St. Kevin’s Alumni Join Golden Knights

| |

More than 20 years after the alumni movement began to reunite old friends through music and camaraderie, many corps today are seeing their numbers dwindle and their groups disband. That is  exactly what happened to the St. Kevin’s Emerald Knights alumni organization in 2011. With no more corps of their own, former St. Kevin’s members who want to keep playing have had to find new organizations.

Rather than join a nearby existing corps, some St. Kevin’s alumni have decided to join the New Jersey-based Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights. What motivated these New Englanders to join a corps more than 200 miles away?

It certainly was not the joy of driving down I-95.

Ed Hayward, who was with St. Kevin’s from 1953 to 1966 and has been a member of Blessed Sacrament for 17 years has been going down to New Jersey with several other former Emerald Knights for some time. That group reached out to more old friends recently and began having Blessed Sacrament practices in the Boston area while making their way to shows when they could.

According to Hayward, he and the other former St. Kevin’s members joined Sac because of how they felt about the corps back in the old days.

“They were the only corps that, basically, we liked,” Hayward said. “Back in those days nobody really talked to anyone in any of the other drum corps, but we liked Blessed Sacrament because they were just so good all the time. I got to meet a few people over the years from Blessed Sacrament and we became friends and stayed friends.”

Hayward said that since there aren’t many alumni corps, it’s become fairly common for drum corps today to have a lot of members who used to compete against one another.

“They don’t all drive 250 miles like us fruitcakes,” he added.

Joe Fontana, a snare drummer and veteran of several corps from the Greater New York Metropolitan area who has been with the Golden Knights since 1993, said that the old rivalry between St. Kevin’s and Blessed Sacrament was one of the more positive in the drum corps community back in the old days.

“There were some corps that really hated each other,” Fontana said. “There were some fights. Sometimes people were disrespectful to each other, but ‘Sac’ and St. Kevin’s didn’t have that type of rivalry. It was a good, healthy rivalry.”

According to Fontana, the fact that former St. Kevin’s members would choose to drive up to five hours to play with a New Jersey corps rather than just join the nearby Boston Crusaders goes to show that the rivalry between the Golden Knights and the Emerald Knights was likely much more friendly than the one between St. Kevin’s and their neighbors.

Some former St. Kevin’s members have gone further than just playing in the corps and are even taking on leadership roles. Hayward, for example, will be taking the reins as Blessed Sacrament’s show coordinator in 2014.

Another St. Kevin’s alumnus now working with the Golden Knights is Frank “Buzzy” Bergdoll, who will be arranging music for the corps. Buzzy, like Hayward, remembers admiring Blessed Sacrament in his youth.

“We respected Blessed Sacrament very much,” Buzzy said. “I know I did. We used to try to copy their music. There must have been 15 or so of us who used to march back and forth trying to play Blessed Sacrament music because we loved it so much. I looked up to them a lot. My dad did too.”

Buzzy’s father wrote music for the Emerald Knights in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

This past summer, Blessed Sacrament decided to make things easier for their New England members by meeting them halfway and holding a practice in Connecticut.

Joe Ross, a baritone horn player who marched with the Golden Knights in the late sixties and early seventies and joined the corps when it resurfaced in 1990 said that the new members have really done a lot for the corps.

“We’re getting some guys from Kevin’s who are really good horn players, really nice guys and they come down to our practices and they’re part of the Golden Knights,” Ross said. “I’m really glad that they do, because without them we really wouldn’t have much of a corps right now as far as the horn line goes. That’s a really decent portion of our horn line.”

Fontana echoed Ross’ gratitude toward the new members.

“It’s a great thing for us, for the Golden Knights, to be receiving them and to be chosen by them,” Fontana said. “First of all the talent level is phenomenal. And for them to choose us, to come here, to play with us over other corps — there’s so many other corps in their neighborhood, but they didn’t go there, they came here so we should be honored to have them as part of our organization.”

Posted by on Sunday, December 29th, 2013. Filed under Current News, DCA News, FrontPage Feature.