After two days of blogging about the corps on the field and their respective programs during the World Championship Quarterfinals and Semifinals, I'm kind of blogged out as to what I could possibly say that is new. And therefore, the theme I chose for this blog which I wrote during the World Class Finals on Saturday, Aug. 8, is about the joy of drum corps. And that will now give me 12 months to come up with something new for next year! In its inaugural year in Indianapolis, I've found this city to be more than welcoming for Drum Corps International and this year's World Championships. This city appears to be bending over backward to try to make everyone's visit a great one, and I know that folks in high places have already been taking notes on how to make next year's Championships even better.
Lucas Oil Stadium
The United States Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps: Where do I start? I first saw them 31 years ago under the legendary Col. Truman Crawford at the Bands of America Summer National Championship in Whitewater, Wis., home to the first two DCI World Championships. Their impeccable musicianship and the volume that could be generated by a relatively small number of horns astounded me then as it does now. This unit continues to bring joy to corps fans and others everywhere it goes. Their performance calendar for the year is practically incomprehensible and they cover untold miles when they aren't doing ceremonial functions in Washington, D.C. The only active drum and bugle corps in the armed services (the service academy corps aren't considered "active" in the same sense), this unit blesses us each year with their presence. They remain a constant joy and a great opener to our biggest show of the season.
U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps
Fred Morris was just announced as the 2009 World Class Director of the Year, as voted on by his fellow corps directors. How many truly believed that Troopers would burst back into Finals just three seasons after the corps had to take a year off? The joy that is felt by so many fans to see the Troopers back in Finals for the first time since 1986 is something we can directly attribute to the leadership Fred has brought to the organization. I've said this before: Fred wasn't involved with Troopers prior to becoming the corps' director, but he has become everything that is great about the corps. His power of persuasion and his confidence in what he was trying to do was contagious to all who joined him in making tonight a reality. Congratulations, Fred, on both what you've accomplished and what you've helped the corps accomplish. I believe corps founder Jim Jones would be proud of what you've done with his creation. Also as part of the World Class Finals pre-show, a special recognition was given to the organizers of the World Championship Open Class Quarterfinals in Michigan City, Ind., which took place on Tuesday. Living only 15 minutes from Ames Field, I'm particularly proud of how this group has gotten the city to embrace the Open Class Championship and how well they run the event. Speaking of joy; If you've never been to Ames Field, it's one of the truly special places to witness drum corps performances. I've long felt it was built for the activity. And the locals come out and support the corps as well. Blue Devils "B" is performing an encore presentation of their 2009 Championship winning program, "Pursuit," the show that causes us to wonder how much MORE incredible the organization's top corps will be if any many of these kids decide to move up.
Dan Acheson and Fred Morris
Troopers Casper, WY In 35 years of being involved with drum corps, I have never experienced such a loud and prolonged standing ovation for a corps that was coming into the Finals in 12th place as I just did with Troopers. No matter one's loyalties to any other organization, it's likely that there is no one in the stadium who doesn't feel proud of the accomplishment these kids have pulled off. I've spoken to a couple people here who are associated with other corps who said they got misty eyed when the Troopers were announced yesterday as having made it into the top 12. For many, this might be the highlight of the night.
Blue Knights Denver, CO "Joy" and "Blue Knights" are three words that haven't always been mutually inclusive in the minds of some. Now I don't mean that as a slam—the corps has embraced the darker side a few times in recent years, and for that, they always got my heart pumping. But this year's show is different, and it contains an elation that is special. By the way, I don't like winters, which kind of stinks because I live in a major snow belt. Perhaps I need to get into making snow angels like the Blue Knights' color guard does in this program. The guard is focused on the more joyous elements of winter and maybe the season (for those who would prefer palm trees to snowcapped pine trees) is all about what you make of it. Oh, the giant snowball rolling across the field and exploding brings a smile to my face. Yes, I'm watching Blue Knights and smiling. And it feels great.
Glassmen Toledo, OH I guess that one of the ways one can think about the Glassmen's 2009 program, "The Journey of One." is that it celebrates the joy of individuality and how individuals coming together for a larger goal can lead to great things. A group can't exist without its individuals and those individuals aspire to greatness when they share their talents with others. At least that's what I think is at the gist of this show, and since it's my blog, I get to be wrong in case that's not what the essence of the show is all about, haha! Part of the joy of the drum corps activity is each of us having our own opinions…and sharing them with others…whether we're right or extremely right…because it's not about whether no one else agrees with us, it's about them not realizing yet just how they agree with us.
Blue Stars La Crosse, WI Hard work is said to be its own reward. I never said that, but I've heard it said. With "The Factory," the Blue Stars celebrate the hard work of those of the "Greatest Generation." My parents were members of that generation, and judging by the stories I've heard about living through that period, we have no right to complain when our cable goes out. One of the most iconic photos ever published in the media is that one we all know with the sailor kissing the young woman in Times Square. I've thought of that when the recording of President Truman announces the end of World War II and the moment just before when the Blue Stars re-create that photo on the field. President Truman even commented, "This is a time for great rejoicing."
