Monday, August 20, 2012

Totally Random Birthday Marching Band Rambling!

My buddy Lisa and me,
pre- half-time show!
Nice pants, right?!
Okay so first of all, it's not really my birthday anymore, but close enough!  Being a few days into my 46th birthday and all (Ew.  I mean, thank God for my years, but still…), I'm reminded of the fact that birthdays can sometimes facilitate many things -- being thankful for your time on the planet, being thankful for your friends, the need to party like a crazy person, and sentimentality.  This blog will center on that last one -- sentimentality.  That means I'm gonna ramble a little bit.

I got a wild hair a few days ago and listened to a bunch of tunes on my ipod from when I was in college in the marching band.  Yes, I know.  Long time ago.  But I was a horn player in the "Mighty Sound of the South" -- the University of Memphis (back in the day, it was just Memphis State University) marching band -- 200+ players!  Geek?  Yeah.  But a way to gain a further appreciation of instrumental music in general?  Fuck yeah!!

While surfing the playlist, I was drawn to the year 1988, when the members of the MSofTS were given the sheet music for "Mambo" from West Side Story.  It was years before my theatre obsession, but assuredly, a sub-conscious impression was made.  So, I'm including a recording of that very song, recorded by us, most likely when we college kids were drunk and tired and/or hungover in our  sizable but acoustically unforgiving rehearsal space on campus.

Just a tiny bit of background:  In high-school (Little Rock Central), after exciting but eventually boring rounds with the piano, drums and violin, I settled into the French Horn.  It's such a beautiful instrument -- in looks and range.  We only had at the most, around 6 horn players in high-school.  Sophomore year it was just one (me).

When I started college, I wasn't planning on being in the band, but after seeing their half-time show, I got goosebumps and knew I had to try to get in.  They had like 14 horns, and I was awestruck.  French horn players played the french horn during concert season, but played the mellophone during marching season.  The french horn is a high-maintenance deal-- they need just the right touch to produce good sounds, and will go out of tune when you KNOW you just let out your spit valves and tuned that bitch.  Besides that, a french horn's bell is pointed *behind* you for Pete's sake -- not very practical for a marching band.  The mellophone however, was completely fun to play, and better suited to a marching band -- facing front and easier produce the notes, though VERY front heavy… (Ouch! -- Hello, shoulder muscles...)  During concert season, I was in the varsity band.  First or second chair, but still -- varsity band.  Marching band though?  I had the option of playing first part for the high notes or second part for the harmony and loved it.  The time I put in with the marching band is mainly why college was the best six years of my life.  Ha!  <-- Not kidding.

Anyway, this tune was a lot of fun to play, and it's got theatre roots.  It's not gonna be like the cast recording or anything, so don't even…  I thought our arranger was a genius at the time.  Now, not so much.  But he's still the bomb in my memory, and quite talented.  I realize it's WAY slow, but again, it's my birthday weekend, and I wanted to post this, so whatev.  :)  More importantly, here's where you can hear the horns:  We're all through here really -- just listen for the horns, but at 7 seconds, there's a little gliss that I always loved.  1min. 14sec. in is a short little line that was fun to blast along with the trumpets.  1 min. and 26 sec. in is another riff I loved -- kinda counter-playing off of the trumpets, and at 2 minutes, you can hear the little horn riffs again.  *sigh*  I miss marching band...

I can't tell you how much being in the band enriched my life, and gave me an overall appreciation of orchestral music.  Priceless.  Get that kid an instrument!!!

Thanks for indulging me!!

Marching Band Rambling!
Me (and many others).  Horn section, baby -- The Mighty Sound of the South, bitches.
1988.  Before my hair was completely gray.


  1. you can't beat Bernstein and West Side Story. That was pretty amazing, if you ask me. I have a recoring of Dudmel and the Venezuela youth orchestra performing the same piece. The only thing they have on you is strings. Both performances--awesome!

  2. Ha! Thanks for your comment!

    Yeah, like I said in the blog, I got really sentimental this past few days, and DAMN I loved the band. WSS is THE BOMB!! So beautiful. And with strings??? Unbelievably beautiful.

    Thanks so much for your comment. It really was a spontaneous post, but it's WONDERFUL to know that people can listen to a piece of music and practically wet themselves. I love that.


  3. OMG!!! lol, I'll never outrun those pants....