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What do you think is the most effective form of propaganda?
High School Marching Band 30%
Food Packets From Heaven 20%
Talk Radio 0%
.org Websites 50%

Votes: 10

 A marching band has made me cry

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Oct 20, 2001
I just got back from the Hoover (AL) Marching Band contest. There, I saw the most amazing marching band show I have ever seen in my life. I know I am prone to exaggerations, but this time I am telling the truth.

The theme of the Carrollton (GA) show was World War II. I knew it would be popular; any patriotic show performed right now would automatically get an amazing crowd reaction. But I wasn't expecting anything so creative, emotional, and moving. Marching band is not the most emotional of musical art forms. It can be intense, exciting, and beautiful. But it is not generally considered expressive.

As a former marching percussionist, I all too often view performances solely on techinical merit, and maybe intensity. If you told me yesterday that I would get teary-eyed at a marching band show, I wouldn't have believed you.


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Before the band marched out, large murals were wheeled out onto the field, about 10ft x 10ft. In the front was a Rosie the Riveter, and an Uncle Sam. In the back were maps of various campaigns during the war; Pearl Harbor, Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, etc. The band played well through all of this but often the auxiliary was what made it so powerful, and accentuated the extremely emotional (but not always perfect) playing of the band.

The show started out with "Mars: Bringer of War" from Holst's The Planets . The guard was dressed in black with Nazi-esque flags. I wish society would allow them to have real Nazi flags, but I guess they have to settle with things that just resemble them. The music really brought out the dread of the coming war. It was perfect, then at the final sting (you may remember it from when Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star), something happened that I wasn't expecting, and wasn't prepared for. The band was in a tight block, and a gigantic 20 or 30 yard wide sheet was pulled over them. It was white, with a newspaper headline in black letters,

The New York Times

Or something similar. I can't remember the exact headline. But the entire band was draped under this newspaper. The crowd went silent, and then went wild. I had seen that trick with the sheet before, but it is always as surprise. And I have NEVER seen it done to such dramatic effect.

After that they played a swing song, I can't remember the title, but we've all heard it a million times. Guys in army and navy uniforms were dancing with girls in the guard. Then a voice came over the PA system and said "All military personal report to base." So the troops left, and the guard girls hugged each other. There was another jazz song, and the guard was holding large b&w pictures of GI's.

Then there was another militaristic song. It wasn't the most exciting part of the show, as maybe it should have been, but still good. The guard had black, white and gray flags. The ones carrying American and British flags were dressed in khaki, and the ones with Japanese flags and pseudo-swastikas were in black.

At the end, they played a delicate song, very well-balanced. The GI's came back into the arms of thier girls. But one girl was still standing there. A soldier walked up to her, and gave her a folded flag. She ran away crying as a lone trumpeter played "Taps." People in the stands were sobbing. I have NEVER heard a marching band play so emotionally. I have NEVER heard any musical ensemble play so emotionally. It is rare to hear a small ensemble truly believe what they are performing. I have never heard a large ensemble play that way, and connect like that with an audience.

They went into a slow, mournful, thoughtful rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner." The crowd slowly stood up, still in dumb shock from what they had heard and seen. Gradually, the National Anthem became stronger, louder, and more triumphant. We all knew it was coming, and we were all waiting for it. As it reached the last few lines, it grew in power until it was overwhelming. Every time I have ever heard that song, it was a formality, something played because the occasion warranted it. This time, the "Star Spangled Banner" was played for itself. The band played it because it is a beautiful song, because it is stirring, and it represents our nation. They played it because they believed what it stood for. And of course, at the end they unveiled a gigantic American flag.

A symphony orchestra could not have performed that show. A operatic tenor could not have performed that show. A cast of actors could not have performed that show. Even a military band could not have performed that show. The only ones who could do it were a high school marching band. A team of musicians, dancers, flag twirlers, supported by high school art classes to paint the murals, and parents to support them.

A musician I know once told me that he believed that marching band, while providing entertainment, had no creative outlet. Unlike other forms of music, it was not a true art form. What I saw and heard tonight was art, and art at its finest.


hmmm... (none / 0) (#1)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Oct 21st, 2001 at 01:05:17 PM PST
were they trying to equate the war in Afghanistan with the Nazi invasion of Poland?

I wonder when the US soldiers are going to set up death camps and start murdering millions of civilian Afghans.

No (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by First Incision on Sun Oct 21st, 2001 at 01:33:01 PM PST
They were not trying to equate WWII with anything. The HS football season started before 9/11, and planning of marching band shows usually starts in the spring. They just happened to be performing a patriotic show at a time when Patriotism is running high.

Patriotic marching shows are not anything new, and defintely not something unique. Obviously, the current situation affected the crowd reaction. But this would be an amazing show at any time.
Do you suffer from late-night hacking? Ask your doctor about Protonix.

Curse the Poll Gods, (none / 0) (#3)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 21st, 2001 at 02:53:21 PM PST
for they have not seen fit to include that most vile organ of propaganda, The Onion, as an option.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.

Maybe... (none / 0) (#4)
by First Incision on Sun Oct 21st, 2001 at 08:24:02 PM PST

Who knew?
Do you suffer from late-night hacking? Ask your doctor about Protonix.

Gosh, that's so clever. (none / 0) (#5)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 21st, 2001 at 08:58:51 PM PST
Check the links in the goddamned story, kid. Then go check them again from any of your favorite "adequacy alternative" domain names.

© 2002, RobotSlave. You may not reproduce this material, in whole or in part, without written permission of the owner.


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