Drum Corps International
Cavaliers find unique inspiration for abstract 70th anniversary program
The Cavaliers rehearse at Ford Field in Detroit on June 21. Photo by: E. De Stefano, DCI.org

Cavaliers find unique inspiration for abstract 70th anniversary program

by Jeff Griffith

The Cavaliers’ 70th anniversary production all stems from one musical piece — “Boléro.”

In its 2018 show, “On Madness and Creativity,” the corps draws its inspiration not only from the famous early 20th-century piece by Maurice Ravel, but also a work of art by Anne Adams that visually depicts Ravel’s work, measure by measure.

“It’s not literal. It’s very abstract,” program coordinator David McGrath said. “‘Boléro,’ first of all, by Ravel, is constantly present in various forms. It’s a musical thread throughout our production. It’s very overt at times, and very covert at times, but ‘Boléro’ is always present.”

Moreover, a unique connection between the two works — more specifically, their creators — serves as the foundation for the program.

As McGrath described, Ravel was affected by a neurological syndrome called Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) when composing “Boléro.” When Adams began working on “Unraveling Boléro,” she ultimately came down with the same condition.

“It’s sort of related to Alzheimer’s,” McGrath said. “With this condition, the brain rewires itself, and as that process is occurring, it really opens up creative channels, and also causes a fixation on repetitive figures.

“I can tell you what it’s not; it’s not a show about mental illness, anything along those lines. I think people will know that right away when they see the show for the first time.”

2004 ColtsMembers of The Cavaliers wrap up rehearsal at Ford Field on Thursday, June 21.


Ultimately, the most important message told by The Cavaliers in 2018 will be the final word in the corps’ program title; the astounding creativity of the human mind — and, more specifically, that of Ravel and Adams — will be featured throughout the production.

“If you watch the show, and know nothing about this background, it would still be a very interesting progression,” McGrath said. “It’s really about a celebration of the human spirit and the creative spirit as it pertains to overcoming those various obstacles.”

As The Cavaliers celebrate their 70th anniversary in 2018, the corps will also make a handful of references to the organization’s rich history throughout the production, McGrath says.

“There are some definite Easter eggs that alumni and fans will recognize,” he said. “Some are a little bit more overt than others, but I think people will have fun watching the show and finding those Easter eggs through time. They’re there, as a celebration of the 70th.”

The Cavaliers’ programs over the past few years have been predicated on energy, masculinity and aggression. Over the last two years in particular, the corps has seen a competitive surge, rising all the way from ninth place in 2015 to fourth a year ago.

In the season ahead, McGrath explained that the 2018 program will deploy the same characteristics of excitement and athleticism — and, in his eyes, be the most difficult musically in his three years as program coordinator — but with a unique twist.

“The guys love it,” McGrath said. “It’s unique in that we don’t necessarily have a story that we’re telling like we’ve done in the last few years, but there’s an identity and there’s a flow that’s very natural. The show is still very Cavaliers, it’s just, I think, a different way that we got there.”

Drum major Hunter Dugie affirmed McGrath’s claim. In his eyes, the corps’ members have particularly bought into this year’s program. He also echoed McGrath’s assertion that the 2018 show will be the most challenging in recent years.

The CavaliersThe Cavaliers perform at the DCI Tour Premiere on June 21 in Detroit.


“In my fifth year with the corps, I can just say pretty blatantly, this is the most vulnerable that The Cavaliers have ever been in my mind,” Dugie said. The guys love the show; it’s fun, it’s hard, and like anything hard, where you’re pushing for perfection, it’s always giving them challenges. So it’s really great to see them pushing for that end goal.”

Ultimately, Dugie and his corps have high aspirations for 2018, but the most important thing to him in his age-out year is for the corps to be able to look back on the season with pride.

And after five strong weeks of spring training rehearsals behind them, The Cavaliers are fully prepared to kick off a new summer tour with that goal in mind.

“My goal for this season is just to keep pushing until the end,” he said. “So that whenever I age out, but then more importantly, when the corps is done with its season, they’re happy with where they are, not only competitively, but also as a brotherhood [and] as people.”

View The Cavaliers' 2018 Tour Schedule

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