Blessed Sacrament Golden Knigts (Newark, NJ)
Photo by David Rice

Temperatures were in the crisp 50s for the morning Thanksgiving Parade, but the blistering performances of nine top alumni drum and bugle corps, an incredible fife and drum corps and one outstanding high school band raised some serious heat for the evening concert in historic Memorial Hall.

Starting off the evening attired in back, white and purple, was the Plymouth High Schools combined band. Featuring 100 musicians and a guard of 12, the unit marched out in military precision that is customary for drum and bugle corps. The show, “Conquests,” presented Latin music, always a winning formula with a drum corps audience…

The first drum and bugle corps of the evening was the Valley Aires of Northbridge, MA. This was an especially late in the year performance for this corps that generally limits itself to a six-week spring season. Considering only a couple of rehearsals were held to get ready for this show (explains why many members had their music attached to their instruments) it was a strong performance…

Next on stage were the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights, whose bright gold uniforms lit up the hall. Opening with a Navy Hymn warm-up, the 46 brass shook the halls when they lit into El Cid, a drum corps favorite of the 1960s. This great version featured soprano and baritone trios…

The familiar strains of Bully introduced the green and black of Mighty St. Joe’s to the audience, and this newer arrangement of a classic was an immediate hit. A smaller (for them) horn line of 34 was well balanced, powerful and talented. If our country needs more patriotism, everyone should attend an alumni show, and MSJ’s is a prime example of what there is to offer…

Scheduled to appear next were the Manchester Muchachos. Most people in the audience were aware of the tragedy that struck this unit earlier in the day. Longtime member and drum instructor Tom Downie suffered a heart attack while performing in the parade. Efforts of the quick arriving EMT’s were unsuccessful. When the ambulance left the scene, on instructions from Tom’s wife, Muriel, a bass drummer; and his sister Carol, the corps’ color guard instructor, the unit regrouped and completed the parade. During the afternoon, the corps was notified that Tom had passed away, but that his family insisted that the Muchachos perform in the evening concert and dedicate the performance to his memory. So the Muchachos did what drum corps do. They played and earned the respect of all the other units and the audience…

Appearing next were the St. Kevin Emerald Knights, resplendent in green and red and reminding local fans of the great SKEK corps of the past. The 39 brass cleanly attacked the opening fanfare of Pagliacci, and the corps launched itself into the familiar Voice of the Guns…

The Light Brigade, in beige and black, accentuated in tartan plaid, started off with a bugle call to order with Officers of British Rank on a podium. It was obvious that the Brigade was prepared for this reunion in that they did a modified field show with a number of park and blow maneuvers after position changes on the floor.

The powerful and well-balanced horn line of the Connecticut Alumni socked it to the audience right from the beginning with Inca Dinka Doo, Jimmy Durante’s signature piece, and went on from there to thrill the paying customers.

Next on were the American Originals. I looked forward to seeing this unit because I rarely get to watch a performance of a fife and drum corps. Since I was performing with the Boston Crusaders two units later, I had to get dressed and tuned, and thus missed the opportunity. I did speak to friends who reported to me that the Originals have a snare line that would be the envy of any drum and bugle corps. They are clean and professional and were not at all out of place in a drum and bugle corps show.

Earlier in the afternoon, I spoke to Cab’s drum major Chuck Bishop, and I asked him about what changes, if any, one might expect from Hawthorne now that Larry Kerchner was writing the musical show. He said that this evening the corps would perform the 2003 repertoire, but next year (with a gleam in his eye) the corps would be more musical instead of just loud. I had to smile, because no alumni corps is more popular or better liked than the Hawthorne Caballeros. Changing the formula might be like going from Coke Classic to the new Coke. The crowd just might not buy it. Then again, Larry Kerchner is one of the more respected drum corps arrangers on this planet. So we’ll have to hold judgement on that until next year. But this year’s Caballeros were great. I watched them from the floor, since my Crusaders were on next. What a tough act to follow!

The honor of being the final performer went to Boston Crusaders Seniors. I have the unique opportunity of reporting on the performance of my own corps although from a much different perspective than from where I observed the previous units. It’s something that I usually avoid, because I tend to be more critical of my group, and more forgiving of others. The Crusaders marched onto the floor with a great deal of intensity and a desire to impress the hometown fans. The black berets with Waldo patches and the blood red vests reminiscent of the old time Crusader cadet jackets, were a welcome change from the Santa hats and red windbreakers worn in the parade.

Everyone to whom I spoke, participants and spectators alike, greatly enjoyed Plymouth and look forward to future Drum Corps Reunion Concerts here.

For the rest of this article and much more, pick up a copy of the January 2004 issue of Drum Corps World.

Hawthrone Caballeros Alumni (Hawthorne, NJ)
Photo by David Rice