True Colors in Castleton

Gino confers with the BAC brass after lunch.

June 1, 2024

2:00 pm

I’m sitting in the shade in a comfortable Adirondack chair at Castleton University in Vermont. In front of me are 24 Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps trumpeters. It is after lunch, and brass instructor Steve is leading the trumpets through a series of warmups. The tubas, baritones, and mellophones are in other locations across the campus but can be heard from where I sit. The Corps will be rehearsing in sections only; there will be no full horn line warm-up today. It is early and only the end of the second week of spring training. 

Tubas serenade the locals.

Back in 1940, a similar routine began an eight-decade history of this marching ensemble, also known as BAC, for some reason. I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Steve and other BAC staff since running away with the drum corps back in 2017. Today, I am on my annual pilgrimage to visit the Corps for the first time in the new season. Familiar faces light up. Fist bumps, handshakes, and hugs abound. Once again, I am among my adopted summertime family.

Forty-eight eyes are glued on Steve, and he is given total attention. The sopranos begin to hone that singular voice in tune and unison. The metronome is the constant driving source, holding them strictly on rhythm as they rehearse the tricky triple-tonging regimens. A report from Steve relates that the talent of the Corps is the highest ever. I imagine that the program’s complexity will be turned up to match the talent. Oh, how long has it been since I heard live horn sounds? The met can be annoying, though. 

Barries in red.

7:00 pm

Now, I am sitting in the middle of the stadium for the evening rehearsal block. The entire Corps is on the field—my oh my, how they paint the field with their humanity. The weather in Vermont is perfect for an evening of toil. The temperature has dropped to the comfortable 70s with clear skies and no wind. Gino Cipriani is up high on the scaffolding, leading the entire ensemble through the musical book. So far, the Corps has worked through parts one and two. Not to give out too much information, I will only say that this is a departure from the usual epic productions that we have seen from BAC, such as Wicked Games (Salem witch trials), S.O.S. (Lord of the Flies), Goliath (David vs Goliath), Paradice Lost (Adam and Eve), and White Whale (Moby Dick). So far, this production seems to be more like Zoom, a fast and complex concept program performed post-Covid in 2021. Every year, they ramp up the volume and amplify more instruments. To respect the neighbors, all sound portions of the rehearsal end at 9:00 pm, which is time for a get-together with some of the adults in the activity.

Not the Boston Red Sox.

June 2, 2024

11:00 am

After some post-rehearsal merriment with the staff at the local pizza joint, I drove to an undisclosed location where I hung my hammock for a late spring night’s sleep. As a rehearsal junkie, one day is not enough. I am back on the campus for some more. This morning, Boston announced the show title Glitch and repertoire:

Beatbox, bags, and canteen, frequent parking lot props.

Shaker Loops: Jon Anderson/John Adams
G-Spot Tornado: Frank Zappa
Orchestral Suite No.2: J.S. Bach
Take-Five: Dave Brubeck
True Colors: Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg/ Saunder Choi
State of Independence: Jon Anderson
Worm Hole: Ryan George, Colin McNutt, Iain Moyer, Mike Zellers

Popularized by Cindi Lauper, True Colors is the ballad feature. I have heard snippets of the piece while the horns worked in sections. This afternoon, the horns will be in the ensemble in the stadium to work on it. This song and the choral arrangement that it is based on will be a tear inducer.

2:00 pm

I’m sitting on a comfortable bench in the shade just outside the stadium. The hot sun on the stands is too much for me to write comfortably inside, but you can be sure that I can hear the music from here. The horns are together on the field while working on the ballad. Compared to yesterday’s fast tempos and intricate music, sublime harmony resonates across the campus as 80 horns paint the field with colorful sounds. The kids have tonight off, so I will head home after this afternoon’s rehearsal in the stadium. For now, the past two days have satisfied my longing for drum corps. I have seen some interesting things that will make BAC show exciting and pleasing to watch in motion. I will return for Community Night next week to see how far they have progressed, putting Glitch on the field. I hope to see the entire production, where there will be lots more surprises that I will remain hush about for now. I will attend eleven shows with BAC and expect to check in with the crew and attend rehearsals throughout the summer at various housing sites along the way. I will make sure to keep you posted.

June 10, 2024 Castelton, Vermont

BAC percussion on the field.

2:00 pm.

I have returned to Castleton University for Boston Crusaders spring training after a long last week of substitute teaching. It is Community Night when, at 7:00 pm, the stadium fills up with local Vermonters to witness in person what they have endured hearing for the past three weeks. The weather is quite cool, breezy, and overcast. Hoodies are worn. It has been a rainy week, but now the weather is clearing as I write. Last week, the Corps began to work on part 3, the ballad. Today, as I sit on a bench near the stadium, I hear snippets of part four from the horn sections spread out across the campus. There was no complete horn line ensemble warm-up today. They may be entertaining us tonight with a few favorites from the lot. Hold that thought; it’s starting to rain again. Who knows now if we will have a performance.

BAC’s avant-guard warming up before the show.

6:30 pm.

I have a green seat (bucket style with a back) in row ten at Dave Wolk Stadium, next to some local Vermonters from Castleton. The clouds are breaking up, and it looks like it will be another perfect night for drum corps, cool and dry. I am about to see the first show of the year in the company of my fellow Green Mountain boys and girls. Most have only seen this once yearly in this humble stadium with a dozen rows above the field. The pit and electronics will indeed stimulate us this low. The members are arriving randomly to take the field. This will be a presentation out of uniform. The color guard is warming up in the left end zone; the drum battery is warming up far-right—time to put the computer away. One minute, there is sun, and the next minute, sprinkles. The stands are filling up—the green seats were filled 30 minutes ago.

So begins the 2024 season with Glitch.

8:00 pm.

I am back at my favorite bench outside the stadium. The results from the afternoon rehearsal were evident as BAC completed a full run of the program a few minutes ago. Except for the glitch at the end, it was a great show. Once again, my eyes were shooting droplets like sparks, and I did not have my hanky. The Boston Crusaders performed Glitch to a packed crowd. The Castletonians rose to their feet and applauded for an extended period.

Satisfying circles.

The BAC announcer fully expressed their gratitude for their hospitality, and then the Corps performed Conquest and Sweet Caroline to complete the Community Night event. These avid, annual Boston Crusaders fans showed their love for the corps members and staff with another extended standing ovation following the end of the presentation. This love would not be but for a drum corps that comes to their town each year to toil in their plain view and ear shoot for several days.

BAC bringing it in after the performance.
Post-show merriment at the Third Play Pizzeria.

This officially marks the beginning of my drum corps season. There is great anticipation of seeing Glitch evolve and improve during my tour. I will see it performed live for ten more performances beginning at the DCI Premiere competition in Rockland, MI, in a couple of weeks. The drum battery is still rehearsing as the Vermonters have faded away. They still have until nine o’clock for sound. It’s time for some post-show merriment. I’ll keep you posted.

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