The Troopers were one of the perennial top corps prior to the early days of Drum Corps International and in DCI's first few years, placing as high as second at the 1973 DCI World Championship. The corps placed within the top 12 from 1972 through 1975 and four times between 1979 and 1986. Considering that it had been 23 years since the corps' last trip to the biggest show of the season, it really got the fans' attention when the Wyoming group did so well in 2009 and popped into the Finals by just three tenths of a point after the Semifinals. Few who were there can forget the roaring standing ovation in Lucas Oil Stadium when Hall of Fame announcer Brandt Crocker, himself a product of the Troopers management team (and married to a former Troopers color guard member), announced the corps at the Finals. A prolonged standing ovation—unlike anything I've witnessed in my 35 years in the activity up until that time—clearly demonstrated how meaningful the accomplishment was to the fans. The 12th place 2009 show, "Western Side Story," seamlessly blended works from the Leonard Bernstein musical, "West Side Story," with more contemporary works for wind ensemble. The gist of the show was the classic love story between two lovers from different worlds. The Troopers re-imagined "West Side Story" with a western twist of a cavalryman falling in love with a Native American maiden, as love attempted to rise above the turmoil of the fight between their cultures. The show began with members of the brass and percussion sections in poses suitable for the Wild West such as sleeping on the range and eating around a campfire, while the color guard members, dressed as Native Americans, were vigilantly on the lookout for the U.S. Cavalry. The repetitive four-note ostinato theme of Russell Peck's "The Cave" opened the show over a bass drum heartbeat; with very short solo brass quotes from "Maria" and "Somewhere" wafting over the field. A charging cavalry of brass players interrupted the sound of the heartbeat, instantly raising the tension level. A percussive mallet intro to "America" (from "WSS") and Joseph Curiale's "Adelina de Maya, Mvt. 2" introduced the hopes and dreams of both the sides. However, both would soon be fighting a turf war over who controlled the West, with each demonstrating aggression toward the other and engaging in mock hand-to-hand combat. The brass and percussion sections formed what one thought would be the corps' trademark "sunburst" visual formation, which was a fake out, as it didn't "burst" during the full-corps treatment of "America."
The tender strains of "One Hand, One Heart" demonstrated the two forbidden lovers coming together, inferred, but not actually seen until the brass section formed a heart formation on the field. A female guard member was paired with a trumpet soloist at the end, both embracing with a kiss. One of the great moments of the year was the trumpet fanfare call that came next, piercing the air and ripping apart that heart, just as another trumpeter physically ripped apart the two lovers. Michael Daugherty's "Spaghetti Western, Mvt. 3: Noon of Fire" brought the drums to the front of the field amidst a threatening brass melody that led into the "Prologue" theme from "West Side Story" and Aaron Copland's "Gun Battle" from "Billy the Kid." One of the female guard members "slashed" the throat of one of the cavalrymen with his sword, and it appeared there was no hope for the separated lovers. A reflection of "Somewhere" and "The Cave" struggled to escape over the final beating heartbeats of the slain soldier, leading into Peter Graham's "Pentium," a proclamation of hope amidst the carnage. The drums and horns appeared to work in tandem with the guard and not as bitter adversaries, as a reprise of "America" and a hint of "Tonight," evolved into the formation of the guard section encircled by the horns and drums in a giant heart. A far more optimistic rendering than before of "One Hand, One Heart" pushed toward the front sideline, with a brief "sunburst" encircling the two lovers, united for good in peace and at least as much happiness as that expressed by the audience in seeing the Troopers return to the top 12. This week only, you can save on 2009 World Championship Audio and Video Performance Downloads on the DCI Fan Network. Buy the 2009 Troopers Video Performance Download. (Available this week only for $3.99. Regular price: $4.99.) Buy the Audio Performance Download bundle of all 22 World Class corps from 2009. (Available this week only for $23.99. Regular price: $29.99.) Offer ends Monday, March 12 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Performance excerpt of the 2009 Troopers.
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.