By Jim DresbachAugust 26, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Aug. 26, 2014) -- The Spirit of America itinerary of Boston to Albany, New York, to Hershey, Pennsylvania, go together like rehearsal, travel and new drill choreography, for The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
Now in the final weeks of rehearsals, August afternoons have been reserved for Conmy Hall run throughs, as the 69 members, usually dressed in their Colonial America-era finery, are informally preparing for two shows.
On any given afternoon, two divisions split the Conmy floor. One group is Spirit of America-bound, while the other troupe will venture to Estes Park, Colorad, for the Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival.
The simultaneously-scheduled performances are an example of the break-neck schedule the musical corps faces in the upcoming weeks. Months prior to the Spirit of America and the Colorado actual show dates, music selections and timelines were put into place.
"We had music solidified and handed out a few months ago, so the way that we're going to do it, is everybody is given some memorization dates, and throughout that process, we get together and rehearse as an organization. At that time, it's the music that we lock in," explained Staff Sgt. John Brandt, a corps bass drummer. "Then we review some drill that we previously worked on. As of [early August], we're cleaning up that drill, and over the next week, we really solidify the music."
Fife and Drum snare drummer Staff Sgt. Shane Nickels will be performing in his first Spirit of America shows when the Army ceremonial units roll up the east coast.
He said describing the schedule as hectic would be an understatement.
"We just got back; the whole corps went to Indianapolis for Drum Corps International Championships," he said. "We did a three-day tour there. Now we came right back into full-day rehearsals, so it definitely is tiring, but I'd rather be busy than not doing anything."
In all, four snare drummers, two bass drummers, eight buglers and eight fifers will be on the road to Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, in September. Bugler Staff Sgt. Daniel Toussaint promises precision, excellence and showmanship.
"It will be the same top level we always perform at," said Toussaint. "Our show is actually similar in some ways musically to the last Spirit of America. But parts have been added, so it is a different show. A lot of us are learning new parts and learning new steps."
Spirit of America performance dates and locations include Boston's TD Garden (four shows) on Sept. 12 and 13; Albany's Times Union Center, Sept. 19-20; and the Spirit of America entourage plays in Hershey, Sept. 26-27.