Phantom Regiment Rockford, IL Okay, I just experienced a joyous "Easter Egg" in Phantom Regiment's show. Just in case you don't know the term, an "Easter Egg" is a gem of some sort hidden inside the code of software or even the annual DCI DVDs. Tonight for the first time, I realized that a squiggly drill formation with some rotating circles was the f-hole of a violin. Countless others probably found that before me, but for me it was an unexpected "aha" discovery that made me think, "cool!" The front ensemble mallet feature in the Benny Goodman piece is a gas. Yes, I said "gas." You know…as like spiffy…the cat's pajamas. Incidentally, I was talking yesterday with a band director friend who's the father of the red-dressed woman who gets slapped as part of the storyline in this show. That's been a source of amusing conversation at the family's dining room table.
Boston Crusaders Boston, MA Who doesn't like temptation? Being tempted is only slightly less fun than giving in to temptation. Boston Crusaders made that fun with their 2009 program, "The Core of Temptation." It's always fun hearing the corps cut loose on a rhythmically persistent piece of music. Few corps do loud and bombastic like Boston. When the Eve character chomps down on the apple, it's a moment that made the audience laugh audibly. This is one of those things that the use of electronics in drum corps was made for. One-hundred fifty corps members simultaneously biting into an apple might give a similar effect, but since we'd still have to amplify that, why not just go with the (electricity) flow?
Bluecoats Canton, OH "Imagine" a world where pigs fly…and you'll be halfway to where the Bluecoats already are. There's enough whimsy in this program to send a pig into outer space. Anyone remember The Muppets' recurring feature of "Pigs in Space?" A silly thought? Of course, but that's the sort of thing this show seems to encourage us to think about. Bluecoats have long been a corps that typically goes out of its way to bring joy to the audience. Loveable criminals you would want to take home, a boxer struggling through insurmountable odds to come out on top and now a world where anything is possible. Each year is totally different and each year is totally fun.
Santa Clara Vanguard Santa Clara, CA Sometimes joy isn't something that makes your mouth smile, but is something that makes your mouth drop. That's what happens to me—along with thousands of others—during the performance of the Vanguard. I'm going to sound like a broken record, (for you youngsters, records were something that preceded 8-tracks…oh, never mind), but I am still amazed at how an entire show can be so freakishly beautiful. The joy this show brings to me reminds me how wonderful it is to be alive so I am able to appreciate these few minutes of drum corps bliss. There have been a lot of highlights this season from many corps that will be impossible to remember. This is one I'm going to try my hardest to never forget.
Santa Clara Vanguard
The Cavaliers Rosemont, IL Being an alum of the corps, the Cavaliers have always brought me joy, and even more so since the corps started doing so well back in the mid-1980s. The visual program especially continues to amaze and delight. The corps has let a little bit of whimsy creep into the show with an echo effect and the answer of "No" to the question asking if anyone is in the canyon during this mountain climbing-themed production. And as for whimsy, can you really beat a Zen water fountain? I mean, come on! Running water on the field being used to simulate a canyon waterfall. Once I found out about that (via the Fan Network commentator track from San Antonio), I knew it would be best to go to the bathroom before their presentation. Hey, we get joy any way we can.
Holy Name Cadets Allentown, PA The joy of the American musical theater was perhaps never captured in all its glory as it is in "West Side Story." Even though I've witnessed the Holy Name Cadets use the musical for its entire production twice before (in 1984 and 1994), each time it's so totally different that it amazes me the corps can look at the musical from so many different angles. Now, if you forgive me for taking a left turn: A few months ago my mother passed away. Flowers showed up from my friend Jeff Fiedler, the Cavaliers and two other corps very dear to me. When I saw the beautiful arrangement from the Cadets, I broke down. But it wasn't from sadness; it really was from joy. Thinking of all the entertainment the corps has brought to me over the years and knowing they were thinking of me during that time made the world seem so much friendlier and it made me feel loved. And tonight, I see quite a bit of love being given back to the corps from thousands of fans.
Holy Name Cadets
Carolina Crown Fort Mill, SC I am so awestruck and mesmerized by Carolina Crown's show; it's still hard to conceive that the corps hasn't been a major, major competitive player forever. Every corps on the field can look at what Crown has accomplished and think, "Someday, we can do that, too." This show, as sophisticated as it is but with lots of fancy, brings joy to the entire audience. The dissolving and re-evolving front to Copland's "The Promise of Living" gets me every time. I don't want to breathe from the moment it dissolves to when it returns for fear of missing something. Everything in this show seems to work, and that's quite something considering how out on a limb the corps goes to be unique.
Blue Devils Concord, CA Blue Devils are the other corps that sent flowers a few months ago. And like my reaction to those from the Cadets, I also was really taken aback and experienced major tears of joy. Why? For year in and year out, this corps has reminded me why I'm so happy to have the sense of hearing. I can't imagine not being able to hear that magnificent searing horn line and feel that drum line in my bones. The corps' color guard section continues to astound with its ability to convey a story. It doesn't seem to matter what the theme is. And also year in and year out, no matter what the corps does, it does what it does better than anyone else, even if it doesn't always win. And when the corps doesn't win, it comes back and does win, like it's done 12 times before tonight.
So in conclusion, the absolute, total, complete joy that drum corps brings to our lives is a divine blessing that must be left to better scribes than I to adequately chronicle. Ah, the joy of drum corps. Can any of us ever live without it?
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.
Photos by Craig Olear.