The 1977 Drum Corps International World Championships Prelims were the first to be held at a different stadium than the following Finals. To save on the cost of renting Denver’s Mile High Stadium for more than one day of competition, in 1977 and 1978, the Prelims competition took place at Folsom Field at the nearby University of Colorado’s Boulder campus.
Blue Devils won in the Finals with a score just a tenth of a point away from perfection in the Total General Effect caption, impressive considering that about 70 percent of the corps was dealing with flu symptoms in the last week of the season. The Devils lost only one show all season, a regional prelims show.
Also in 1977, Crossmen made the “Top 12” for the first time, and due to a tie for 12th in Prelims between the Garfield Cadets and Kilties, 13 corps moved onto the Finals.
Garfield’s show started with approximately 10 seconds of the horns and drums playing the “Augers of Spring” segment of Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 “The Rite of Spring.” This is the part of Stravinsky’s magnum opus, quite near the beginning of the piece, where the pulsating strings are joined by French horns for heavily accented and violently stabbing chords.
This loud and brassy opening moved right into “Primal Scream” by Jay Chattaway, written for Maynard Ferguson’s 1976 disco-funk album of the same name. Bandleader and jazz arranger Bob James produced the album, which featured Chick Corea on keyboards. The album also brought us Chattaway’s version of “Pagliacci” that was performed in 1977 by both Phantom Regiment and the Bridgemen.
By the two-minute mark of the show, the corps had segued into the theme from the original “Star Trek” series of 1966-1969, composed by Alexander George and played during both the opening and closing credits. George was mostly employed as an orchestrator for film scores written by others, working with Jerry Goldsmith and more extensively with John Williams on films as successful as “The Poseidon Adventure,” “Superman” and “Jurassic Park.” The Cadets ended this piece with cymbal crashes replicating the percussive beats from the beginning of the show.
Without stopping, the show moved into Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” written for the Dave Brubeck Quartet for their 1959 “Time Out” album, the first jazz album to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Written in 9/8 and 4/4 time signatures, Brubeck got the inspiration to write it after hearing the unusual alternating meters performed by Turkish street musicians. When he asked about the rhythm’s origins, one of the musicians told him, “This rhythm is to us what the blues is to you.” Putting all those elements together is how Brubeck came up with the title.
Next came Michel Legrand’s “Pieces of Dreams,” composed with Alan Bergman with Marylin Bergmen contributing lyrics. The song was written for the 1970 movie of the same title that was based on the novel, “The Wine and the Music.” The tune won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
That work segued into a concert standstill of “Echano,” from Chuck Mangione’s film score for the 1978 movie, “Children of Sanchez.” The film was set in Mexico City and starred Anthony Quinn. This number was the only part of the show not written by well-known drum corps arranger Frank Dorritie, in the year before he moved out west to work with the Blue Devils. Instead, the chart came from the pen of future DCI Hall of Fame member Larry Kerchner, arranger for Bridgemen, which was brought back from the Cadets’ 1976 show.
1977 Garfield Cadets
After Cadets drum major Greg Cinzio played the soprano bugle solo in the piece, he was allowed to put his bugle down on a stand on the field. By this time in DCI history, rules had been altered to allow for equipment to be set down on the field once utilized. However, unchanged was the rule that nothing could be picked up from the field. That is why color guards still used just one set of flags and why the Cadets’ soprano buglers carried the previous year’s valve-rotor soprano bugles on their waists.
Those extra bugles came in handy for the corps’ closer, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The soprano line was playing on newly-legalized two-valve horns, which were being introduced into drum corps one section at a time for cost considerations. The corps’ brass staff taught the entire color guard section to play on the old valve-rotor sopranos for the big push in the closer. As the company front drew near, the guard went up to the soprano section members and removed the old soprano instruments, then were interspersed through the horn line for a very loud company front push forward.
But as unique as that was, the highlight of the closer was the entire corps singing “Amen” at the end of the show, which caught the judging community off guard. The only vocalizing allowed in 1977 was by the drum major, and singing or other mass corps vocalizations was to be penalized. However, the corps staff found a loophole in that there were to be no penalities after the timing and penalities judge shot off his pistol upon the ending of the judged segment of each corps’ show.
By 1978, the rule on vocalization was tightened down at the then-annual DCI Rules Congress, and when the corps brought back “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” for the 1978 season, drum major John Hannigan famously presented a sign at the DCI World Championship Prelims that read, “SORRY, NO VOCAL AMEN DUE TO 1 POINT PENALTY.”
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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, Indiana.