Friday, July 4, 2014

A drum corps 4th of July

Marching in the Clawson 4th of July parade again today was not enough.*  I'm continuing the patriotic celebration by posting videos of five shows that Drum Corps International chose as the most Americana filled shows in DCI history.  Yes, I'm in an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood and I want to maintain my unique position as the only doomer blogger who writes about drum corps.

DCI posted the videos in chronogical order and so will I.  The first is the finale of 1984 Suncoast Sound, which I saw in person three decades ago.

Suncoast Sound reflected the turbulence of America in the 1960s, a time when many were convinced we all might disappear in a nuclear war precipitated by the Cuban Missile Crisis and further aggravated by the Vietnam War. Drill formations of a bomb and a giant mushroom cloud rekindled this sense of uneasiness.

The spiritual highlight of the show was when a dispute between police and war protesters led into a deeply reverential moment, when 28 pieces of adjoining fabric were slowly picked up to reveal a representation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The image of a young girl communicating with the spirit of her unseen deceased father at the wall was chilling and heartbreaking.

The production came to a close starting with the discontent of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" before evolving into "America the Beautiful." An old-fashioned American flag presentation was followed by color guard members unrolling banners of red, white and blue, portraying a sense of renewed hope and pride in the nation.
At the time, I said both Troopers and Suncoast Sound were both America's Corps that year, but Troopers were Reagan's corps, while Suncoast Sound was Mondales.  Speaking of Troopers, follow over the jump for them and three more shows from the decades of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, most of which I saw in person or on live television.

The second corps is the same one in the teaser image, the Troopers, although that photo is from 1980.  The show DCI chose to highlight is from 1986 and is the only one of the bunch that I hadn't seen before.

Troopers have long been nicknamed "America's Corps." How could they not be on this list? Of all the patriotic and Americana shows the corps has brought us, this may well be its most red, white and blue production of them all.

The corps opened its 1986 production with "American Salute," based on the Civil War era song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." "Silverado" caught the dynamic flavor of settling the Old West, complete with a hoedown. The reverence of "Prayer of Thanksgiving" was followed by the Americana exuberance of Copland's "The Red Pony" and the corps' trademark "Sunburst" drill maneuver.

What pushed this show over the edge into patriotic splendor was the slow tempo "Battle Hymn of the Republic," with eight red, white and blue banners unfurled as if the rays of the sun rising over a new day of honor. With the entire corps surrounded by red, white and blue flags, this show couldn't have been more patriotic had the corps spelled out "AMERICA" across the field.
The middle corps of the group is from the second decade covered by the retrospective, 1992 Star of Indiana.

For those who perceive America as one of extreme excess, "American Variations" responded with, "Yeah, what about it? And while we're at it, here's even more of the more, more and MORE!" Pushing home the unabashedly patriotic theme were red coats, white pants and blue sashes on the brass and percussionists and red and white stripes inside the blue color guard dresses, just in case the red, white and blue flags didn't quite convey the message.

In "Amber Waves," transparent scrim paintings of Americana scenes were set up across the field, including sheaths of wheat, the Golden Gate Bridge, crested bluffs, and purple mountains majesty. Flags representing immigrants sailed across the field to introduce a scrim of the upraised hand of the Statue of Liberty.

"Flag of Stars," based on quotes from "The Star Spangled Banner," led to the entire corps disappearing behind a giant scrim depicting fireworks exploding in the background of the Miss Liberty. Perhaps the only thing missing was an apple pie.
The penultimate show, like the first, was a patriotic retrospective of America in a moment of crisis, but instead of the 1960s and 1970s,  the 1995 Bluecoats were commemorating World War II.

Bluecoats celebrated the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II with "Homefront: 1945," a euphoric-yet-bittersweet look at the lives of those left behind while soldiers and sailors went overseas to fight for liberty.

The brass and percussion were attired in military dress uniforms and the color guard members wore clothing and hairstyles of the 1940s. Tunes from the era highlighted the personal battles at home and the military battles overseas. Lovers danced with each other before departing for military training. A variety of songs of the armed forces were heard amidst Morse Code and the escalation of battle.

The corps celebrated the end of the war with enthusiastic dancing and a live replication of that famous Life Magazine photo of a sailor kissing the first young woman he saw in Times Square. But the reality of war hit home as one woman was presented with a folded American flag while grieving over the loss of her loved one, reminding us that freedom isn't free.
The final show also was a response of a moment of crisis, in this case, the 9-11 attacks: 2002 Cadets.

"An American Revival" took place in the heart of Manhattan as the nation was entering World War II, spanning the six decades between the "Day of Infamy" and the attacks of 9/11. For the most part, the show was a feel good delight; the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" remains one of the greatest musical parties ever thrown on a football field.

Citizens of the Big Apple tried to get in one last bout of merrymaking before the lights were turned off in Times Square. Then a mood of solemnity filled the air as the male members of the color guard put on their army khakis and all stated the "Pledge of Allegiance."

After forming an American flag drill formation and re-creating the famed raising of the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima, the corps staged the image of the three firemen raising the flag amidst the rubble of the fallen towers. During the corps' final performance of the season, screaming sirens and flashing lights on fire trucks stationed across the street were activated, perfectly capturing the mood of a country still recovering from the attacks 11 months earlier.
I was there for that show, the next to last DCI championship I ever attended, and I couldn't help but chuckle knowingly at the Cadets getting the firemen across the street from the stadium to cooperate.

With that, I wish a final happy 4th of July to you all.  May our current crisis also produce a recollection of a country that responds in a manner worthy of our patriotic respect.

*Even this post won't be enough.  Later this weekend, expect a post-mortem about the parade I marched in today as well as another entry about what I did for the Coffee Party today.