Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories, part XI

To continue to quote tales from my senior year with the UMass marching band, fall 1987 … and my compatriots in the current Delaware band may find some of these items particularly inspirational …


Rehearsal: Tuesday, October 20, 1987

[] There was some extra-curricular drum major schtick going on in the Can Can drill. After the first 6/8 “bell-tone” phrase, the band would scatter to a new drill set, and Chris and I would run over to the 45-yardlines. As soon as the band would stop scattering, freeze, and play the second 6/8 phrase, we’d strike ballet-like poses, arms out, one foot backward, facing in toward the podium and making faces at Heidi. The first time we tried that unannounced, we heard a whole lot of control being lost on the sidelines. Heidi reported later: “Oh, George loved it. He said, ‘Where’d THAT come from?’” From Chris’ imagination, incidentally.

Rehearsal: Thursday, October 22, 1987

[] Heidi, Chris and I went hunting for a French flag this afternoon, for use in the Can Can feature. A big one. It existed, miraculously, at our first stop, the Amherst Drop Zone Army/Navy store. “This is too easy,” we agreed. Maybe it made up for the snipe, er, glove hunt.

[] We had a number of blowups today. Two were mine. One of those was done for me, actually — a test-firing of the cannon we’d be using, less than 15 yards away. The last time the band had been scared out of its socks like that was during the 1812 Overture, my sophomore year. I pleaded with Sue Niziol [’90] and Kim Pass [’91] NOT to fire it in my direction again.

Rehearsal: Friday, October 23, 1987

[] We continued to work Can Can — the dress rehearsal with ALL the changing of clothes.

Oh yes – members of the color guard were planning to sneak behind a series of cloth panels at midfield, held by other guard members, and change out of their uniforms into can-can dancer outfits – leotards and skirts in lots of different colors. When they were done, the panels would be folded up and, surprise! Audience is amazed! (Not exactly Santa Clara Vanguard-grade surprise, but still.)

I went back to conduct behind the panels and in front of the quads, so the drumline, whose line of sight to the podium was partially blocked by the panels, could see at least one set of arms at all times. But I swear I didn’t watch the color guard change. I did NOT! I had to watch Heidi like a hawk here; otherwise the drumline was liable to go charging off without her! (Oh, okay, occasionally the eyes wandered; but all I saw was frantic people wrestling with spandex, playing “Beat the Clock”.)

The drumline, though, was another story. The first time the guard jackets were thrown off and the leotards appeared, all the snares’ and quads’ jaws dropped — WHAT THE…? — and then, some interesting sounds came forth from their throats. And Thom [you have to ask? …Hannum] and Joel [Gittle ’87, grad assistant] smirked at them. And this was all while they were still playing.  In a testament to their training, we didn’t lose the battery; but there was, how shall I describe it?, a slight faltering.

[] The slapstick that Chris and I had been working on took a step toward the truly weird. Remember how we’d been taking those Cupid-statue poses? NOW we’d run to the podium and each take a mouthful of water. In the ballet poses, we’d spit the water out like fountains. The first time we did it, it took John Noyes [’90, mellophone] out completely, and after rehearsal, Heidi looked at us accusingly and said, “You guys looked so silly, I almost wet my pants. I almost lost it right there.”

Multibands Concert: Friday, October 23, 1987

[] The CLUE SHEET (as in, get one) for the evening’s frolic said: “Rob Hammerton will wait in Room 44.” Then a bunch of Parks-ese which I could have translated three different ways, each of them sounding right. Sigh. So I got the woodwinds together, started a quick warmup, then deferred to Mr. Parks. Gladly.

[] Hurry up and wait! I ducked outside room 44 and asked the Fine Arts Center stage manager to let me know when he was ready to seat people. Suddenly — “Quick!!” said Parks, “we gotta get onstage. The pit’s done.” Hearing this, the woodwinds were galvanized into chaos; I gladly left him in charge of them, preferring to hustle out to my spot in front of the pit. It turned out that they were done, all right: with the first of their two tunes. So I sat down and watched them with the rest of the audience. Yeah. Meant that.

[] Intermission, and Linda Hannum was handing out the UMass Bands scholarship awards. The microphone died on her, midway through her introduction. Not missing a beat, she put it down and Shouted The Rest Of The Speech!, and several of the award presentations. … But she wasn’t done there. The tech crew managed to fix the PA system at about the midpoint of the presentation. “Oh,” she muttered into the mike, “the mike’s back on.” Putting it down, she continued, shouting at the crowd, “ANYWAY, THE NEXT AWARD…!”

[] Before we played America the Beautiful, I asked Heidi whether we should salute like usual. “No,” she said, “let’s just stand and look anesthetized.”  Cool!  I can do that.

To be continued…

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October 10, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, humor, marching band, music, technology, Thom Hannum, UDMB, UMMB

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