My high school had an award-winning marching band. We would learn a new show each year — and although I stubbornly stayed on third part even into my senior year (I was not an award-winning clarinetist) my marching was solid. Although actually, because I played third part my playing was usually pretty solid too.
The best year was my first. We played The Rise & Fall of Rome, composed by a man who writes these things with marching bands in mind and they all kinda start to sound the same if you listen long enough. But, at least to me and the rest of the newbies, it was brand new and epic. I can still hum bits of it. I can still remember that bit in the second movement when the clarinet section’s arc to merged with the mellophone section’s arc, and we had to be very precise in order to avoid being whacked in the head by a brass horn.
Just about every weekend in the fall we would pile into several busses and road trip it to whatever show we were competing in that night. As one of the larger sized bands, it was almost always a nighttime performance, which leant a sort of crispness and sense of anticipation to the whole thing. Traditionally, our last show of the season was in Napa, and the thing about the Napa competition was that it was often rainy. Rain meant marching without feather plumes on our hats, and that the woodwinds had to practice with our instruments under our clear plastic rain ponchos much as possible so the water wouldn’t get into the pads. (I don’t know how the flutes and piccolos made due with that, to be honest. I’m also not sure, in a heavy enough downpour, how the sousaphone section didn’t drown.) At Napa my freshman year, it rained all day — all the way there, all through warm ups and rehearsals, and all through dinner and the pre-show pep talk. We had our ponchos on in preparation. And then, miraculously, when we lined up in the on-deck area during the tail end of band performance before ours, the rain stopped. The chaperones rushed through our ranks and files, collecting ponchos and handing the plumes back out.
Naturally, it started raining again as soon as we took the field.
But what followed was absolutely amazing. Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #24 — Xylophone”