Five years ago, I wrote an article on my website about marching band, drum corps, and indoor marching shows which paid tribute to those who gave their lives fighting for our country. With no marching arts so far this year, today seemed line a good time to revisit this.
On this day, we remember the many members of the United States military who gave their lives defending our country and the freedoms and ideals it represents. Many of us are participating in Memorial Day ceremonies across the country and have friends and/or family members who are no longer with us because they gave the ultimate sacrifice. I myself have taken part in many Memorial Day parades and ceremonies during my days in marching band and drum corps. This led me to think about some of the performances I’ve seen in the marching arts which befit this day’s purpose. Here are three of the most recent shows which pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so we may live free.
Our first example comes from the LD Bell marching band and their 2010 production, Honor: We Will Remember. The performance is somber and reflective from the moment the band enters the field, with the drum line playing the band on to a military cadence. The guard starts the show clad in Army green uniforms and helmets. As the show progresses, the guard changes one by one into flowing white representing those soldiers who lost their lives defending our country. In the back of the field, white crosses and Stars of David are placed on the field, one row at a time, forming a cemetery as the backdrop for the band. Those placing the monuments stop and salute each fallen hero before moving back to get the next headstone. At the end of the show, a solitary guard member still in uniform carries an American flag folded in the traditional tri-corner manner across the field, trailed by the spirits of the fallen, while a lone trumpeter plays Taps. That closing moment, as well as the entire show, evokes the exact feelings which we all should feel on this day of remembrance.
We next move to the drum corps activity and the 2013 Madison Scouts. While the show itself celebrated the corps’ 75th anniversary and was based on the book Lone Survivor, the theme of remembering fallen comrades in the military is very much a part of this show. This is most apparent during two moments in the performance. The first is when, during a battle scene, the last of the protagonist’s fellow soldiers is shot down. After racing to him and realizing that he is the only survivor from the fight, the guard lifts and carries the fallen soldiers as the corps forms a company front behind them and plays the Madison Scouts corps song, You’ll Never Walk Alone. At the end of the show, the second moment occurs when the protagonist is joined at the front of the field by his friends, clad in lighter versions of their uniform to depict the fact that, while they were lost in battle, their spirits remain.
You can read more about the show and how the author of Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell, spoke with the Scouts after their performance at DCI Quarterfinals last season on the Madison Scouts website: http://www.madisonscoutslive.com/mainsite/2014/01/lone-survivor-inspires-madison-scouts-show/
We finish our Memorial Day marching arts retrospective with the most recent example, the 2014 Gateway Indoor Percussion ensemble. Their show, “Oh Say Can You See”, focused on the Vietnam War and the effect that war, as well as the media coverage at that time, had on the young men drafted to fight in it. A portion of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall served as the backdrop for the show and, at the end, became a part of the performance as the members took paper and pencil and made rubbings of some of the names on the wall, something which many friends, family, and Vietnam War survivors have done since the wall was created with the names of those they knew that did not return.
You can read about Gateway’s 2014 show concept on their Gateway Indoor Percussion website: http://www.gatewayindoor.org/news#!52fd993cc08d88f5c8eb931b
NOTE: The original show video was taken down by YouTube, BUT Gateway’s YouTube channel has posted a Finals rehearsal run video and a video of their “media layer” combined with audio from Finals GE judge Joe Allison.
Joe Allison GE tape: