CADET HISTORY - 1962-2
The Contra Bass
By Donald E. Angelica
Drum Corps News, Aug. 8, 1962 issue
In order to dispel some of the rumors that have been generated by the contra bass and by both Garfield and Hawthorne's use of it. I have decided to discuss the horn and its utilization. The way the soprano bugle is related to the trumpet is the relationship of the contra to the Eb tuba. It is a bell front instrument with one valve and is pitched in the key of G (as are all bugles used in competition by most American corps.)
The function of the contra in my mind is to provide the drum and bugle corps with the one member of the brass family of instruments not available to them. This is the tuba. With the regular bass horns we can play a good standard bass part 1 octave below the french horns, however once we extend below this octave we run into overtone problems and must utilize out of tune rotaries to produce any kind of melodic bass line, (which any arranger will tell you is a fundamental for a good arrangement). SO HERE WE FIND THE NECESSITY FOR THE CONTRA...IT IS TO PROVIDE AN INSTRUMENT WHICH WILL ENABLE US TO WRITE AND PERFORM IN TUNE, MELODIC BASS LINES WHICH ARE THE FOUNDATION OF GOOD ARRANGEMENTS, IN THE TRUE BASS REGISTER.
I understand and appreciate the position of the American Legion on this matter, they wish to see if the majority of Legion corps wishes to utilize them before officially approving them. I also rejoice at the musical sagacity of Tony Schlechta in realizing the need for a true bass bugle and approving them for all V.F.W. contests. It was a difficult decision to make and I thank both organizations for their consideration of the contra. There have been many pros and cons discussed about the horns, I have worked with them and will now discuss my reaction to the horn. It is an instrument long overdue in drum corps circles, it is a true bass horn with all the characteristics of a tuba, it posseses a certain depth and resonance not afforded us by the regular bass bugle, it allows us to use a melodic bass line and affords us better intonation than the E and F rotaries did, it enables us to have complete brass choir instrumentation while still retaining all the basic characteristics of a bugle.
Forty eight years later, a portion of the 2009 Holy Name Cadets contra line.
Photographer Scotty McGarry.