INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 13) — Thirty-four bands, including three from Illinois—Morton, O’Fallon Township, and Marian Catholic from Chicago Heights—advanced to the semifinal round at the Bands of America Grand National Championships and took the field today in a 7 AM-to-midnight exposition of music and pageantry that most students will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
The marching band from Morton High School, directed by Tim Gray, led off the semifinals. The show is entitled “Hallelujah,” and it was a good way to start this cool and cloudy autumn day. Golden pillars stand backfield left, matching the color of the guard’s skirts, with the word “Hallelujah” written over them. The show opened with George Frederic Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from his 1741 oratorio Messiah.
A striking visual feature of Morton’s show is the way the flaring yellow skirts of the color guard appear to extend the bluish and white flags they’re twirling and tossing. But with Morton, I think the most impressive quality of the show is the music, which was exquisitely executed, including a crisp clarinet solo near the beginning, followed by the woodwind section, which gracefully took up the clarinetist’s theme.
That was followed by a flute solo for Leonard Cohen’s rock hit “Hallelujah,” which morphed into a flute-euphonium duet, and then a euphonium solo. The handoff was seamless and punctuated with a full swell by a kneeling block of winds and brass.
The pace picked up, beginning with a clarinet-flute duet, a precise brass flourish, and a changing of the silks to pure gold. The climax was pure gold as well.
Morton’s show also featured excerpts from “Savannah River Holiday” by Ron Nelson, Dmitri Schostakovich’s Symphony Number 10 in E minor, Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, and the wind ensemble work entitled “Only Light” by Aaron Perrine.
When Mr Perrine wrote the work, in 2015 and before the pandemic, at the request of the Symphonic Band at the University of Iowa, he wrote this:
As Morton took the field, declaring “Hallelujah,” my mind was not on scripture, as Handel intended for the work, but on something closer to Mr Perrine’s statement. The pandemic changed everything for schools, and most marching band events, including the BOA championships, were cancelled. But they’re back, safety protocols in place, but back nonetheless.
From Cohen’s “Hallelulah”:
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch.
I’ve told the truth. I didn’t come here … just to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong,
I’ll stand right here, before the Lord of song,
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Marian Catholic and O’Fallon Township take the field later this afternoon. Both bands were phenomenal during the prelims. It’s a long day here after a hiatus that was too long. Welcome back!