INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 14, 2009)—With a show entitled “Prayer for Light,” the 2007 grand national champion marching band from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas, took the field at the Lucas Oil Stadium here for the semi-finals and then for the finals at the Bands of America Grand National Championships.
Music in the show is adapted from Franz Joseph Haydn, John Mackey, and James Horner, with original compositions for this performance by Donald Hill and Bret Kuhn.
The music wasn’t the only piece of originality in L.D. Bell’s field show this season: each one of the 250 uniforms worn by band members was hand-painted by a band mom from Owasso High School in Oklahoma. Every uniform is just a little different from every other uniform, except for the black letters “L D B,” which were sewn in.
Before the band takes the field, though, a few dancers come out to set the mood. The judging hasn’t started yet, but a trend has developed over the last four or five years, where bands are playing mood music and doing sort of a ballet on the field. This time used to be used for warming up, and it still is for a few bands, but by far, the trend has been to move to the pre-judging mood-setting display.
“Let the light of the universe surround and protect me in its healing love; let this journey bring peace of mind, joy, and kindness back into my life,” an announcer says as the show opens, bright yellow moving through the curved lines of the oncoming band, in their shiny white uniforms. Talk about integrating the visuals, music, dancing, announcer, and all elements of the artistic expression!
With every formation, most of which last only a fleeting second or two, yellow fills the field amid marchers who have a mere trace of yellow-orange on their chests and arms. As the first movement draws to a close, crescendos in the music give way to twirling skirts on the dancers, who use every square inch of their cloaked costumes to fill our eyes with the color of white and yellow light.
During the finals, a woman who had marched with the class championship Avon High School band in 2002 at the grand nationals was sitting next to me. “It’s so beautiful, I want to cry,” she said to me at this moment.
And indeed, it would do the same to anybody except the hardest of hearts. Maybe it’s the well crafted narration. Maybe the fact that the band used zero in the way of field props. Maybe the range of music, both in terms of dynamics and scope. Or maybe the combination of them all pulls every heart string.
At one point, the formation fills too much of the field to get a good photo: the band makes the shape of a half sun near the front sideline, as if the star were rising, and other members and the dancers, carrying cloth from every color in the rainbow, radiate outward from it, like the rays of the sun.
A woodwind trio with a flute, oboe, and bassoon then gets taken over by high brass to start the show’s final movement. The drill at this point has the entire woodwind section in a sort of diamond shape, moving to the left, right into oncoming brass, which runs right through them in the opposite direction. When the two groups weave tightly amongst each other, the sheer speed and complexity of the movement underscores the dramatic music.
L.D. Bell High School, established in 1957, brings a marching band to Indianapolis, directed by Van Mathews, and led on the field by drum majors Mariah Lopez, Rebecca Cook, Abigail James, Tevin Lloyd, and Madison Read, that placed second in the finals competition. They also placed second in Class 4A in the semi-finals, both times behind this year’s grand national champion, Avon High School.