Marching bands building shows for season

HARLINGEN — “My Body is a Cage.”

The haunting melody of the song by Peter Gabriel so resonates with Maya Wilson and her fellow Harlingen High School South band members that it’s part of this year’s show “Metamorphosis.”

“I’m very excited about the show,” said Maya, 17, a senior clarinet player.

“It’s one of my favorite ones that we’ve done in my career,” she said.

The marching bands of both South and Harlingen High School are off to an enthusiastic start this year with a whole knew set of music, movement and passionate imagery. At the HHS Cardinal campus, Band Instructor Maria Coronado has presented her students with a delightful rendition based on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“The name of the show is called ‘Rhap Story,’” Coronado said. “We just took the first half of rhapsody from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and did a little word play with it.”

So why this music?

“We had played the arrangements of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ almost 10 years ago and we always loved that show,” she said. “When the movie came out it was so popular I thought, ‘Why not do the 2.0 version of it and do it a little bit different.”

The kids are really getting into the music. It’s curious to note that the band Queen formed in the 70s and “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in 1975. But the music rings as true now as it did then. Just ask Devin Dorado, president of the HHS band and percussionist.

“The show this year is a pretty fun show,” said Devin, 17. “It’s a piece of music that everybody does know. Queen is very popular all around the world. Everyone loves to hear it. So hearing a marching band do it just brings smiles to people.”

Back at the Harlingen South Hawk band, Instructor Shane Shinsato has brought together a mix of three musical pieces, all of them popular in their own right: “Symphonic Metamorphosis” by Paul Hindemith, the Peter Gabriel piece, and “The Firebird”, a ballet and orchestral concert piece by Igor Stravinsky.

“It’s an eclectic mix of works from band literature to famous ballet music,” he said. “Visually it shows the transformation from infancy through adulthood. It’s kind of a cocoon to butterfly theme. It’s about the natural cycle of beginnings and endings.”

Drum major Noah Weeks said the show is progressing well.

“It sounds amazing,” he said. “It’s a pivotal moment for our band program. It’s like a next big step toward our marching music, our concert music, showing things that we can do. I feel like it exposes them to a different type of music.”

Of course that’s what it’s all about — new musical challenges.

“The tempo of the music toward the end and the meter of the music with the time signatures are constantly changing,” Shinsato said. “That’s part of the metamorphosis of the music, the changing of the time signatures. The kids seem to be really grasping onto it and the concept overall.”

Out in the parking lot after school Thursday, members of the Hawk band gathered for a couple of hours of practice. A cacophony of musical voices clashed in the air as tubas, saxophones, horns and trumpets struggled to find their place. Nearby, a group of drummers rapped out a series of staccato notes that seemed to thunder beneath the drum head. The color guard whirled flags with white and orange designs. The excitement of the season was everywhere.

But there’s a new kid in town, that kid being the introduction of the musicians themselves dancing while they play. That’s a new challenge and a new thrill.

“We’re now trying to incorporate some dance moves while they’re playing,” Coronado said. “That is where marching band is going now. There are a lot of body movements while performing the music in a lot of the marching bands. We call them musical athletes because they move quite a bit.”