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.

Wither the CDCA?

Does anyone know what has happened to the CDCA? I must assume it has folded up as there are no longer Canadian Championships held. I don't think there is a Canadian Judges Association (CJA) either. Email me if you have any information about these organizations.

Thanks, Sam

The incident that must not be mentioned - part I

I think in every drum corps summer season there are incidents that are of note that will never be recorded in the corps yearbook or promotional material. This is one of them. I have changed the names of the principals to protect the mostly innocent.

I have often thought that this incident would make a nice addition to the Blast! show that the Star of Indiana morphed into some years ago.

First, some background: In 1983 the horn line of the Ambassadors used half-sized flags in the drum solo section of the show. It was suprisingly effective. (No offense to '83 vets but we weren't the strongest corps that year. The scores bear me out.)
See pics:

This is a picture of a rehearsal at Summer's farm in Aurora. You can see the pale yellow flags in the horn players right hands if you look carefully.

It's hard to see what's going on here but this is a shot of the horn flags in action. This is a scan of a black and white photo from a 1984 program.

At any rate, I spent a great deal of time in my back yard practising with my flag. It was all straight-armed work and I found it difficult to get the flag into position in time at first. I am sure our neighbours in Aurora thought I was nuts.

A big challenge for a corps of our scale, (we would be considered Division III these days), was the logistics of getting the flags to all the horn players. It seem to take half the drum solo to get one in everyone's hands.

It was a tough sell for Janice Bouwer, our head guard instructor, to get the horn players to put the moves together but eventually the line was able to make it work if not perfect it. We implemented it mid-season so there was a rush to get the drum solo with horn flag work added presentable for the Provincial Championships.

Enough background, on to the story.

To be Continued (scroll up to get to the top of the entry)

Old Timey Drum Corps

Kenosha memories

From the DCI.org web site, here's a great description of life in an "old time" drum corps circa 1968 in Wisconsin. The following quote reminds me of my experience in the Ambassadors from 1979 to 1983. Of course even then the school music programs were less than they were in the 60s and local support in the Aurora and Newmarket was good but not overwhleming. I remember that the music teacher at Huron Heights S.S. in Newmarket said of drum corps: "They play at two volumes: loud and louder". He was enlightened; he knew what a drum corps was.

At that time, for those more "schooled" in music, drum corps was considered not "real" music, and the participants weren't considered "musicians." It was more of a "blue-collar" activity for kids who would otherwise have had little else to be involved with, or had gotten themselves into trouble. There was far less variety in the musical selections and the corps had far inferior equipment and no big name arrangers or instructors - those jobs were usually filled by former corps members who stuck around after they aged out.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Mysteries and Applause Meters

The DCM web site now has recaps (.pdf) of the July 17 show in Sault Ste. Marie, ON. This indicates the Blue Saints were at this show rather than Kitchener, ON. So who was at Kitchener? Did anyone out there attend the show?

Interestingly, the recap seems to indicate that the show was not judged by DCM judges but by a slate of VIPs, a sort of elite style competition by applause.

Aside: As a marching member in the Blue Devils in '84 I learned to hate those awards given out to the corps that garnered the most applause when the crowd was polled at retreat. I know it was mostly an exercise to keep the crowd happy while we waited for the real scores to be tabulated, but after working so hard through the spring and summer it was a bit much to get beat by the Troopers in these applause-meter things after we had walked all over them in every caption. I like the Troopers too, but they weren't a contender for the DCI championship that year.

Yes, yes I know: "There are all winners to me." :-P

Monday, July 19, 2004

Another Drum Corps Blog!

In looking into the Blue-Saints-in-two-places mystery, I stumbled across a web journal by a current marching member of the Blue Saints:

The Journey of a Lifetime


RSS 0.91
RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0

Scores for Dutchboy show in Kitchener

Hmmm. How can the Blue Saints be in Kitchener and Sault Ste. Marie on the same day? Super powers? A fleet of executive jets?

Saturday July 17, 2004
Kitchener ONT
Position Corps Score
0 Blue Saints
1 Lake Erie Regiment 68.90
2 Dutch Boy 65.50
3 St. John's 64.60

From Corpsreps.com: http://www.corpsreps.com/scores.cfm?view=scorecurrent

Missed one...

I missed reporting this show as upcoming. It didn't occur to me to check the DCM web site for Ontario shows. My apologies and keep on marching northern Ontario corps!

Saturday, July 17
Sault Ste. Marie, ON Canada
Bandettes Home Parade and Contest
Location: Queen Elizabeth Field, 280 Elizabeth Street
Tickets/Info: (705) 942-9674
Parade: Simpson Street, step- off at 11:00AM
Contest: 7:30PM
* Bandettes Small Corps
* Blue Saints
* Americanos
* Kingsmen
* Blue Stars
* Racine Scouts
* Pioneer
* Bandettes


Scout House domain is AWOL, again.

The link below to http://www.scouthouseband.org/ is broken as of this post and brings up a generic page from a domain name seller. :P

My cheapo policy of not registering a domain name for the Ambassdor site is starting to look pretty good.

But bad knees are still a problem...

I have noticed an interesting trend in Ontario drum corps. Consider the following lines ups for two of the three shows in Ontario this summer (Geek disclaimer: I copy and pasted this from the the Canadian Open and Belleville Festival Sites and to my surprise the HTML code was copied too. I therefore take no responsibility for ugly HTML in the copied parts following. All other ugly code is my own):

Canadian Open 2004
Dutch Boy
St. Johns
Les Stentors
Lake Erie Regiment
Hamilton Youth Performance Ensemble
Hamilton Fire Fighters
Toronto Optimists Alumni Corps
Toronto Signals
Scout House Alumni Band
United Alumni Corps


Belleville Waterfront & Ethnic Festival Program

Notice anything interesting? The Senior corps are dominating the scene! Well I suppose two shows are hardly a scene. In my day the senior corps were something of a joke in Ontario. They were more drinking clubs than competing corps. This seems to have changed by all reports. Let's see if this is a trend.

Speaking of reports, did any one attend the Kitchener or Belleville shows and would they drop me a line about them if so? Thanks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Drum Corps Amplification discussion

The business of amplification being used by DCI drum and bugle corps this season is being discussed in the following forums:

Drum Corps Planet Forums

Discussion is also turning up in R.A.M.D. news group. For those of you who are not old school, (there was a time when newsgroups and e-mail _were_ the internet) you can read this group through Google at the following link. WARNING: people can post to newsgroups like this in a more or less anonymous way, this lends itself to bouts of extreme not-niceness.


I found the first link through Matthew Briddell's "Keep the Amps out of Drum Corps" web site.

Friday, July 09, 2004

128 please. Here's your 135.

DCI FAQ - How is a corps' division determined?

Apparently there are now a maximum of 135 members in a DCI Drum Corps rather than 128 when I marched in the early '80s. When did this change? I remember seeing references to this on the web earlier this year but I haven't followed up on it until I saw this link on Drum Corps Planet. Does this mean squad drill is gone too?