The year 1996, the second of three consecutive years for the Drum Corps International World Championship in Orlando, will long be remembered for the first of three ties for the title. Interestingly, in DCI’s first 40 seasons, the three ties all occurred between the five-year span of 1996 and 2000.
In first place, Blue Devils’ “Club Blue: A Gangster Chronicle” contained the most savagely loud opening to a show I’ve yet experienced, and Phantom Regiment’s “Defiant Heart: The Music of Dmitri Shostakovich,” is remembered for peaking at the right moment; the corps placed fourth in Quarterfinals and third in Semifinals before jumping 1.9 points to pull off the unexpected.
Cadets took two days off at the most critical time of the season to represent the activity in the closing ceremony of the Atlanta Centennial Olympics. The corps performed in Allentown, Pa., left to drive to Atlanta, performed on worldwide television two days later, and was back on tour in New Jersey the following day. And after all that, Cadets finished only 0.50 under the two winning corps with “The American West,” remembered for the 10 large, blue panels that dominated the field, each containing on the reverse side a portion of a barnyard scene.
Performance excerpt of 1996 Colts.
Under those corps in 11th place were the Colts performing John Rutter’s “Magnificat,” originally a 1990 large-scale work for orchestra and chorus. The music is inspired by the service of Vespers in both Roman Catholic and protestant church traditions. Rutter claims his version was especially influenced by the music of J.S. Bach, despite his quite modernistic approach to the musical settings. Specifically, Rutter said he set out to write a work infused with “Mediterranean sunshine and celebration.”
Somewhat loosely translated, the word “Magnificat” is Latin for “My soul magnifies,” also known as “Song of Mary.” The title of all the “Magnificats” written through history is inspired by the very first word of Latin text in the “Song of Mary” canticle.
The fourth season for the Colts in the World Championship Finals, this was the corps’ first show that was entirely based on symphonic music. The first movement was “Magnificat anima mea.” “Anima mea,” (usually used in conjunction with the word “dominum”), means “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” The opening of the show commenced with a gigantic-sounding brass and percussion fanfare, instantly pointing toward a new stylistic direction. The happy-go-lucky feel after the fanfare was full of the Mediterranean sunshine Rutter spoke about, very much in contrast to the solemnity of a Requiem, the only type of liturgical offering set to music more often than a Magnificat.
“Of a Rose, a Lovely Rose” was aptly named, dripping with gorgeous sentimentality highlighted by the pealing of 10 handbell ringers. This was one of the memorable lovely moments of the entire season. Lest the audience get too comfortable with the pleasantness of the particular selection, “Fecit potentiam,” (translated as, “He has shown strength”), threw a deluge of brutal forcefulness into the mix.
“Esurientes” came out of this ferociousness with a brief repose of beauty. Rutter has spoken of loving this part of the “Magnificat” text the most, speaking in a YouTube video about how the piece is a warm and gentle work about how God has promised to provide for his children. (All that is somewhat compressed into the translation of the word.)
The enthusiastic optimism of “Gloria Patri,” (meaning “Glory be to the Father”), saw the color guard’s flags turn primarily golden yellow. Along with the yellow of the tops of their costumes, the brightening of the field caught that Mediterranean sun and shone it directly upon the audience.
Rutter speaks of all the above movements on his website. It’s well worth your time if you have a greater interest in reading about the source music of this show.
For this week only, you can save on the Legacy DVD that contains this complete Colts performance, along with all finalists from the 1996 DCI World Championships.
Discount DVD offer ends Monday, June 25 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century 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, Ind.