Troopers 1979: "It still gives me chills"By Michael Boo Hey, this (hopefully) weekly column is back for the second week. What's it all about? Well, I've been asked by Drum Corps International to offer a short, weekly column of reminiscences spanning my involvement in drum corps.I came on board the activity as a member of The Cavaliers in 1975, and marched three seasons before ageing out. I've been fortunate to attend many shows each year and every Drum Corps International World Championships since.Fate directed me towards chronicling what I witnessed, and this led to becoming a writer for Drum Corps News (now defunct), Drum Corps World and Drum Corps International, for which I'm proudly involved in a number of writing projects each year.As soon as I hung up from the conversation in which this column was proposed, I decided one of my first columns should be about my most incredible Drum Corps International memory. It took about two seconds before I knew the exact topic: Troopers 1979.I have never witnessed such an unexpected performance as that given by Troopers at the 1979 Drum Corps International World Championships Prelims in Birmingham, Ala. To this day, it gives me chills when I think about it.Prior to the first Drum Corps International Championship in 1972 (a single, end-of-season show that we would now refer to as the World Championship), Troopers were one of the biggest major players on the drum corps scene, winning National Championships and dominating the activity, at least prior to the rapid ascension of Santa Clara Vanguard.At the first Drum Corps International (World) Championship in Whitewater, Wis., the Troopers placed sixth, and came back the next year to take second to Santa Clara. The corps' 1974 placement of fifth was less than four points under the winning score. 1975 saw the corps in 12th, and then the bottom fell out for three years, as the corps was well out of Finals contention in 1976, 1977 and 1978.The 1979 season was shaping up much the same way. The corps placed 14th in prelims at the Drum Corps International Midwest Championship, and that, one assumed, meant that things would be pretty much the same for the corps in Birmingham. Of note is the fact that the Whitewater regional was not attended by every top corps that was to be in Birmingham, including Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard, who were to place first and third in Birmingham, respectively. Knowing those two corps would be way up towards the top come the World Championships, it was logical to assume Troopers were sitting somewhere around 16th place, a few steps up from the corps' 20th place finish in 1978.Someone forgot to tell that to the corps.Birmingham was bright and sunny and hot. Legion Field had great sight lines and a pretty good sound, provided airplanes weren't flying overhead on approach to the airport. Troopers stepped up to the line to perform at the Drum Corps International World Championship Prelims. (This was before we had Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Finals in the format we now know.) I wasn't expecting a memory to last a lifetime. I doubt anyone in the audience was."Variations on a Scene" was the corps' first selection. A little bit leaning to the rock side of the musical spectrum, it was not typical Troopers' opening fare. From the beginning of the performance, though, there seemed to be a spark that had been missing from the corps prior in the season.A medley of tunes from the musical "Aquarius" followed. The soul of the horn line appeared to be pouring out of the bells of the bugles. People around me were beginning to talk about "Where did this performance come from?" And then the magic kicked in. By the closer of "Ghost Riders in the Sky," everyone knew something special was occurring on the field. It wasn't just a few suspicions anymore -- the audience was starting to "lose it." I've never witnessed such encouragement and screaming from an audience as I did during the last handful of minutes of Troopers' show that day.When the corps hit the "Sunburst" drill form, everyone around me stood up in a manner I had never witnessed before. Hooting and hollering, they were showing their gratitude for what all now realized was a performance that would rewrite the definition of "overachieving." It took some time for the crowd to quiet down afterwards. Now this is the part that some will think I'm making up, but I assure you I'm not. The faces of many of the fans in the stands were welled up with tears. I've never seen anything like it since. The performance touched our hearts and our souls. Truly, we had just witnessed a performance that literally came out of nowhere.The corps' score of 81.9 placed it barely in Finals, just .2 over 13th place Crossmen and .1 under The Cavaliers. Troopers' score in Finals fell to 77.90, which seemed to be expected by the fans. It would have taken back-to-back miracles to pull off two consecutive "performances of a lifetime."Some 23 years later, I have yet to witness anything else quite so unexpected, so marvelously "of the moment," so memorable that it's indelibly etched in my brain cells as even coming close to "my most incredible Drum Corps International memory."Would you like to suggest a drum corps topic for Michael Boo to write about in "Fanfare"? E-mail him at email@example.com . To view the 1979 Troopers performance, order The Legacy Collection of historical Drum Corps International DVDs. August 30 column – PBS Broadcasts through history 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 masters 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.
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