Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Boston CYO Music Circuit - the 40s.

St Ambrose of Dorchester Field Band 1942

The 1940s start with an expanded field of 49 units. Based on the corps names, it appears as if 1940 was the first year that drum and bugle corps were finally sorted out from fife drum and bugle corps. This is also the first year that drum and trumpet corps got their own division. Again, like fiield bands,  I can find no reference to trumpet and drum corps on the Internet. Did they consist of only  drums and trumpets, or were they brass bands with no woodwinds?

1941 was another big year, with 13 bands in three classes, two field bands, five drum and trumpet corps, 9 fife drum and bugle corps in two classes, and 20 drum and bugle corps. The following year was the first war year, Perhaps because of that, 13 few units entered the contest. This was the first year of a dedicated girl’s division, although girls would be back to competing against boys before they were put their own division again. I’ll mention here for the first time that the shows were four minutes long, with units scheduled to start every five minutes. The American Legion was still taking part in the contest, but the marching judges were officers from the military.

This is as good a place as any to mention color guards. The few photos I found in the Pilot show from no color guard at all (just out of view maybe?) to a row of five flags and two rifles. And although the flags and rifles are carried by boys in what looks like all-boy bands, a photo of St Leonard’s band of the North End of Boston seems to show a group of girl baton twirlers marching behind the single flag and rifle line. Baton twirlers were awarded prizes in at least one competition, but they are rarely mentioned otherwise. In any case, it seems as if color guards were just that - an American flag and its ‘guard.’ The day of the bit working color guard with multiple flags, rifles and sabres had not yet come.

Blessed Sacrament Cambridge, the first powerhouse CYO drill team.

The 1943 contest was held at Braves Field. For the first time, four drill teams competed in the event. Also for the first (but not the  only) time, this contest was a non-competitive exhibition. According to an article in the Pilot “We feel that this exhibition will contribute somehow towards relieving the public mind of the anxiety that is constantly present, and will help in building and maintaining morale which is so vital to the war effort.” The following year, competition returned.

In 1946, the contest moved to Manning Bowl in Lynn. Apparently, the CYO was trying to encourage growth in the activity, and took the contest on the road for four years before returning it to Alumni Field at Boston College. I’ll add here that after years of Pilot articles praising Cardinal O’Connell for his generosity in providing the cups for the winners, in 1946 the cups are now the Archbishop Cushing Trophies. As the say, The King is Dead, Long Live the King!.

Quincy Stadium was the location of the 1947 contest. Four units repeated as champions in 1947, and special notice was given to the Cardinal Cushing Cadets of Roxbury, saying that “Tremendous applause, equalling if not exceeding any of the winners, greeted…” them. This was an all-girl drum and bugle corps from a newly founded African-American parish that would go on to win the next seven straight all-girl division trophies.

For some unexplained reason, it was decided to hold a contest at Norwood Arena in 1949, with the winners playing an exhibition at Alumni Field. Even more curious than the decision to make the Alumni Field show a competition is the fact that bands did not take part in the Norwood competition, but did play at Alumni Field. I could find no explanation for this decision.

Looking at the most successful units of the 1940s, Holy Name Band of West Roxbury won four competitions in a row, followed by three in a row by St Joseph’s Band of Medford. St Rita’s Cadets of Lowell won two consecutive Drum and Trumpet Corps trophies, followed by seven straight wins by St Cecelia’s of Ashland. In the Fife Drum and Bugle Corps group St Catherine’s Norwood started the 1940s with four straight wins, with St Mary’s of Dedham following with three wins. Sacred Heart of Malden took seven consecutive Drum and Bugle Corps titles, only losing to Most Precious Blood Crusaders in a head-on-head competition in 1949. And finally, Blessed Sacrament of Cambridge won five of the first six drill team championships.

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