In Division II & III competition (now Open Class) at the 2003 Drum Corps International World Championships in Orlando, California’s Esperanza won the Division II Championship and Blue Stars won the Division III title.
Division II caption awards were split between Esperanza, the second-place Patriots, and the third-place Spartans, while Blue Stars, Marion Glory Cadets, and Lehigh Valley Knights split the Division III caption awards.
Yamato placed ninth overall in the Division II & III Finals, finishing second overall in Division III.
The name “Yamato” is Japanese for “To become as one,” appropriate as members hailed from both America and Japan. Founded in Yokohama, Japan in 1997, two Japanese drum corps fans who often attended the DCI World Championships conceived the corps.
Originally, members mostly originated from Japan, but as the years went by, the corps evolved to having performers from both Japan and America. By 2003, Yamato identified itself as being from Osaka/Kyoto, Japan and Riverside, California.
During the off-season, the Japanese and American members rehearsed in their respective countries, staying on the same page of what each other was working on by mailing videotapes between the two countries. This made it easier for those on either side of the Pacific Ocean to put everything together once the Japanese members arrived in America during the summer.
The sizzling passion of Spanish music inspired the corps’ 2003 production, “Las Variaciones en Temas Espanoles: Variations on Spanish Themes.” Placing ninth in overall Division II & III competition and second place in Division III, the corps walked off the field in the Finals competition with the Spirit of Disney Award in its class.
Yamato’s show opened with the brass and percussion staged in the form of the letter “Y,” with an original fanfare based on themes from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” leading into “Habanera” from the famed opera. Color guard performers wore red tops to convey the fiery nature of the Spanish music.
“March of the Toreadors” came next, with blazing red and orange flags capturing the dynamic nature of the music. Another fanfare based on the themes of the opera followed to finish off the opener.
Sting’s “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)” originated from the pop singer’s 1987 album, “Nothing Like the Sun.” He wrote it as a protest against the tryrannical regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who reportedly slaughtered thousands between 1973 and 1990.
The Cueca is the national dance of Chile, referred to in Sting’s song as being danced by Chilean women as they grieved the disappearance of family members kidnapped by Pinochet’s henchmen. This serendipitous work, accompanied on the field by feathered white fans rimmed with red borders, allowed Yamato to demonstate the quieter side of Spanish music.
“Viva la Percussion,” an orignal percussion feature written by staff members John Meehan, Scott Johnson, and Jeff Lee followed the Sting piece. The color guard performers accentuated the work visually by twirling long poles shaped like a flattened letter “S.”
The brass section entered toward the end of the work, leading into Manual de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance,” from the Spanish composer’s 1915 ballet, “El amor brujo.” The ballet told the story of a young gypsy girl from the southern Spanish province of Andalusia. Haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, she danced around a fire until the ghost joined it and was pulled into the fire, haunting her no more.
Bright yellow flags with arcs of red lit up the field at the end of the show as the brass section launched into a brief recap of “March of the Toreadors.”
The horns and drums ended in the form of a letter “Y” that served as a visual bookend to how the show began.
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.