I wasn't going to write a post about marching band - particularly Glasgow High School's marching band. I just wasn't going to do it. With the whole uniform debacle last year, emotions were just too high that I didn't feel I could appropriately and adequately express my feelings on the topic without sounding like an antiquated die hard. I didn't feel like I could express in written word how rich the tradition of the Glasgow Scottie Band marching in plaid kilts truly is. I didn't want to distort my own memories with the opinions of others who were in the thick of said debacle. And, others wrote blog posts to end all posts on the topic, so I couldn't justify my time doing so. But my passion has forced me to give in.
*Let me first say this before I go any further - the uniforms alone did not win them the championship. The director worked his tail off getting the fundamental marching elements up to par and more importantly, taught the kids how to play like a chamber group on the least intimate settings of all music performance (a football field). Did the uniforms help? Possibly - there were a lot of body movements, leans, shifts, etc. that may or may not have been as effective in a kilt. Whatever the case, the entire quality of the band reached a new level in all areas - performance, attitude, presentation, and ahem, maybe even tradition. It seemed our answer to the call to attention (everyone say it together - PRIDE!) was back in full force, even without the kilts. I thoroughly commend everyone who played a part in last year's modification movement - I think it's safe to say that with a Governor's Cup on your shelf, it was a successful one.
However, with all that said, I sit here today with mixed emotions on the topic once again. Yesterday, I was carrying on with my regular Saturday activities when it dawned on me that the state band championships were being held right here in Bowling Green, at WKU, which meant that preliminary competitions were going on all over this region. After two seconds of internet searching, I found that the AA prelim was being held right down the road at Greenwood High. Glasgow marched in the 16th position. Out of 16 bands. At 3:15. Now if I know anything about anything, I know that 16th is a PRIME draw and not only did it suit my schedule (since I was just realizing all of this at lunch time) but it would all but guarantee them one of the top four spots in the finals competition. I had to go. It was my duty as a Glasgow High band alum.
We arrived at WKU in time to see the beginning of the class AA finals competition. We got excellent seats (much to the surprise of my husband who thought I was crazy when I told the ticket guy "I want the highest seats we can get.") The competition was stiff. Kind-of. I was a bit...um, confused I think. Marching band has changed. I mean some things stay the same: most all bands still work a rotating box into their drill; the show cycle of a stirring opener, a 'slow piece,' and building, crowd-engaging closer is still maintained; and impeccable musical balance and clean lines are still a direct goal. But so much else has changed: entering the field to a synthesized beat booming through on-field speakers was seemingly the norm. (Um, bagpipes anyone? ) The use of recorded voice-overs during the performance is really popular. Moveable props, lifts, banners, and outlandish color guard drill was almost an absolute. And the days of an on-field warm-up is over - no West Coast Warm-ups; no fight songs. From the second the pit crew drives up, the 'show' begins. It was odd, but I can take it, and in some cases I liked it.
Glasgow took the field at 7:30. They performed well. Their music was high-quality and high-difficulty. Check. Their marching was clean, intricate, and stylistic to the show. Check. The color guard was small, but delivered a story line VERY well. Check. Overall, it was a solid performance. One to certainly be proud of.
I wasn't moved. They even played one of my all-time favorite pieces, 'Nessun Dorma' from Puccini's Turandot (that I performed with the wind ensemble at WKU under Dr. John Carmichael - GLORY! - and was played at our wedding) and while impressive in it's own right, I was still somewhat unmoved. (Video above. Check out my mad skills videoing from an iPhone.)
But again, I just wasn't moved. Perhaps it was because it was quite chilly sitting in those stands (my poor parents endured 4 years of such torture). Maybe it was because I had developed a migraine during the afternoon. It could have been because the lovely people behind us wouldn't quit talking. Or maybe...maybe I missed the kilts.
For those of you who don't understand the history of the GHS band, our uniform was a full, 12-piece traditional Scottish uniform, complete with sporans made from real horse hair and 100% wool tartan and kilt. With 70-100 people in such attire, it commanded attention, if anything because it was so different. It sparkled under the lights of a stadium. It. Was. Awesome.
|Left - First time I put on the uniform for competition; Right - Final time getting ready for competition|
When the decision came down that Glasgow could not be considered a competitive marching band in today's environment because of the distraction of the sporan movement, the way the kilt hid knee movement and body delay, and because the limitations of range of movement the kilt held, it caused quite a stir. It was subsequently announced that the band would still march parades and perform at events in the Scottish uniform, so it wasn't like they were putting all of the kilts on Ebay or something, but it was still a drastic change. Like I said above, I get it. Honestly, that uniform was designed for marching in a parade setting, not running from the 20 yard line to the 50 in eight counts. I get it.
BUT, I do think the new, 'standard' uniform could have been designed so much better. I cried when I first saw it. It's black. It's dull. It has very little semblance to the former uniform. It looks like Adair County's uniform without the reflective 'A' triangle on the crossbelt. It looks like a uniform for any 'ole run-of-the-mill band. Not Glasgow.
That's not the case anymore, but it didn't have to be that way. The new uniform could have been designed with respect to the new way of doing things, allowing the band to be more flexible in pants, but with stand-out features that stirred similar emotions as the plaid kilts did. There is very little plaid on the uniform. Plaid could have been infused ALL OVER the jacket - the sleeves, tails on the jacket, an attached tartan on the back, something. Who said they had to wear those crazy hats with plumes - what was wrong with the balmorals? I'm sure those were not affecting the scores. And for crying out loud, what went with the spats? If you're wanting to draw attention to your impeccable marching, put WHITE spats between those black pants and black shoes and there you have it, all the while paying homage to a former piece of the old uniform. Something that screams GLASGOW, but allows for all the flexibility of a standard uniform. Oh, and please, please, why not put the field commander in the full Scottish ensemble? She was in a prom dress last night and it made NO sense to me. SO sad.
|Top - State Finals 1995; Bottom - State Finals 2011|
I'll say it again, I am so very proud to be a Glasgow High School alumni band member whether they're wearing kilts or jeans and t-shirts. But the tradition is lacking. The visual ambience is sorely disappointing. I'll go as far to say that last night's show possibly would have been better with the Scottish uniforms. But whatever the case, I'll always support the Scottie Band and their new budding tradition of being a consistent championship-winning band. They certainly have the talent for it. In the meantime, I will always be so thankful for the memories of my experience of marching in the kilts. And I will try not to be sad those championships are being won in a uniform that just anyone could wear.