AND THE BANDS PLAY ON
Whoever said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts might have been talking about a marching band. Like little nutcracker soldiers, students strut onto the field, neatly uniformed
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After taking a break from last year’s field show, Alconcel’s band of 75 first-, second-, third-and fourth-year students is doing songs from Grease.
“Last year, the number of students who signed up was rather small,” notes Alconcel. “We need a certain amount of brasses and saxophones because those are the instruments that will carry from the field to the audience. We want the band to sound good.”
Alconcel goes on to describe what elements form a marching band:
“We use all the instruments except strings. For the percussion, we use marching percussion drums which are a lot louder (than concert drums) and they project more to the audience. And then you’ll see a lot of bell-front instruments, like there’s marching French horns that their bells are facing the audience, because you want everything to face the audience for marching band. With normal French horns the instruments face backwards. They make marching baritones and even tubas so those instruments project.
“The larger instruments are heavy,” Alconcel points out. “The tenor drum is a set of drums, so that instrument is particularly heavy. And with a sousaphone or tuba - the kids have to be in shape.”
So, while keeping step, and in full band regalia, carrying cumbersome instruments the students must play adeptly note for note - which, for the audience, translates into a fanciful kaleido-scope of morphing patterns on the field, belting out spirited beats - creating the magic that is marching band. They’re even trained to march in the rain, which is common at the festival, though we were spared this year.
Halfway through the program, it’s Castle High’s turn to take the field. The drum major strides to his platform in a black leather jacket, hamming it up for the audience as he combs back his greased hair. The band, dressed in blue jeans and tucked-in black T-shirts breaks into an instrumentation of Greased Lightning and the color guard, dressed in black poodle skirts and Pink Lady jackets, jives to the cadence.
Kapolei also puts on quite a show with a Blues Brothers theme. Their jazzy tunes are backed by a giant cityscape mural and accompanied by energetic swing dance numbers from the color guard. Dressed in those iconic Blues Brothers black suits, hats and sunglasses, the “blues brothers” traverse the field in a 3-D cardboard car, chased by cardboard police cruisers. As the brothers are being handcuffed, climactic gunshots reverberate into the air followed by a rain of crepe paper streamers.
Roosevelt’s cultural variety show begins with an Asian ambiance. Color guard ladies tiptoe to high xylophone notes as they hold up their rice paper umbrellas demurely. A huge section of the stadium erupts in wild cheers - Roosevelt fans are in the house. As the music takes on a Spanish flair, two matadors are confronted and defeated by a charging bull (two students in a suit). “It’s about time the bull wins!” rejoices someone in the audience. The music then takes a syncopated Slavic beat and the now mustached color guard bend low, simulating the alternate kicking steps of the famous Russian kazachok.
Many bands use no props, instead showcasing solely their music and field formations.
Amazingly, as quickly as the bands assemble on the field with their entire entourage of instruments, flags and props, they miraculously make their exit just as seamlessly and efficiently.
The whipped cream and cherry on the festival is a show by the UH band and Rainbow Dancers. They take the outdoor stage and in a unique turn, they face the high school band students, who are seated opposite the general audience, and salute the students’hard semester of work with the final performance of the evening.
A trio of Kailua High buddies are already filled with a sense of nostalgia:
“That was our last performance of the season,” notes trombonist Cheyne Tribbey. “It’s pretty sad because it’s so fun and we’re not having marching band next year, but we might come back in our senior year.”
Tuba player Reese Paul adds, “We’re (the marching band students) all friends. It’s like a big family, and we’re gonna hang out with each other even after we graduate high school.”
“Some of us have known each other since intermediate school,” chimes in bass drummer Shantel McIntosh. “All the memories and the friends - we’re really gonna miss it. We’re going to be talking about it throughout the years, even when we’re old.”
Meanwhile, throughout the five-hour display, a group of national adjudicators has been taking notes to pass on to the individual bands so they can improve next year’s colorful, festive, musical spectacle.
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