Drumline Performance Delivers Murder and Mayhem to Audiences

The Clarke County High School drumline team and Clarke County High School winter guard team delighted a packed house at Millbrook High School in Winchester last Wednesday night. Although the student performers commit to a grueling schedule of after-school practices and weekend competitions, Wednesday’s non-judged exhibition performance was a chance for the two Clarke County teams to gain valuable performance experience before a local and supportive crowd while also having fun performing the wildly popular “Sweeney Todd” theme.

Tony Shipman and Sydney Wilkins in the Clarke County High School drumline performance of Sweeney Todd - Photo Edward Leonard

Sweeney Todd is a fictional character who first appeared as the antagonist of the Victorian penny novel, The String of Pearls, in the mid-1840’s. Claims that Sweeney Todd was a historical person have been are strongly disputed by scholars, although there are possible legendary prototypes, arguably making the story of Sweeney Todd an early example of an urban legend.

The tale surrounding the character became a staple of Victorian melodrama. Later, it was the subject of a 1959 ballet by English composer Sir Malcolm Arnold and, in 1979, a Tony award-winning Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim. Sweeney Todd ┬áreceived a modern infusion of interest with 2007 production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, based on the 1979 musical.

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In the original version of the tale, Todd is a barber who dispatches his victims by pulling a lever while they are in his barber chair, which makes them fall backward down a revolving trapdoor into the basement of his shop, generally causing them to break their necks or skulls. Just in case they are alive, he goes to the basement and “polishes them off” (slitting their throats with his straight razor). In some adaptations, the murdering process is reversed, with Todd slitting the throats of his customers before they are dispatched into the basement via the revolving trapdoor. After Todd has robbed his dead victims of their goods, Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime (in some later versions, his friend and/or lover), assists him in disposing of the bodies by baking their flesh into meat pies, and selling them to the unsuspecting customers of her pie shop. Todd’s barber shop is situated at 186 Fleet Street, London, next to St. Dunstan’s church, and is connected to Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop in nearby Bell Yard by means of an underground passage. In most versions of the story, he and Mrs. Lovett hire an unwitting orphan boy, Tobias Ragg, to serve the pies to customers.

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In addition to the musical choreography delivered by the drumline, performances are accompanied by performances by Clarke County High Schools “winter guard”. The winter guard combines the grace of ballet with the coordinated synchronization of a marching band. The team thrilled the crowd on Wednesday night with precision marching combined with aerobatic throws and catches of flags and rifles.

Original artwork and set design is all performed by Clarke County High School students and volunteers, as is much of the costume design. Drumline performances are generally on Saturdays throughout the spring season.

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  1. Just sayin says:

    The show was on Wednesday evening, not Thursday.

    CDN Editor: Thanks!

  2. The drumline is indeed a great program but, you should think about doing a story about the guard. They barely get any respect or recognition in the community after all of their hard work. They are a group of some of the most dedicated people I’ve met and they’ve improved the program in my opinion by bringing the music alive with their preformances. In addition they’ve accoplished so much with what they do well. By winning 1st in their class week after week with excellent high scores in the 80s, they deserve to be reconized just like any other program. I’m disappointed we don’t hear about them more often. Look into it, you’d be surprised.

    CDN Editor: See editorial “Jane’s Hunch”

    • The Galloping Grommet says:

      I agree. The guard has performed at such a high level this year. They have given us a program to be proud of. Guard, you rock!