Drum Corps International
Phantom Regiment in the rain—1996

Phantom Regiment in the rain—1996

by Drum Corps International

The following memoir was contributed by Jeff Williams, continuing the "Favorite drum corps memories" theme from last week. I spent four years marching as a soprano player with the Phantom Regiment from 1996-1999. It's neat to learn about the history of drum corps, how we've come from where we were to where the activity is now. What a year 1996 was to be a rookie in the Regiment. This is about the legendary Regiment performance in the rain in 1996. I will never forget performing that night during tour in Madison, Wis. We marched onto the turf of Camp Randall Stadium in the rain. All during warm-up, we could tell the weather was threatening to do something, we just didn't know exactly what or when. As the corps arrived on the starting line, the sky began to open up while the horn line was off the field proper and the guard was in the center of the field. I was drenched through my "superman suit." The longer we waited, the harder the rain came down and we weren't really sure what was going to happen. The announcer didn't say anything for what seemed like 20 minutes. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some really quick movement in the stands. David St. Angel, our corps director that year, was running down to field level to tell the judges and announcer to get the show on the road. The Regiment would perform! I don't remember who the announcer was that night, but as soon as he introduced our conductors, the crowd erupted. They weren't quiet enough to hear the four contras start the show with Shostakovich's "4th Ballet Suite," but hearing their response helped us all improve our posture by at least two inches before the step-off. Something special was about to happen and hopefully no one in the guard would get hurt by using wet, slippery equipment. As you recall, the "4th Ballet Suite" just built intensity through the entire piece. By the end, the crowd was in a frenzy and couldn't wait to scream for us. They were feeding off of us and we were excited by their energy. The show flowed effortlessly, yet we reached the crowd more than in any performance up to that point in the season, and did they ever respond. As we began the "5th Symphony," our closer, my set was close to the front of the form, but something sounded vastly different from our run through that day. I couldn't really hear the timpani. When I had the chance to look, our timpanist was banging away and wiping water off his drum heads at the same time, water bouncing what must have been five feet high with each stroke of the mallet. Then came the soprano feature and we drilled it. The crowd was on their feet before we ended the show. When our horns finally came down, the rain stopped. Just like that. Something special happened on the field in Madison that night. We could feel it, but couldn't put our finger on it. The crowd knew that they had just experienced a moment in life—lasting about 11 minutes—that few will ever experience. I had a friend that year in Madison Scouts. He and I were the only two from tiny Olivet Nazarene University near Kankakee, Ill., marching in a Drum Corps International corps. That night, he was sitting just below the press box right below the judges. After the show was over that night, he found me by our buses to tell me how amazing our performance was that night. That meant so much to me and later to many in the corps. We were disappointed in the scoring results that night. After all, we were the only corps to perform in a monsoon! But I guess we made up for it with a relatively good week later in Orlando, Fla. As I look at the grander scheme of things, we rose to the occasion because there was some adversity—pouring rain. As successful people and organizations do when they encounter adversity, we stepped up to the plate and took a shot at a great performance. The crowd loved watching us succeed which in turn helped us to succeed. That show was one of about four performances that stick out from my mind from that summer. The first show I remember was our first show in Toledo. My grandma—who made it a financial possibility for me to march—was there to see that very first show. Three weeks later she had a major stroke and never fully recovered. The final show that sticks out is our championship victory performance. Our "finals" show was amazing and loud, but our victory performance was twice as good and three times louder.


Editorial assistance by Michael Boo. Fanfare archives