Drum Corps International
More on the 1979 Troopers

More on the 1979 Troopers

by Drum Corps International

The second-ever Fanfare column, from September 6, 2002, was about the amazing performance Troopers pulled off at the DCI World Championships prelims in 1979 to catapult over a number of strong corps to place in finals. Here are three responses that have come in over the years. The first response is from Michael Heiter. I read your article on the Troopers' "Cinderella" performance in Birmingham, Ala., in 1979 and I want to share my recollections of that singular day. The Troopers have always been a sentimental favorite of mine. When the 1975 Championships were on PBS, my TV did not handle UHF, so I went to a bar and watched as much as I could before I had to go to work at a restaurant. I saw the Troopers for the first time that night and loved what they did. They really fired my interest in drum corps. In 1979 I attended my third DCI World Championships. In those days it was still a day gig, and you had to get there quite early to be assured a good seat. I still remember the strange look the desk clerk gave me when I asked him for a 4 a.m. wake-up call. This was the year, as you mentioned, of the Air National Guard drills out of the airport in Birmingham. I remember someone remarking how there was never an anti-aircraft gun around when you needed one. That day, the Troopers came on towards the end of the morning. Several corps had already performed when they walked out to begin their show. As was the rule at that time, they faced the back of Legion Field and played their warm-up, a hymn-tempo version of part of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." They got a bigger hand than most of the preceding corps did for their full performances! I had seen the show in Huntsville, Ala., a few nights before, so I had a good idea of what to expect. About halfway through the performance, though, I got the distinct feeling that a switch had been thrown. Shortly after that point, they began their finale of "Ecstasy of Gold/Ghost Riders in the Sky." It began with their trademark "suicide circle," with the drum major standing in the middle and members of the rifle line exchanging their rifles all around him. When they finished that segment, the magic took hold. The audience erupted in what stands to this day as the most electric reaction I have ever seen at a preliminary performance. To use the vernacular, the place went postal, and I was right there with them. Personal audiotaping was allowed then, and I still have the tape of a usually quiet, 26-year-old me yelling and screaming his head off in response to what was unfolding before him. With the final notes, the place really went nuts. The ovation went on so long that I became concerned about the corps being "ticked" for being on the field too long. When the tumult finally subsided, I remarked, "Baby, if they don't make 'the 12,' something's wrong!" It was one of the happiest moments of my life when it was determined that I was right, and they would perform the next night at Finals. I felt a great sense of validation when I read in one of the DCI yearbooks that this performance is considered one of the most magical in the history of drum corps. I felt very privileged to be there, and continue to follow the Troopers to this day. Pat Chagnon, Troopers' Webmaster, sent in the following. I just read your column on DCI.org about the corps and wanted to share a side note to that magical Trooper moment, one that is STILL talked about with great pride in Trooper circles to this day. There is a judge's tape by Dave Richards that is treasured by the Troopers. On this tape, Dave stopped judging at the same moment the stands erupted as you describe. He too, was in tears and could not speak for the remainder of the show. I've often thought about recording that tape to MP3 for posting on the web, but have held back because it is so dearly treasured by the corps and is something that belongs to us -- much like our many traditions. I wanted to thank you for stirring up the pride again. We may be down in numbers right now in the eyes of the fans -- but I assure you, Trooper pride runs deep and will rise again. Well, there was only one thing left to do, and that was to contact David Richards. Here are his recollections. I'm responding as one of the judges of that prelim show. I also welled up as Troopers concluded that unbelievable performance. My rationale for the score I gave them (9.2 or 9.3 after receiving scores in the low 8s and high 7s all year long) was that tears were worth a 9 and that my only concern after that was how many tenths more was I going. Throughout the season they had performed well, but many judges were "dumping" them because of the past season's repertoire. Their Whitewater (DCI Midwest) prelim performance was very good, but some of the newer judges wouldn't accept the Trooper "chestnuts" repertoire. I understand that Mary Pesceone (wife of DCI Executive Director Don Pesceone) yelled out at the end of their performance, "Richards, where are you?" (I judged the finals in Whitewater.) Not that a single judge could change an outcome (well, a little) -- but I represented a certain breed of adjudicator that not only recognized achievement but also rewarded it. Truth be known, the Troopers may not have made the finals that day had Tom Roe (GE percussion) and I (GE brass) not persuaded Joe Nee (GE marching and maneuvering) that the performance deserved a higher score than what he was going to submit. (Nee was one of those "new guys on the block.") He reluctantly agreed after seeing where Roe and I were going. As a side to all this, my judging tape was played on the radio in Casper and copies of it are still around. Thanks for bringing back one of my fondest memories of the activity. You wouldn't believe the amount of harassment I took for the number I gave them. My only comeback was, "Were you there?" The usual response was "no." Fanfare archives 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 master's 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.

Related News

View all news