Spotlight of the Week: 1997 Madison Scouts
In 1997, the Drum Corps International World Championships came to Orlando for the second of three years in a row.
Coinciding with the 25th anniversaries of DCI and the Walt Disney World Resort, several events were held at Epcot, including an evening parade through the park that led parade watchers straight to the Individual & Ensemble “Showcase of Champions” at an outdoor theater.
Blue Devils won its ninth DCI World Championship title with a production based on the film classic, “Casablanca.” The Cadets placed second and Santa Clara Vanguard finished in third after tying the Devils for first in the Quarterfinals competition.
1997 Madison Scouts
Madison Scouts placed fifth with the corps' popular “The Pirates of Lake Mendota,” a swashbuckling show on the high seas, referencing the largest of the lakes bordering the corps' hometown.
Color guard members were dressed as individual pirates, with one of the performers kicking off the show by slowly progressing across the “deck” while looking through a spyglass, the single binocular collapsible telescoped used by sailors of the era.
The show began with “The Adventure Begins,” an original jazzy fanfare-like work by Scott Boerma, the corps' brass arranger. Three tall masts of white sails were aligned to resemble the sails of a pirate ship, suddenly swaying to the side as if large waves were buffeting the ship. The top of the middle sail featured the Jolly Roger, the skull and crossbones symbol adopted by many pirates in the movies. Just over a half minute from the end, the horn line performed a variety of evolutions within a block triangle form, all the time keeping the triangle intact.
The next segment of the show was Boerma's “A Day in Port,” inspired by Goff Richards' 1980s British brass band piece, “Songs of the Quay.” Goff, one of the most prolific brass band composers, based the work on a collection of sea chanteys from the North East region of England, located just under Scotland on the North Sea. A quay is essentially what most of us know as a wharf, a platform utilized for the loading and unloading of ships.
Furthering the stereotypical pirate theme, one color guard sailor had a bit too much to imbibe upon leaving the ship and ended up taking swigs from a large bottle while trying to remain upright. Music was spirited, representing the pirates cutting loose in port. A snippet was heard of “Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me),” written as the theme song for the Disney theme parks' “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction.
1997 Madison Scouts
The next segment of the show was Boerma's “Moods of the Sea,” inspired by “Tall Ships Suite” by Dave Royalance and Bob Galvin. The original source material is a 1980s three-movement orchestral suite that musically describes the start of a race of tall-mast ships, a storm the racers encounter, and the concluding parade of the ships sailing past thousands of viewers ashore.
The tall sails reappeared here as Madison Scouts' pirates prepared for the possibility of a battle on the high seas. Giant white flags, one emblazoned with the Jolly Roger logo, filled the field as if individual giant sails.
As the horn line formed five connected arcs representing waves on the high seas, the Jolly Roger flag floated across the field to warn of the impending battle. The form mutated as a single large wave progressing across the crests of the shape.
The final work of the show was “Confrontation and Finale,” composed by Taras Nahirniak, a member of the corps' percussion staff who was well known for creating original music for winter color guards. The rumbling of bass drums led into a fanfare that sounded as a musical challenge to any who would go into battle with the pirates.
Blood red-colored flags anticipated the carnage to follow. As the tenor drummers advanced to a continuous rack of cymbals, the rack began to spin around as the drummers followed along, with two color guard members battling atop the rack with their cutlasses.
1997 Madison Scouts
As all the snare drummers joined in on cymbals attached to the other side of the rack, the two battling pirates jumped off and the entire color guard section joined in the melee, with one of the pirates fatally stabbing the captain of the opposing ship who was dressed in a fine coat, fancy hat, and glossy boots.
The victorious swordsman stuck his cutlass in the turf and put the vanquished captain's hat atop it, then proceeded to take off the captain's jacket as the thrilling music turned much quieter. As the music increased in volume, the music slowly evolved into a victorious statement of conquest.
The vanquisher donned the hat and vest of the vanquished and led a company front of brass players victoriously toward the stands as the audience wildly cheered.
The drum major picked up a white-on-black Jolly Roger flag and waved it in front of the audience, then dropped the flag and picked up a camera as the corps held out a blistering loud chord for 25 seconds. After taking a photograph of the audience, the drum major led the corps in a final short fanfare as the show was brought to a rousing conclusion.
Playing the theme all the way out of the stadium, corps members dragged the defeated captain off the field at the end of the show. The corps coming onto the field to compete next often had to halt midfield until the procession passed by.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than 35 years and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.
As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Indiana.