Publisher’s note: This article originally appeared in the November 2005 edition of Drum Corps World, mailed to subscribers on October 20.
Alumni, members, staff, administration and fans gathered in Bayonne,NJ, to find out where the new Bridgemen Alumni Corps is heading in the new year. There were plenty of people wearing Bridgemen gear, plus there were yellow bowling shirts and black pants (the mini-corps uniform) passing through the room.
Members chatted with friends and family before heading outside to warm up. The mini-corps (a small horn line, three drummers and an honor guard) was going to perform first before the meeting.
The horn line warmed up in the St. Andrew’s Church parking lot and later entered the Senior Center, pumped up and ready to showcase some of what they’ve practiced weekly during the summer.
The crowd sat with smiles on their faces, knowing they were in for a taste of what to expect next year. The corps opened with the mysterious Pagliacci as the dark chords at full volume gave way to intricate moving parts that had the crowd’s attention. But it was the solos from soprano Bob Hunter that were worth the trip to Bayonne as the crowd roared its approval.
Next, the lush parts of Battle Hymn of the Republic showed what a seasoned group of performers can do. The performance was capped off with In the Stone, a beloved piece from the corps’ heyday that lets each section have their moment in the spotlight.
Everyone loves In the Stone and it left all in a good mood for the night. It was an exciting way to begin the open house as members and the crowd soaked up the good vibes that the Bridgemen bring to any event.
The meeting got underway with Director George Lavelle taking the podium and talking through the administration and staff plans for the new era of the alumni corps. They’ve been busy with the minutae of organizational planning, as well as focusing on the big picture of entertainment.
They struggled with how best to combine the legacies of two eras: the St. Andrew’s (shako) era and the Bayonne Bridgemen (yellow coats) era.
All of the instructors are returning to help lead the corps into the next stage of a two-year plan. Dennis DeLucia, Jim Mallen, Bob Dubinski, Pat Scollin, Larry Kerchner, Brian Law, Matt Hurley, Claire Kronenfeld and Nancy Ducharme have all signed up for another hitch.
After a high turnout for Memorial Day weekend (nearly 130 on the street), the group is confident they can realize the dream of a mega-corps of 200 members in 2006. Most members are returning and promising new recruits for the coming season. Plus, they have a core base of local members that gives a stable foundation to work from.
Bayonne’s own “Tournament of Stars” home show will begin the season on June 10, 2006, opening with other popular corps; the line-up is still in the works as commitments are being finalized.
Lavelle said, “The night will be capped off with the return of the Bridgemen to the field for the first time in 18 years! Our grand entrance down the hill and on to the field will recapture the wild ride that was first unveiled in 1976.
“Next season, we’ll play some of our classics to bring back the magic of our best years. We’ll warm up backfield to Hymn to the Last Whale and then open our show with Pagliacci, blending high drama with the Bridgemen’s unique style. We’ll segue into the musical celebration, Land of Make Believe.
“Larry Kerchner’s creative take on My Favorite Things will remind fans of who first took this piece down a new road; it will also include a hot DeLucia drum feature.
“The lush ballad of Summer of ’42 will give an emotional color change before moving into the ever-popular In the Stone to brighten everyone’s spirits. And you can’t have the return of the Bridgemen without a taste of ‘William Tell Overture’ at the end to feast on!”
And what about our uniforms, you ask? Lavellee and the team struggled with this issue for some time before coming to the conclusion that attendance at DCI started out in the early 1970s and was at its peak in the late 1970s/early 1980s. This is the era that fans in the drum corps activity remember best and it’s this era of the corps that fans are most clamoring for. You see where this is going?
“The Bridgemen Alumni Corps will return to the field wearing a replica of their classic coats (yellow for horns and drums, black for the color guard), tailored to fit adults instead of teenagers. Bobby Hoffman must be smiling up in Heaven.
Lavelle outlined the practice and performance schedule (still in the works). The schedule asks for a reasonable amount of practice time from members, taking into account busy family lives. But it’s the payoff that the corps is planning for — an appreciative crowd in the stands, some who remember their glory days and some who are new to the show style.
The Bridgemen embodied a reckless commitment to entertainment that will make converts of anyone. They pushed the envelope to create rousing shows that would make anyone feel their trip to a show was well worth the price of admission. They are credited with transforming the activity and, along with other groundbreaking corps, ushered in a new age of creativity and showmanship. They were masters of GE and will continue this tradition for years to come.
Everyone left the auditorium that night feeling proud of what they have accomplished in the past year and revved up because the best is yet to come.
Anyone interested in joining the new era of the Bridgemen can sign up at www.bridgemen.info. Go there to see what they are about and find contacts if you’d like to ask questions or coordinate with other members traveling in for rehearsals at St. Andrew’s (4th St. & Broadway). You can also contact the corps by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.