As part of the 1997 Drum Corps International Tour, corps returned to Orlando for the conclusion of the 25th anniversaries of both DCI and Disney World.
Blue Devils picked up its ninth DCI championship title with “As Time Goes By,” inspired by the movie, “Casablanca.” The Cadets finished in second place after tying and beating the Devils during the two weeks prior to arriving in Orlando.
Santa Clara Vanguard placed third after tying Blue Devils for first place in the Quarterfinals competition in Orlando, remarkable considering Vanguard started the season nine and a half points under its California rival. Crossmen enjoyed the corps’ second-ever top-six placement, and the seventh-place Cavaliers finished outside the top-five for the only time between 1985 and 2011.
Bluecoats finished in 11th place with “Midnight Blue … Jazz After Dark,” opening with Earl Hagen’s “Harlem Nocturne,” a jazz standard written in 1939 with co-band member and lyricist Dick Rogers for the Ray Noble Orchestra. In 1984, the piece became the theme song of the CBS television series, “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.” A walking bass figure in the brass from Bluecoats’ contra bass section contributed to the arrangement being peppier than the slow and sultry style that generally accompanies the work.
With each musical selection themed on night, near the upper left corner of the football field sat a large scrim with an image of the rising moon over the rooflines of city buildings. From behind the scrim marched out most of the brass section and the drum line. The baritone horn players started behind a low platform upon which sat seven pedal bass drums and hi-hat cymbals.
The color guard section’s flags were mostly colored a midnight blue, with a tad of red in the corners, as if the moon on the scrim lit the sky as it rose. The performers wore tops of gray twilight and bottoms of black night.
A drum solo immediately evolved out of the first part of the opener, minus any melody from the front ensemble percussion section. Seven snare drummers climbed atop the riser, with their snare drums turning the bass drums and hi-hat cymbals into standing drum sets.
This led into a recap of “Harlem Nocturne,” as the horns and drums formed two arcs around the color guard and belted out a rendition of the melody. New flags featured blocks of red joining midnight blue which when spun appeared as a solid maroon color.
Continuing the storyline, a lone color guard member—now wearing a shimmering silver top and a flowing dark blue and purple skirt—came to the front of the field with a small orb representing the moon. Other guard members picked up similar orbs as the quiet and restrained music commenced from Ennio Morricone’s “Moon” from the 1994 romantic horror film, “Wolf.”
Two members of the color guard briefly appeared atop the risers by the backfield scrim, leading into the horns and drums forming the outline of a crescent moon. That form devolved into a block form of the same shape as tinkling mallet keyboard instruments brought the piece to a quiet conclusion.
Howard Dietz and lyricist Arthur Schwartz wrote the corps’ closer of “You and the Night and the Music” for the 1934 Broadway show, “Revenge with Music.” As publicist/director of advertising for MGM, Dietz is famed for creating the studio’s mascot, Leo the Lion, known for the on-screen roar that has opened MGM productions for decades.
The piece picked up on the swing style long associated with the Bluecoats. Bright solid red flags shocked the night into overdrive, standing out against the black costumes the color guard performers now sported.
A fugue in the horn line, much in the style of JS Bach, interrupted the triplet swing feel. Visually this led to a company front of horns as they restated the melody in a lengthened triplet feel. The drill formations quickly passed through another image of a crescent moon on the way to wrapping up the celebration of the night with one final chordal blast loud enough to part the darkness.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than 35 years 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.