The year 1980 was an amazingly tight year at the top of the Drum Corps International leader board. Less than a point's difference existed between first and fourth place at the World Championship Finals, with 27th Lancers and Bridgemen sandwiched amid the Blue Devils and Spirit of Atlanta. There was much anticipation in Birmingham, Ala. about the possibility of an eastern corps taking the title, and while Bridgemen never bested 27th that season, it was deemed possible that either corps could possibly keep the Blue Devils from earning a repeat of their 1979 title. However, since the 27th Lancers was the only corps to beat the Blue Devils all season, twice just one week earlier at the DCI East prelims and finals, they were deemed the great hope of eastern fans. When the dust settled, 27th Lancers fell 0.35 from the east's first title. However, the group was the most talked about corps all year because of something that happened well before the summer tour. Having been selected to participate in the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y. (the one famous for the "Miracle on Ice" hockey win for the USA), the corps exposed the activity to a worldwide audience in both the opening and closing ceremonies. Read more about the 27th Lancers at the Olympics. Due to the amount of preparation needed for the Winter Olympics, held Feb. 13-24, the corps staff members knew they wouldn't be able to put together their DCI show until after the opening and closing ceremonies were complete. And since the corps was invited to the Massachusetts State House a week after the Winter Olympics were over, it wasn't possible for the corps to realistically start putting together its field show in earnest until March. This is a major reason why the staff decided to bring back the corps' 1979 musical production in 1980, except for a new drum solo and a few tweaks here and there. Opening with an explosion of flag twirling even before the music began, "English Folk Song Suite" by Ralph Vaughan Williams proceeded into a number of visual form rotations that were the rage back then. However, no corps did rotations with the finesse or accuracy of 27th.
1980 27th Lancers
A percussion intro led into Don Ellis' "Open Wide," a samba-flavored concert standstill from the "Live from Montreux" album that also brought us the corps' 1981 and 1982 "Niner-Two." "Open Wide" featured a contra bass player in both a rare opening solo and a duet with a soprano player. Famed Broadway musical composer Cy Coleman—also known to corps fans for "City of Angels"—penned "On the 20th Century" for a successful Broadway run that started in 1978. This piece featured lots of flag and rifle tosses by the corps' famed color guard, which had a reputation as being the hardest working guard on the field; their efforts only matched by their stunning uniformity. The horn line (sans contras) picked up flags to provide additional color to the guard's actions during the percussion feature of jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty's "New Country." The show ended with the corps' trademark "Danny Boy," featuring an impressive full corps rotation, followed by the rifles coming up through the center and lying on their backs as double flags cooled off the fans in the stands with some furious spins that provided the only breeze in Birmingham's Legion Field. This week only, you can save on 1980 World Championship Audio and Video Performance Downloads on the DCI Fan Network. Buy the 1980 27th Lancers Video Performance Download. (Available this week only for $3.99. Regular price: $4.99.) Buy the Audio Performance Download bundle of all 12 Finalists from 1980. (Available this week only for $15.99. Regular price: $19.99.) Offer ends Monday, Oct. 31 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
1980 27th Lancers performance excerpt.
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.