by Tom Lizotte
Where would drum corps be if Don Angelica were still alive?
I think Don would applaud the progress we have made in improving performance levels (he NEVER accepted substandard performance), but would be disappointed in the direction the activity has taken creatively and in terms of the state of judging.
He stood for great music. In the early ’80s the Cadets were doing things such as “Rocky Point Holiday” and Bernstein’s “Mass.” He supported that tack, and George Zingali’s work, because although in the formative stages, this approach was a major improvement and the activity’s future direction. If the visuals were a bit messy, the activity could not afford to lose the genius.
The following is an excerpt from “The March on Massachusetts,” a history of Massachusetts Drum Corps from the mid 1920s to the present. It will be available in early ’97.
In the Beginning There Was a King
*In the beginning, there was a king and this king ruled over a young band of crusaders. They all went off to a great war and returned victorious, but not without having paid a great price. The king gathered his troops and they collectively became known as “Prince.”
The king was Arthur “Scotty” Chappell. His vision, creativity, compassion, inventiveness, and oh yes, talent, had the most profound impact on the direction that drum corps was to take, not just in Boston and Massachusetts, but indeed the entire world of the marching arts!
On Saturday evening, August 31, 1996, Mr. Al Saia was inducted into The World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, founded in 1976. This is a most prestigious honor, as Al joins fellow New England corpsmen Scotty Chapell, Dom Bianculli, Earl Sturtze, Vinnie Ratford, Pepe Notaro, Alan Smyth, Tom Long, Darcy Davis, Dominic Del Ra, Joe McNaught, Ray Samora, Jack Whelan, Duke Ducharme, Ed Trainer, Cliff Fisher, Jim Pinette, Gerry Shellmer, and Gil Silva.
Al’s drum corps career had its start with the Sacred Heart Crusaders of Malden in 1937 and a life-long relationship began with Arthur “Scotty” Chappell, and the corps’ spiritual director, Father Sheehan. He started out in the horn line, but early on the powers-to-be spotted something special and he was promoted to drum major.
Gerry wasn’t like the other drummers and instructors. Hell, he wasn’t like anyone you ever met before, a unique, creative, intense and driven genius. He now resides in Wilmington, Delaware and his current passion is sailing. He screams at the waves, the seagulls, the sails, the sun, and anything else that amuses him.
New England has had more than its share of innovators going back to Chappell in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s and too many others to mention here, but along with Chappell and George Zingali, the visual giant, Gerry Shellmer changed the face of marching percussion for all time.
By Gerry Shellmer
In my opinion, listening to a drum corps percussion section is as musically boring as a politician’s campaign speech. Imagine how interesting and musically rewarding a drum corps contest would be if the instrumentation were not limited to mere drums and cymbals. The contest would evolve into an enjoyable show and therefore a more saleable product which would realize more $$$ for the corps.
Honestly, consider the amount of musical orientation drummers receive who play in even the finer lines in the nation. Hopefully they will at least learn how to read music and play in time. They learn to play with precise execution – the snare drum, the tom tom, bass drum, cymbals and tympani. Whether or not they learn to play these instruments with the proper technique is in serious doubt.
Before a percussion student is accepted into any good music college, he must demonstrate a degree of proficiency on a keyboard mallet instrument, usually the marimba. Where does he get the training? Certainly not in the drum corps!!!