The 1987 DCI World Championship was held at Madison, Wisconsin's inviting Camp Randall Stadium for the third consecutive year. It was an exciting time as the Garfield Cadets edged Santa Clara Vanguard by a scant tenth of a point in the Finals. Considering that Cadets lost three shows to Spirit of Atlanta a few weeks prior, and Spirit was to finish in 10th place, Cadets' surge and ultimate victory was all the more impressive. Blue Devils' 11-year streak of finishing in the top-3 and winning at least one caption in Finals was snapped. Among the most memorable visual memories was Santa Clara Vanguard's costumed Russian pageantry, Phantom Regiment's new solid white uniforms, Star of Indiana's circus performers and the division of Sky Ryders into solid white and solid black factions to re-create the gang tension in "West Side Story." Garfield Cadets' "Appalachian Spring" resulted in the corps' fourth DCI title in five years. Aaron Copland's famed work premiered in 1944 as a chamber piece for 13 instruments, with the title, "Ballet for Martha." Written for Martha Graham's dance troupe, it was Graham who gave the title the name that endures. Copland rescored the work for full orchestra the following year and achieved almost instant success with it, capturing the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music. As far as Copland was concerned, the work had nothing to do with Appalachia. Graham suggested the title just prior to the ballet's premiere. The title came from a poem by Hart Crane, a troubled poet who threw himself off a ship in the Gulf of Mexico in 1932, never to be found. The poem, titled "The Dance," speaks of "Appalachian Spring" as being a source of water—a spring—in the Adirondacks. It has nothing to do with the post-winter season when greenery abounds. Graham's storyline for the ballet is what turned the piece into a celebration of springtime, focusing on 19th Century pioneers in the farmlands of Pennsylvania. The main melodic theme that so many consider the heart and soul of the work was lifted from a Shaker hymn titled "Simple Gifts." Joseph Brackett, a Shaker elder in Maine, composed it as a dance song in 1848. Garfield Cadets' show started quiet, softly leading into a grand statement of the main Shaker melody while introducing the professional male dancer who was prominently featured throughout. According to director George Hopkins, the dancer, a corps staff member who was still young enough to march, was a member of Ailey II, the ensemble Alvin Ailey created in 1974 to train and inspire promising young dancers and choreographers. He was added into the show approximately a third of the way into the season. Michael Klesch's horn arrangements and the percussion score of Thom Hannum were mesmerizingly interpreted by George Zingali's ever-kaleidoscopic drill, abstract formations melting into one another like flowing of beads of mercury.
Intermittent moments of near silence with just an occasional tinkle from the mallet keyboards and even a few seconds of complete silence before the next hit, left the audience members leaning forward to capture every musical nuance. One such moment of total silence came before a fanfare-like hit, as the corps froze in a drill formation incorporating the organization's "G arrow," used as a logo in corps publicity and merchandise. No one who saw this show live will ever forget the big company front push during the grand statement of the Shaker melody. Zingali formed a line of brass players from the left 35 to the right 22-yard lines. By 10 counts into the push, the line had totally dissolved from the outside in, with members freely moving about, pausing and posing along the way. Some marched in regular time, some in double time, some in no time at all, and many in a combination of fast and slow times. Watching the video reveals that many covered an unbelievable number of yards during this disintegration of the advancing front. At the very end of what would normally be a simple forward 32-count push, the company front suddenly reappeared, but was now spread from the left 28 to the right 28. Of particular interest is the fact that the contras, which started at the very left of the front, were now at the very right of it. The members of the horn line ended in the same order as they began, but that ending order was a mirror image of the beginning. The audience, not quite sure exactly how the front had materialized, thoroughly lost all control. But how does one top that? The show's creators, realizing the impossibility of even trying to do so, went in the opposite direction. With the music getting softer and softer, the brass players marched facing backfield through a number of consecutive squiggles. Think of this like playing with the long chain of small interlocking spheres connected to the pen at a bank's teller's window. Zingali admitted to doing that very thing with chains of beads, and also experimenting with droplets of water, trying to mimic the fluid effect of the amoeba-like shifting of those forms. Gradually, the entire corps—minus the main dancer, a female guard member with a flag, and a single soprano player—headed into the upper right corner of the field into a square block, with the soprano up front with the two featured guard members, offering one last statement of the Shaker melody. Without pausing, the corps started to leave the field after the most climactic anti-climax perhaps ever witnessed in drum corps. Show coordinator Michael Cesario referred to this as an "inverted fantasia," taking the whole production back to its most basic and simple of themes. Unfortunately, for the sake of posterity, the audience started wildly cheering before that final horn solo. Many in the stands were loudly shushing those around them, but that only added to the volume from the stands. On the original video, one can't even hear the solo, though in the restored version now available on DCI's new Essentials Collection Blu-ray, the solo has been restored to its intended effect.
For this week only, you can save on the Legacy Collection DVD that contains this complete Cadets performance, along with all finalists from the 1987 DCI World Championships.Buy the 1987 Legacy Collection DVD. (Available this week only for 20% off. Regular price: $35.95.) The 1987 Cadets performance is also available on Drum Corps International's brand new Essentials Collection–Champions series on Blu-ray disc. Learn more about the Essentials Collection.
1987 OverviewDiscount DVD offer ends Monday, Aug. 26 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.