Reflections Along the Mill Brook

Monday, July 16, 2018 – Reflections Along the Mill Brook

When it hits 90 degrees, I have the best place to hang out – down along the Mill Brook. I am lucky to have such a nice private setting to reflect, write, and act out my natural tendencies. After moving a ton of rocks to clear out the swim hole, I am ensconced in my portable chair in the shade of a large yellow birch tree amid the creek-side rubble to finally sit down and write. Reflecting back on my New England tour in early July, I not only attended two great shows, but I had the privilege of joining some serious old drum corps folks for the Independence Day Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island. Being only the second time in 25 years that I have lived in Vermont that I did not attend the famous Warren, Vermont parade (that includes the ever-present Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders), I was a little homesick. Furthering my melancholy was the trip back in time to the early 1970’s in Rochester, New York. My new found drum corps bothers, the Martins treated me to a slice of drum corps cultural heritage with stories of the Rochester Crusaders and the rise and fall of the Rochester Phoenix Senior Corps. I know my real brother Danny and I were present in the stands for those memorable competitions. I can seriously understand the nostalgia that many older fans feel about the activity. Many that I have talked to recall the raucous, good old days when perhaps the relationship between the corps, fans and adjudicators were a bit out of sync, but it was pure drum corps. There were some tears amid the beers as we celebrated years past, the present, and the future of this uniquely American thing.

The longest annual parade celebrating the statement of our independence from England lived up to its reputation with throngs of parade goers lining the historic parade route along Hope Street. My generous housemates rented a condominium strategically located in the heart of the historic district on the route that provided for placing our chairs out on the street curb at 4:30 am to assure our spots. An air of friendly anticipation prevailed among the parade goers nearby. Donny, a talented old drum corps trumpeter from that famous era and instructor, treated us all to some nice renditions of patriotic tunes while we waited for the parade to reach our location. Finally, the marching ensembles arrived, and the various troops, firemen, auxiliaries, bands, office holders, and innumerable groups of every cause and persuasion advanced and disappeared before us. It was never ending. Highlights included the participation of a few of the world-class drum corps that performed in Cranston the night before. Spirit of Atlanta and Carolina Crown passed without a note but when the Boston Crusaders passed, we were all treated to a rousing delivery of Conquest much to the delight of Garry, the BAC board member and his family.

Since that memorable drum corps road trip, I have been noodling around the Russell Ranch, keeping up with my projects and following the drum corps activity on my computer. I am grateful to those who are posting interesting content to listen to and watch. DCI’s chosen steaming video service is deserving of the love and hate that I have read in the forums. Thank you Flo, but please do your homework and get the cameras in the right places. There is so much more you could provide during intermission if you would get out there and record and produce it. It was nice to watch the documentary on the Boston Crusaders again but it was from LAST YEAR!

I have also been preparing for my late season tour. News Flash! – I have tickets for the finals at the 50-yard line, thanks to Steve the publisher, so I will be continuing past Massillon to Indianapolis again. It will be a privilege to sit with Steve and his team at finals and get more immersed into the cult. First, I will be heading to North Carolina where I will be taking in the southern charm and getting to know the Carolina Crown family. Another drum corps brother from another mother, Tim a Crown board member will be introducing me to CrownCares, a very special community outreach program. It includes the corps members’ participation and fosters the mission of life long excellence by giving a hand (feet) up to young persons with the donation of new sneakers. We will then be attending NightBeat, a Tour of Champions event to be held in Winston Salem on July 29. This will be the first time I will see the top corps together this season. It will also be another reunion with the Boston Crusaders to see how Steve the prop guy is doing and to check in with the new Chef, Amanda.

It has been hard not to pay attention to the scores and rankings. Early season variables and fluxes in the schedules of the various competitions have caused a lot of shifting in the ranking among all of the corps through the first half of the season. The Boston Crusaders are holding strong to 6th place, their final placement from 2017. It will be interesting to see where they will be by the end of the regular season going into the finals week. There has been a lot of discussion in the forums regarding the scoring. Calm voices assure that all is well and the corps’ spirit is very high. All systems are go with the incredible support of the staff and volunteers. I like to use skiing as an analogy here. When I teach telemark style I explain that when the skill curve and the fitness curve come together, that is when the magic and the sweet turns happen. The BAC book is complex, like a double black diamond ski trail. The kids are growing into the show more and more everyday, and in the end the judges will reward them for their mastery of it. You can see that already happening with percussion. The skill curve is coming together and they are attacking that black diamond with sweet turns. Of course this also applies to the other fine corps who are not remaining idle. What has been evident to me is that every corps that I have observed, either live or with the proverbial not quite Memorex, has a very difficult program book that they are working feverishly to tweak, clean, and perfect. Surges and setbacks will continue to the final days at Indianapolis. Who knows who will be performing on the final night and who will end up with a medal? In my book, everyone out there on the field is a winner. Though I am calmly sitting here with my feet in the cooling brook, I am very excited that I will be there, starting at NightBeat, to experience it from the 50 yard line all the way to the end and to lend a hand where I may be needed. Meanwhile, it’s time for a hike.

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