This Halloween,'s Michael Boo gets
three costumes for the price of one: 1. Proud
Cavaliers Anniversary Corps member.
2. Liberace's long-lost cousin. 3. The Jolly
Green Giant's personal crossing guard.
It's time for that once-a-year festival of eccentricity that many people look forward to and many others dread. No, I'm not talking about the next round of Drum Corps International rules proposals, rather that sort of semi-holiday that many people celebrate this time of year as an excuse to get dressed up in funny costumes and go door-to-door begging for favors; but enough about politicians asking for your vote. It's of course time for Halloween, that once-a-year festival of weirdness that gives drum corps color guard costume designers a run for their money in seeing who can come up with the most bizarre, most implausible outfits to scare people, but with the added benefit that those who do the scaring walk away with enough sugar to make front ensemble performers want to push their marimbas all around the field. Since 1972, Drum Corps International groups have brought us a number of musical selections that might make good background music for a night on the town, hiding behind a mask, walking the neighborhood and asking neighbors for candy. I've often carried a portable sound system playing these pieces just to scare little kids trick-or-treating with their parents. Granted, it might be the fact that I do this in May that freaks out the most people, but I do love challenging the status quo, and that's what the spirit of Halloween should be about, right? And what better way for the unwashed masses to challenge the status quo than to run to Wal-Mart and buy a mask that every fourth trick-or-treater will be wearing? Instead of this year's most popular masks – Barak Obama and Sarah Palin – why not focus on some of drum corps' most visible personalities? Can you imagine an adult drum corps fan answering the doorbell, opening the door and seeing the face of a drum corps director standing there, holding a bag and asking for one's vote for a new rule proposal?

DCI announcer Brandt Crocker will
fill in for Vincent Price this year
as the official 'Voice of Halloween.'
How about someone dressed up as longtime DCI broadcaster and Hall of Fame member Michael Cesario, "bathing in chocolate?" Or Michael "swashing his buckle?" (Yes, as Michael revealed to Dan Potter during a "Field Pass" podcast this past summer, I'm to blame for giving him that one-liner. And I hang my head in shame every time I read a reference to it. And that's exactly why Michael no longer uses me as his personal adjective coach.) Now that corps will be allowed to use electronics on the field this coming summer, let's have DCI World Championship announcer Brandt Crocker record a sound bite for the kiddies. "Is your candy ready? Your candy may enter my bag in competition." Yeah, that's just awkward. Maybe we could just have a faceless vision go from door to door, head hidden behind a microphone, wearing a sign that reads, "The Voice of Halloween." Okay, that still needs work. I'll add it to my to-do list, along the new one-liners I've developed for Michael Cesario which include, "Like Brie melted on a mound of Ritz crackers." and "Flag work smoother than a hot buttered rum." Back to those selections that would make a good soundtrack for trick-or-treating … In 1972, 1973 and 1979, the Troopers played "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Actually, that's not really a scary work, but if you think about the lyrics, it's rather freaky. Perhaps if one could get a bunch of kids to perform the corps' patented sunburst drill move on someone's lawn while the music was playing, the person behind the door would be so confused they would give up all their candy. In 1974 and 1976, Santa Clara Vanguard played "Send in the Clowns." I don't know about you, but I've always found clowns to be scary. There's something wrong with people who paint their faces in the vain attempt to entertain, unless they're in a color guard, and then it's expected. If a guard ever comes out dressed as clowns, though, I'll be running for the press box elevator, whether the press box has an elevator or not. I'm still taking heart medication after the Bridgemen's drum major putting on clown makeup during "Pagliacci" in 1977. That affected me more than the corps playing, "We Have No Bananas" off the starting line.

The '74 Kingsmen in their 'March to the Scaffold.'
The 1974 Kingsmen and 1985 Phantom Regiment played "March to the Scaffold "from "Symphony Fantastique." What's eerie about this piece is it's based on the "Dies Irae" (The Day of Wrath), about the Day of Judgment. That is the day all guard designers fear most, meaning it's usually the day their product first gets looked at by a panel of DCI judges. Going back to Phantom Regiment (1974) and the Troopers (1975), we've got "Night on Bald Mountain," which is not a reference to the receding hairlines of percussion instructors as they try to take snare drummers from multiple high school and university programs and get them to all play the same style. The Blue Stars and Kingsmen both played "Tubular Bells" in 1974, the Mike Oldfield hit that was the theme to the movie "The Exorcist." For those who haven't seen the movie, it's the film that introduced Linda Blair to the public while eliminating split pea soup from the menus of restaurants across the country. Spirit of Atlanta played "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" in 1980. It's not a scary piece of music, but what was scary to me was imagining the show planning session when someone figured out they could combine the drum solo with "Georgia on My Mind" AND "Sweet Georgia Brown." And yet the scariest thing may have been that someone, somewhere, asked the person sitting next to them in the stands, "Where is this corps from?" In 1983, the Cavaliers performed my original composition, "Jade." Again, it's not a scary piece of music, but it's the only thing ever heard on the field that is certifiably Michael Boo-licious.

There was no place like home for the '86 Sky Ryders.
Drum corps fans may remember seeing a witch riding a bicycle in the 1986 Sky Ryders' "Wizard of Oz" show. That was scary for me. I hated the movie and was freaked out by the Munchkins, so much so that I won't eat them at Dunkin' Donuts. (Okay, that brings up images I don't wish to explore further.) And then I moved to a town that hosted an annual Oz Fest that brought in the surviving Munchkins from the movie. I even met some. It allowed me to deal with my fears head on. I'm thinking of trying the same technique to pick up some broccoli in the produce aisle. In 1993 Star of Indiana performed "Medea," scaring stadium after stadium full of fans that wondered what just happened. Fifteen years later, people are still asking that same question. Thirteen years later, Samuel Barber again exploded onto the field with the Blue Knights' "Dark Knights," leaving behind scorched earth where yard lines once roamed free. In 1995, the Blue Devils' color guard used skulls as a prop in "Coronation of the Dead Queen/ Inês" from "The Legend of Alcobaca." The otherworldly percussion sounds at the start of the show and other dark imagery were genuinely unsettling. Famed BD brass arranger Wayne Downey told me that composer Jim Sochinski once watched the crowd reaction to the more in-your-face sections of the show during a performance and turned to Wayne and said, "The Blue Devils are too hip for this room." It's one of the more memorable quotes I've heard regarding a drum corps.

Phantom Regiment had a devil of a good time
with their '06 'Fuast' production.
Phantom Regiment seems to come up a lot when one thinks of music with scary imagery. Over the last three years, we've witnessed them with demons in "Faust," a bird attack in "Suggestion Diabolique" during their program "On Air" and a variety of unique ways of turning organic beings into organic fertilizer in this past year's "Spartacus" program. And as I wrap this up getting ready to make my rounds tonight with trick-or-treat bag in hand, I can't leave off these final programs with perhaps the scariest titles and/or music, including Magic of Orlando's 1997 "Mintzer's Voodoo Magic," Blue Devils' 2004 "Ghost Train," The Cadets' 2005 "Twisted Nerve" and of course not to forget the Cavaliers' 2007 Billy Joel show, "And So It Goes." Have a safe and happy Halloween!
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 print and Web 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, Ind.