Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The incident that must not be mentioned - part II

The story of the "incident" during the Ambassadors 1983 season. The beginning of the story is here (scroll up to get to the top of the entry).

Events came to a head on July 23, 1983, the day of the Ontario Provincial Championships (scroll down the page for this show) in Brantford, ON. The Provincial Championships were, at the time, the second most significant show of the season to an Ontario drum corps next to the National Championships. We didn't go to DCI that year so it wasn't in the picture for us. We had yet to beat our rivals, the Kiwanis Kavaliers. Yes, _those_ Kiwanis Kavaliers. They were Class A or Div. III back then too. We never did beat them in 1983. As Don Daber said in Drum Corps World in a review of our show on July 16, 1983, Scarborough, ON, we were "having a hard time getting on track".

With this sort of tension simmering we were in rehearsal on the day of Provincials in Brantford on a football field somewhere within city limits. The Ambassadors were a weekend and evening corps with extended rehearsals only during the short tours we did in the US Midwest so we were pressed for time at the best of times. It was a drill rehearsal and I think only da guard and horn line were present along with our gaurd and drill instructors. It was a hot day, not too humid as I remember but plenty hot. Some of the instructors were standing atop one of the school buses we had arrived on as a makeshift press box to observe the drill forms. Did I mention that it was hot?

In the drum solo that year I marched close to my friend, I'll call him Bill, who played baritone. Bill wasn't the best horn player in the line but he was a good guy and we got along fairly well. He was a little younger than me but both of us were on the older side of corps members, as the average age in the Ambassadors at that time was around 14.

In rehearsal, we had been working on the section of the drum solo that involved the horn players and their flags for at least an hour and a half, starting with the proper distribution of the flags to the horn players and then, finally, the flag work itself. At this point Bill began to get agitated. He had been having problems with the flag work since it had been introduced a week or two before and it was evident to me that he hadn't practised it much either. So Bill had a problem and he decided to deal with it in his own way. He began complaining about how the flag work was stupid and too hard and how we were supposed to get it together in so short a time. Since I was hot, tired and had spent a lot of my own time preparing my flag work, I was unsympathetic. In fact I told him to get it together and reminded him that Provincials was a matter of hours away. He kept complaining. I couldn't understand why he couldn't just leave his complaining and do the best he could under the circulmstances and I said so.

At this point Bill snapped. I'm not sure if the pressure or the heat was responsible but he started loudly complaining that I had said that he couldn't march that night because of his bad flag work. I had said nothing of the kind and protested this to him. Then he made a rash and fateful decision: he dropped his flag and began walking off the field reiterating his complaints all the way.

In retrospect, the rehearsal had gone on too long without a break for water or rest for corps members or the instructional staff. We were under the gun to make the this sequence work in time for Provincials and we needed as much rehearsal time as possible. At some point though, there should have been a break to save everyone's baking brains.

I didn't actually see the our drill instructor leap off the yellow school bus that he had been perched on up to then but I heard him hit the ground. He then advanced on Bill, yelling at him. Bill started yelling back, repeating his accusations about me as an excuse for leaving the field and this served to further enrage our instructor. I saw what was coming and grabbed Bills horn as they closed on each other and started wrestling. The rest was incoherent yelling, scuffling and rolling around with Bill getting the worst of it. Eventually the other instructors and older corps members pulled them apart and a much-chastened and quiet corps continued our drill rehearsal without the company of Bill or the drill instructor. I don't think anyone else ever complained about the having to do flag work again.

My followup may be frustrating for the reader as I don't remember much of what happened later. In the end I am not sure if Bill marched the show that night but I think he did. I also don't remember if he did a good job with his flag although I nailed my flag work. I am not sure if the instructor in question was with us for the rest of the year either although he may have been. We didn't win Provincials but we did a good show that we were satisfied with. The horn flag sequence stayed in the show, much to my relief as I had put a lot of work into my part of it.

That part of the show was a success, and as I have written before, effective when we managed to keep it together. The average drum corps fan watching from the stands however, would have no idea what had gone into it.

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