A self-indulgent essay in several parts.
Please bare with me…
The smell of diesel and tar. The comforting feeling of finally getting out of your uniform. Having a smoke and chatting with the other corps before the busses leave. To where? You can never remember where you’re corps is headed next. Another show. Another night under the lights.
If you didn’t march, there’s no way for you to possibly understand how important these simple memories are. Like the feeling of relief when you take your hat off as your walking through the tunnel; sweat running down your back. It may have been a good performance or a bad one but it’s over.
Once the summer is over, memories are all we have to hold on to. As time fades and adulthood creeps in, memories become elusive. But these memories are visceral and have texture; like the smell of freshly cut grass. For me, every summer the memories return. I start to feel that need to hear some Drum Corps. I wait – just like the rest of you, to see what my favorite corps’ program is. My marching days are long gone, but the memories are alive and well. I’ll attend a show and perhaps see an old friend. We’ll talk about when this happened and laugh about when that happened. I’m not only part of the past but a member of the future, because it’s that past that is creating the future.
The Drum & Bugle Corps activity has come a long way baby, from it’s meager beginnings in 1971 to where it is today. We struggled through innumerable changes; both good and bad, but always moving forward, always evolving. Drum Corps International has been thrilling fans for over 45 years. The memories of those decades are thick with emotion. And just like any other historical moment, these memories become frozen in time as we sit in the stands and cheer.
There have been so many great moments in the long history of DCI that it’s not an easy task to recall them all but I will do my best.
These recollections are in no particular order.
“The Winter Palace.”
On a foggy humid night in 1977, I saw The Phantom Regiment perform for the first time at a high school stadium in Belvidere, IL. There were several corps competing that evening but none of them held me captivated like Phantom did. The helmets gleaming in the field lights. The long black capes; they were fascinating and mysterious. I salivated over every note of the opening number: Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Ironic, don’t ya think?
From that evening on, The Phantom Regiment was my favorite corps. And though I did not march with them, they have forever held a special place in my heart. Several of their programs throughout the decades are among my very favorite shows; save one: 1986. The opening hits of Carnival Overture were powerful to be certain. But there was something missing. I didn’t know then what it was. I can’t be sure that even they knew.
Placing 10th that year at nationals in Madison, WI might very well have been an omen of things to come. There were whispers: “What’s going on with Phantom?”
“What’s going on with Phantom?”
Nobody outside of the organization could possibly have known the change that was about to come.
These days – with YouTube, Facebook, and other social media outlets, it’s not very hard to find news on your favorite corps. We all wait impatiently for the first report of the upcoming season. But back then, in 1987; it was winter, and no one was talking. Little did any of us know: “Winter is coming.”
If I recall correctly , I was in Des Plains, IL watching a show with a group of friends. I didn’t march that year and regretted it. I remember hearing a gasp – a sudden intake of air. And someone pointed at the corps moving towards that backfield. They wore a blast of clean white and black; flecked with shimmering silver. Gone were the heavy shirts and baggy pants. The most amazing transformation however, was the silvery-white plume perched on the helmet. It was regal. It was new. It was shinny, and it was awesome. They looked so good. The name of the program that year was Songs From the Winter Palace, highlighting Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Nutcracker. It was a beautiful performance from beginning to end. Seeing that show and witnessing that transformation brought me back to that foggy night in Belvidere. Those same emotions returned.
The addition of the plume and the updated uniform brought a needed element to that and future programs. And it didn’t hurt their GE score either…