The Ballad

Two minutes and fifty four seconds were removed from the DVD and Fan Network cut of the Jersey Surf 2014 Pay It Forward show.  The entire ballad, based on Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today”, is blocked out due to the licensing of the source material.

The ballad is the main story telling portion of the show, however, so this is pretty inconvenient.

To those of you who saw it live this summer, you are truly blessed!

For those of you who didn’t, and couldn’t access the videos before they were taken down from the InterWebz, this post is especially for you, so you may fully understand the impact of this show for both audience and performer:

In the preshow, the drum corps is plumeless.  One guard member sits in the confines of a circle of flags on the 50, intrigued by her surroundings.

Several hornline members leave the sideline and enter the stage, self-absorbed, blind to human life around them. Some are on angry phone calls and don’t notice the damage they spill as they stomp around. Some run and run with no true goal, too occupied to notice the needs of one another.

The concert bass in the pit taps like a heartbeat and all characters freeze and turn to stare at the “gift” offered by a guard member carrying a long blue box.  We sense it is important, but do not know why. The ability to give is deeply buried within us, but we are not yet conscious of our own power.

Two trumpet soloists receive a “simple gift” of a plume to end preshow and begin the program.

Throughout the first half of the show, parts of the hornline receive the gift of a plume from the dancers.   Having now experienced the gift of giving, they become enlightened to their own ability to Pay It Forward.
The ballad begins with the members of the hornline who have been plumed frolicking with each other, sharing their joy with one another.  The other half of the hornline staggers around in despair, alone, unable to reach out for help.

The mellophone soloist is amongst the plumeless.  They are joyously offered one but choose to spurn it and turn away.  The plumed members turn to look at the scene in hope and sigh their disappointment as the gift is refused.

“Broken windows and empty hallways,” begins the mello solo.

“A pale dead moon in a sky streaked with gray.”

“Human kindness is overflowing”
(The other plumeless receive plumes; they fill with love and gratitude before your eyes.)

“And I think it’s gonna rain today.” The soloist retreats to the corner of the stage, turned away from the corps.

Now the rest of the drum corps, fully plumed, kneels in circle pods all across the field and turns towards the side 2 front corner, gently echoing the soloist, asking them to take the gift.

…”Human kindness is over flowing
And I think it’s gonna rain today.”

The brass lower themselves to the ground in wings across the field; the sorrowed soloist speaks again.

“Lonely, Lonely.
Tin can at my feet
I think I’ll kick it down the street
That’s the way to treat a friend.”

Section by section, the brass layer into the melody. As the soloist prepares to make their final decision, we reach the most important hit of the show, full brass in and loud:

“Right before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way!
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it’s gonna rain today.”

As they push into the final blow away, the release bursting into an echo that drowns the stadium in its silence, the soloist, broken out of their life of darkness, runs toward the drum corps, joining the end of long, curved form that stretches around the field. They kneel.

“And I think it’s gonna rain….today”.

The soloist receives a plume, all brass gesture towards them with hand outstretched in a long sweeping ripple, for they have become enlightened at last.
The closer seals the story.

A drum break begins the 4th movement, the dancer presents the plume once more, horn players move into a succession of arrows, pointing at the drum line. The message is clear.

Pay It Forward begins with YOU.

We all have this power within us to make the world a better place, even if it’s just one other person at a time, even if it’s for just a moment.

And what if we all promised to do our best to make those moments happen? Every day?

The brass spreads their feet and soars over the drums:

“Lean on Me,
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on

It won’t be long
Til I’m gonna need
Someone to lean on!”

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