion about 2021’s Lucy on the Bluecoats’ Facebook page, Scenic Designer Michael Raiford explained how the set colors were impacted by the members’ uniforms: “One of the big differences [from The Bluecoats] was the color palette shift; where the horns are going, and the guard, [in Lucy] is more of a black and white and silver world, so actually the set is more aggressive with color in Act II. In Act I, the horn line in the blue and the color guard in all the orange and blues and everything else, [so] the set pulled back a little bit.” The Bluecoats focus on visual storytelling, making sure the uniforms and set pieces properly match the music and theme of the show.
Bring Bluecoats Beatlemania Back to Your Own Band!
Interested in having your own version of a Beatles marching band show? We offer a wide selection of Beatles marching band music, including these mid-level pieces featured in The Bluecoats and Lucy:
I Want to Hold Your Hand
This medium-easy John Higgins arrangement of the Beatles’ first American #1 hit has great energy without pushing the tempo. It’s a great piece as a whole for developing marching bands, but excerpts also make for crowd-pleasing stand tunes.
Looking to pay homage to The Bluecoats while giving your show its own spin? This medium-level combination of two of Paul McCartney’s most famous ballads, Blackbird and Yesterday, will get the crowd swooning and swaying.
This medium-level Bocook/Rapp arrangement of Eleanor Rigby touts a variety of styles and tempo changes to help expand your marching band’s musicianship skills on and off the field. It works great as an opener or closer.
This medium-level marching band piece combines a brighter tempo with vibrant ensemble shouts perfect for park-and-barks!
Tom Wallace has arranged a powerful medium-level closer featuring both Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The End. This piece is a great way to honor the music and costumes of the Bluecoats’ Beatles shows.
Beatlemania is alive and well in the marching band world, and we hope the Bluecoats shows have inspired you for your 2022 show!