Dear Aunt Mildred,
I’ve missed you and your family, except for Uncle Phineas. He’s a bore. It’s great to have MMA back and I wish you lots of luck with your new web site. I think it’s going to be great.
My questions are how have been dealing with the pandemic and who was your favorite MA drum corps, instructors, judges etc. in what I feel were the greatest years in the activity, the ‘40s through the ‘70s?
My Dearest Martha,
It is delightful to hear from you, my dear. Thank you so very much for your well wishes for MMA. Phoebe and Henrietta are doing quite well. Phineas, of course, is an acquired taste – truly a treasure, though I suspect there are those who may feel we would all be better served if he were a buried treasure.
We have been residing at the Vineyard since March, foregoing travel to our customary haunts in Key West due to the pandemic, though we did manage several jaunts back to America in search of provisions. We consumed scrumptious New England seafood throughout the sultry summer and our Phineas procured a margarita machine that is the bee’s knees. It was all quite lovely, though I fear another bite from the sea may have me sprouting scales. We look forward to a frosty winter of roaring fireplaces with simmering soups and stews, hot apple cider and cocoa, Irish coffee and toddies – but I digress.
The year without drum corps has seemed such a deprivation, but the health of our country is paramount. Our hearts go out to the fine young people who were unable to fulfill their dreams of marching this year. I greatly hope we shall have an antidote in the near future.
Your second question is rather difficult. Undoubtedly, some friends and associates will not agree with my response, but Richard, our editor and certainly not my nephew, has assured me that we are now all old and have been annoying folks for 25 years.
My introduction to drum corps came in 1946 when the fine gentlemen of Lt. Norman Prince, just returning from World War II, won their first VFW Senior Corps Nationals. Most of their original members were formerly from the Sacred Heart Crusaders of Malden, Massachusetts. Scotty Chappell was their drum major, music and drill instructor. They were the class of the competition and I found their performance thrilling.
I now shall leap to 1957 and the Hyde Park Crusaders. They were led by the sensational George Bevilacqua, who remains my favorite drum major of all time. He possessed such a presence! I do believe it was Ed Denon’s first year with the Crusaders. He was quite wonderful. Their execution was exquisite from opening with “Shangrila” through the end of their show.
In 1961 Ed Denon became the instructor for Lt. Norman Prince’s horn line. He taught a show based on “West Side Story” which I believe featured “Maria” and “Tonight.” It was fabulous! Regrettably, it was a year too soon for the show to be truly appreciated. The following year everyone was playing “West Side Story.”
My next selection is the Cambridge Caballeros of 1962.Their difficult show topped off with “Malaguena” as the concert number. As I recall, “Sunday In Seville” was their opener. They closed with a most haunting version of “Flamingo.” Al Saia and Hugo Evarelli, two exceptional gentlemen, truly outdid themselves.
In 1963 St. Kevin’s Emerald Knights came out like blockbusters. Frank Bergdoll was their horn instructor and he, along with Cliff Fisher, created a captivating show. Theirs was one of my favorite horn lines of all time.
The year was 1970 and the Boston Crusaders were poised to win the American Legion Nationals, but for the politics of the American Legion. When the show completed, Boston was in first place. A Legion honcho decided to negate the Chicago Cavaliers inspection score, which awarded them the national title. It was disgraceful and to this day, I do not believe the Legion has ever tendered an explanation.
In 1974 the corps was the Beverly Cardinals. They opened “Fanfare for the New” followed by “Nights in White Satin,” a concert of “Get It On,” and “Hummingbird.” This show is one of my most beloved. Jim O’Brien was the corps director, Rick was on horns, Joe Casey was on drill and a there was a plethora of truly remarkable people on drums.
From 1975 until they folded, the 27th Lancers were the pride of Massachusetts, coming oh so close on several occasions to winning it all. Under the leadership of director George Bonfiglio, they were blessed with three of the finest drill instructors of all time: “Ike” Iannessa, Ralph Pace and George Zingalli. The gifted Charley Poole was on drums, the inimitable Jim Wedge was on horns, joined by a cast of talented and innovative color guard instructors. Who will ever forget “Danny Boy,” one of the best closers of all time?
Another of my most loved corps is North Star. I shall never forget “This Masquerade” and “Sir Duke” or the outstanding solo by the late Jerry Noonan in “Ole.” And lest we forget “The Chrome Wall”.
I shall answer the rest of your question next time. My sincerest apologies for any errors or omissions. Kindly direct queries or complaints to the publisher. The pittance he pays is insufficient for the process of grievances.