Day Four: Calais, France

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The weather and the schedule finally caught up with the corps Sunday, as the cloud covered skies in France emitted a wet misty drizzle for the majority of the day – but it couldn’t stop the GLASSMEN from taking Europe by storm! The corps was to leave for Calais, France for a parade first thing in the morning, but was delayed due to some complications with the lunch scheduled. So after a hearty morning brunch, the corps departed Saint Quentin at noon for the 2 1/2 hour trip to the coastal city.

Calais is a city of about 75,000 people, overlooking the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel (only 21 miles wide), and as such is the closest French town to England. On a clear day, you can even see the white cliffs of Dover! The center of town is actually a "man-made" island surrounded by water and canals on all sides. Calais is also home to the French side of the Eurotunnel, where the corps passed through on it’s first day into Europe.

When the corps arrived in Calais, they suited up for the parade through the city center. The festival – called "Les Estivales de Calais" – is typically held throughout the weekends of July and August each year – but when they had the opportunity to have an American drum corps participate in the Grande Parade kickoff, they moved it up one weekend to allow the GLASSMEN the chance to perform in the festival – and they were more than happy to comply!

The GLASSMEN warm-up for the parade in the coastal city of Calais, France.

Members enjoyed the chance to see a new location in France. Tim Zajac, a member of the hornline, noted – "You could just tell we were getting closer to the waterfront – you could just smell it – it was lovely!" The members overcame the less than cooperative weather, and took in the sights and sounds of Calais. Many commented on the beautiful buildings, and in particular, the most extravagant Town Hall.

The corps marched past hundreds of eager onlookers, with the Town Hall looming in the distance.

There were a wide variety of groups from all over the world participating: Russia, Peru, Slovakia, Brazil, Paraguay, China, England, and France. But the best part of the parade was that the corps had the opportunity in the middle of the route to stop and play a full concert at the "Place d’Armes", in front of the grandstands, which included the mayor of Calais. The crowd was utterly enthusiastic – clapping and chanting and cheering for the GLASSMEN! (The corps was just as excited to play for them as well!)

Drum Major Bo Sodders conducts a full GLASSMEN concert for the enthusiastic crowd on the main plaza.

Meanwhile, back in Saint Quentin, La Vaillante was setting up for the second tattoo at the Philippe Roth Stadium in the center of town. (The first performance and parade earned the corps a spot in the local paper, L’Union! ) The front ensemble of the GLASSMEN had stayed behind to rehearse, and took some of their free time to check out a few of the performing groups they had not been able to see the night before. A few GLASSMEN were even on hand to give out some autographs, and sign posters for the members of the La Vaillante Show Band.

As the second tattoo started much sooner than the first, and since the Calais parade was more than two hours away, it was inevitable that the rest of the corps would be caught up in traffic on their way back, and that they would miss their original time to play on the field for the show. But the french audience hung in there – they wanted to see the GLASSMEN! So La Vaillante took the field 3 times – playing in front of the stands, marching around the field doing the show – playing faster each time. They really pulled out all the stops to entertain the fans! Then the GLASSMEN front ensemble moved into place, and wowed the crowd with a few of the pieces from the show, as well as a very moving Pat Metheny melody.

Finally, two hours later, the GLASSMEN busses were spotted in the distance, and everything was thrown into high gear to get the corps onto the field for the show. Unfortunately, as it had been very wet and resultantly muddy on the field, they opted not to do a marching show, but played a top-notch standstill concert that not only included the 2006 production, "Mastery and Madness" – but a full half hour of tunes that kept the Saint Quentin crowd on their feet yelling for more!

And more they’ll have – as the corps will perform for the last time in Saint Quentin on Monday for an evening parade to the basilica, where they will perform a final concert for the great city that has been their first home here in Europe. Stay tuned to for more information as the corps wraps up France – and looks towards the rest of Europe!

Posted by on Monday, June 26th, 2006. Filed under DCI World.