Fanfare: Other Thoughts on the DCI Countdown: Les Katzel
As we anticipate next Thursday’s DCI Classic Countdown, here are some thoughts from Les Katzel, a former marching member of the Muchachos, about two shows that aren’t eligible for the Countdown because there are no sufficient video recordings of them, at least that we know of currently.
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As a former member of the Hawthorne Muchachos, I will admit my views on the most exciting performances in DCI history might be biased. Nevertheless, here is my opinion on DCI finals performances over the years. I am going to focus most of my comments on two performances that will not be shown in the 2005 DCI Classic Countdown on April 21.
Most exciting shows:
The two most exciting show in DCI finals history, without a doubt in my mind, are the 1974 Muchachos and the 1972 Kingsmen. Just pull out the old audio recordings and listen to the roar of the crowds. The 1975 Scouts certainly rate honorable mention.
It is no coincidence that these three shows are from the dawn of the DCI era. The vestiges of the American Legion and VFW rules still strongly impacted on the how the shows of this period were crafted and judged. Corps had to enter the field of competition from the left end zone/side of the field (from the audience perspective) and exit the field on the right. All percussion instruments had to be carried, and initially there were no mallet instruments.
As a result of the entry and exit requirements, all of the shows were divided into three main segments: Entry/off the line, a middle section that included one or two drum solos, pre-concert number, a concert number and a color (American flag) presentation, and a third section that consisted of exiting the field followed by the grand finale. This entry and exit led to a dynamic tension and anticipation as the corps approached the stands in the opener, and gave it every thing they had in the finale. Which brings us to the 1972 Kingsmen.
1972 Anaheim Kingsmen:
Much has been written about the 1972 Kingsmen season. Due to financial and other organizational problems, they almost didn’t compete at all that year. To win the first DCI championship was miraculous. Drive and determination characterized their show. This show had it all; including “English Folk Song Suite,” “Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Ritual Fire Dance,” “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Exodus,” “King of Kings,” and of course, the “Mickey Mouse March” and a drum solo of “George of the Jungle.”
My favorite part of the show is the exit and finale. Listen (on the DCI CDs) to the echoing of the horn line reflecting off the back stands during “Exodus” and the dramatic pivot lead to the “King of Kings” chords during the ending. This is guaranteed to bring chills to your spine. Having one of the two best color guards in DCI history (the other being the 27th Lancers) was the icing on the cake. During many of the numbers, you can hear the click of the spinning rifles and tap of the boots hitting the ground.
Finally, a review of the show must include the dramatic extended pause between the end of the “Mickey Mouse March” and the start of “Ritual Fire Dance.” In this area, time in motion was monitored. During one of the Muchachos practices, we played a recording of their show and measured the time lag. We determined that it was more than 35 seconds of near silence. I don’t know if this was deliberate, but it had the effect of increasing the dramatic impact of the opening chords of “Ritual.”
Some black and white footage of the 1972 Kingsmen is included in the DCI Brass Roots video. The Kingsmen alumni Web site, http://xkingsmen.com, states that there is a DVD available to Kingsmen alumni that includes the 1972 show! I was one of the many fans who voted for the 1974 Kingsmen, as they also embodied many of the attributes of the 1972 Kingsmen, and it is most appropriate they kick off the DCI Classic Countdown.
74 Hawthorne Muchachos:
What can I say about my old corps? The Muchachos in many respects were like the Oakland Raiders of football. They had a large following and knew how to entertain and excite the audience. The 1974 Muchachos dominated the drum corps on the east coast and had beaten the Madison Scouts earlier in the year. The corps also beat the Santa Clara Vanguard in a show held after the DCI finals. In any event, heading into the 1974 prelims, the corps felt it had a realistic chance of winning and would certainly place in the top three.
History will record that the corps tied for 7th in the DCI prelims (there were no quarterfinals then). Due to financial limitations, the corps was unable to travel to the Midwest to compete against the West Coast corps on a regular basis and always had to prove that they belonged at the top with the best of the Midwest and West.
In any event, the 1974 DCI finals were best described as pandemonium. We were mad about the outcome of the prelims and decided to have a good time at the finals, since there was no way we could go from 7th to first. The East Coast fans showed up with banners. A bugle was smuggled into the stands by one of the other East Coast corps so that they could play the “call to the bulls” prior to the show to spur us on. The two main highlights of the show were the extended solo cadenza by Jeff Kievet in “Pictures de Espana” and his jazz solo, played while balancing on one foot, during “Marianne.”
Throughout the show you can hear the fans shouting “East, east, east.” It was wonderful. We made our point and came in 4th at the finals.
A videotape exists of the Muchachos 1974 DCI prelims performance. I know, because they showed it to us prior to the finals. I do not know what happened to the tape. Dennis DeLucia, our drum instructor at the time, believes that it got reused and was taped over at the finals. If anyone out there has a copy, let me know.
My other thoughts and picks concerning the DCI Classic Countdown are as follows. The 2002 Cavaliers (in the 2005 Countdown) had the most visually stunning and complex show in history and it was performed with an unmatched level of technical proficiency. I don’t know if it is humanly possible to surpass this show. The single most unexpected moment in DCI finals history was the 1976 Bridgemen “faint.” The most revolutionary show was the 1983 Cadets. Universally, everyone’s jaw dropped when they first saw this show. It was the dawn of the true modern era of drum corps. And finally, my favorite show (other than the Muchachos) is the 1976 Blue Devils (also in the 2005 Countdown).
These represent my opinions. Everyone has favorites. I am anxious to hear what you have to say.
Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.
He has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in music theory and composition.
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors.
Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.
His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes.
But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.