The sixth-place 27th Lancers production in 1982 wasted no time in getting things rolling with the brash and wildly articulate fanfare to "The Sea Hawk," Erich Korngold's dynamic contribution to the 1940 swashbuckling epic starring Errol Flynn.
Korngold is widely considered one of the founders of film music. His rich melding otf symphonic techniques with melodies that evoked the scenes on the silver screen inspired the likes of Bernard Herrmann and John Williams.
As was to be expected from 27th Lancers corps of that era, the color guard demonstrated the benefits of aerobic condition long before most people had any idea what that meant. It simply was not possible for members of the guard to get through a 27th program if they weren't in the absolute best physical condition possible.
The guard was often used in this show to push and pull the brass section visual movements around the field, either opening the way for an expanding form or helping close the door on a contracting one. A notable color guard highlight occurred just prior to the final section of the opener. When the rifles disappeared behind the brass players, the flag bearers slid their flags between the horns and the flags were then tossed over the horns back to the flag bearers.
Throughout the opener, the four timpanists grounded on the front sideline (by rule through much of the 1970s, all percussion instruments had to be carried and played by corps members on the field) must have had sore arms from the fast and frequent pitch changes accomplished by turning the cranks on the top of the drums, a vestige of the era before all corps had pedal timpani that were played by one timpanist.
Next, Don Ellis' "Niner-Two" returned from the corps' 1981 production. Among the small handful of percussionists on the front sideline was the unique appearance of a set of red North bongos, with their distinctive fiberglass shell swooping out to face the audience like an upside-down version of those huge vents on deck that helped provide ventilation to lower levels of ocean-going ships. Three of the four timpanists moved to accessory percussion instruments to help set the repetitive groove.
The title of the piece came from Ellis' choice to write it in 9/2, an unusual time signature. The work was recorded in July of 1977 on his "Live at Montreux" album, the final recording he made with his own band prior to his untimely death at the age of 44.
Moving into a standstill form, different brass sections marched in contrasting interpretations of the 9/2 meter. Near the beginning a baritone player switches his instrument for a longer trombonium bugle for a solo. At the time, a number of corps experimented with unusual and unique bugles that — for the most part — didn't catch on in the activity for a variety of reasons, including tuning problems.
The drum solo of "Blue Rondo à la Turk" by American jazz pianist David Brubeck explored another meter in 9 — the more common 9/8. But this was done in a more unorthodox subdivision of 2+2+2+3. The piece came off of Brubeck's 1959 "Time Out" album and was inspired by music the composer heard played by street musicians during a trip to Turkey. Incidentally, Brubeck was born in the Blue Devils' hometown of Concord, California.
When the brass players formed a circle, the encircling flags sequentially went around their own larger circle, alternately tossing over the horns to the rifles or doing a spin toss by themselves. This was followed by a flag exchange of two files of flags over the single file of rifles, the entire horn and guard form rotating to the right for the climax.
"Gaite Parisienne" was taken from Jacques Offenbach's 1938 ballet in one act, inspired by the patrons of a restaurant in Paris. The corps had previously performed the light-hearted variety of contrasting moods in 1977 and 1978. While most fans would not be familiar with some of the melodies in the arrangement, everyone knew "Can-Can," a rollicking and fun segment highlighted by four backward-facing soprano buglers bent way over, with their horns pointing toward the stands while between their knees as the rifle section brandished puffy white pompons.
Perhaps no other corps had a signature piece of music as instantly identifiable as 27th had with the Irish folk tune, "Danny Boy." The corps performed the piece 10 times over its history, during a time period that spanned from one year prior to the founding of DCI to one year after this particular season. The massive pivoting full-horn line front (plus snares and tenors) was fully encircled by double flags that spread across the entire depth of the field.
After 16 counts of movement to the front, the horns and drums spread away from the 50-yard line and the rifles poured through the opening into a triangular block and proceeded to spin the rifles while lying on the ground. Along with the double flags and so many other color guard moves, it was one of those routines that will always be associated with one of the great corps in DCI history. One that we still miss very much.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He wrote about the drum corps activity for more than 35 years while serving as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. During his lifetime Boo wrote for numerous other publications including an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. He also was an accomplished composer. Boo passed away in 2020.