Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Minuteman Marching Band Memories, part 13

To continue to quote tales from my senior year with the UMass marching band, fall 1987 … some field shows have fake endings; this SEASON had a fake ending …

Rehearsal: Tuesday, October 27, 1987

[] And just when you thought it was safe to go up to the Loft: we pulled out the old warhorse, New York New York. I suggested to Chris that a double toss or an exchange might be warranted. He agreed. (To be completely accurate, I should say that he jumped at it. Remember, he had a mace but hadn’t thrown it in performance once. In his shoes, I’d have mugged this Rob guy months earlier.)

Wednesday morning, October 28, 1987

[] At 9 AM, I ran into Heidi at Chapel, and she reported having just gotten a phone call in the upstairs office from the Phys Ed department. Something about a “negative message” to give to Mr. Parks about the practice field situation. She also mentioned that the caller, a Department official, had assumed he was talking to Parks’ personal secretary. This provoked a whoop of laughter from me. (Apparently, this wasn’t the first time such an assumption had been made. Heidi told me that the previous time, she had answered, “Well, while I get myself untangled from your chauvinistic attitude, I’ll give him the message.” Now, THAT I believed.)

Rehearsal: Thursday, October 29

[] Chris and I had worked out the double mace toss before rehearsal. We toyed with an exchange, but after very nearly destroying several onlookers on the first attempt, we decided “No, maybe not just now.” Let’s just each park on a 35-yardline and chuck ’em at the big ol’ fermata before the end.

Senior Day / Home Game #5 vs. Holy Cross: Saturday, October 31, 1987

[] Heidi and I drove down to the field for rehearsal. The word we got from the other seniors was that we were going to pig-pile Chris. I silently wished him luck, though I suspected that Heidi and I would just stand to one side in our drum-majorly fashion and not get involved, or grimy.

The drumline had been bestowing that honor on people on a regular basis over the course of the season. After one practice in late September, I remember hearing someone scream “Pigpile on Louie!!” and then “Oh Sh*t!” – and looking for the sources of the exclamations. And finally seeing what appeared to be a pack of lions hunting down an antelope. I have to say that Lou Boldrighini, percussion instructor and 1987 alum, was unexpectedly adept at dodging and cutting and running, and he held the pursuing battery off for a good long while before they finally cornered him. Then, the nature documentary ended, and amid a cloud of dust and flying percussionists, Lou was indisposed for a while.

So: at 8:05 AM, Heidi started calisthenics. When she got to the cue, “Five-Count Torso Exercises!!”, the senior pigpile hit. Later, Chris described the experience this way: “I saw them coming and said, “Oohh, they’re getting Heidi … wait, why are they heading this way? … Am I–? … oh HELL–!”

[] “Set up POSTGAME for the LAST TIME!!” GNP cried (well, not really, but there were parents standing around). As we scrambled to get ready, I was dutifully running pell-mell along the sideline. As I tried to avoid the similarly frantic pit people, my foot caught on a pile of props and things and I was launched headlong to the ground. The indignity of my position (prone, face-sideways and all manner of people either trying to rescue me or trying to disavow any knowledge of me) was compounded by the identity of the object that my sneaker managed to take a sizable chunk out of.

The red plastic megaphone, which had been a Parks fixture since before I joined the band, was lying by the base of the viewing tower, its bell cracked in a few places, a fragment of plastic some distance away, and the whole contraption emitting the most God-awful wail.

To his credit, GNP didn’t kill me. In fact, he went with the general sense of last-rehearsal silliness. He asked that it be brought up to him on the scaffolding so he could inspect it first-hand. Then, to the delight of the assembled band, he pitched it over the side of the tower. The horn arced out over the auxiliary field and landed with a rather glorious crunch. Paul Corazzini retrieved the debris, and discovered that although it was handle-less and completely bell-less now, it still worked. You could still speak through it and siren still screamed.

I dubbed it The Megaphone They Could Not Kill.

[] Halftime was, we were told, going to be covered by Springfield’s Channel 22. They had decided to cover a Big Football Game, and had graciously stated that the band was considered enough of an event to be shown without benefit of superimposed first-half football analysis or scoreboards or ads. We therefore were very courteous and took pains not to completely destroy the lives of the cameramen who ventured onto the field in the middle of Can Can.

[] Postgame: Seniors went into their sideline huddle to grab the traditional bottles of cold duck, except for Heidi and I, who ran off to help conduct Stars and Stripes. It was a bit nerve-wracking. The seniors popped the corks on the 50-yardline in front of the wrong company front (too early) and almost got drilled by charging piccolos. And I had to get out of the way of the seniors when they DID find the right time to pop corks, in order to chuck the stupid mace.

When I did, from the 40-yardline, the gods of falling sharp metal objects must have smiled upon me: I tossed, I rolled, I came up and saw that the mace was much too far to my left to get at. But I tried anyway. I still had ground to cover in order to get to the mace’s eventual landing spot, but it was OK: as I got there it hit the ground point down and stuck in, at a 45-degree angle. Some shred of showmanship, which I never knew I had, kicked in: I charged the stands.

To be continued…


October 12, 2010 - Posted by | band, drum major, football, GNP, humor, marching band, media, sports, television, UMMB

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