Members of the La Cañada High School Marching Band and Color Guard have worked since August to perfect an 8.5-minute field show designed to stun audiences and showcase what hundreds of hours of planning and practice can accomplish.
On Friday at 6 p.m., students will let down their hair in a one-time performance of "Rapunzel" for friends and family on the LCHS football field before taking the show to a Western Band Assn. championship competition in Fresno Saturday night.
The spectacle is an eerie, atmospheric take on the classic fairy tale that combines the musical stylings of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and rock band Radiohead. So far, band members have performed at WBA competitions in Long Beach, Chino Hills and Mission Viejo.
Drum major Bryan Guan is charged with conducting the 80-member La Cañada Marching Spartans on the field. The LCHS senior says the home field show is a way for parents, many of whom have faithfully shuttled kids to and from practice for months, to see the fruits of their labor of love.
"It's just to say thank you to all our parents and people who support us," Guan said. "This is all we've done for the past three months, and this is what we have to show for it."
"Rapunzel" blends music from "Peer Gynt," written by Grieg in 1875, with Radiohead's 1992 debut single "Creep." LCHS music director Jason Stone says the idea is to set a mood and a place with the music. Given this year's song selection and the visual touchstones of "Rapunzel" — forest trees and desolate tower, complete with a 55-foot-long braid spilling forth — the overall effect will be moody and dark.
"It's more about the emotion of the music," Stone said. "The music is the root of everything."
Band members spent a Tuesday morning class period fastidiously practicing the musical piece one section at a time, taking direction from Stone on feeling, impact and energy. On Saturday, they traveled to Mission Viejo for a competition, spending 18 hours together.
Guan admits when he joined band freshman year, he did it just for the credit. But over the long hours of practice and competing, members became a second family.
"The thing about band is, the more you care about people here, and the more you care about band, the more they care about you," he said. "It's all about family."
After Friday's performance the marching band season will end, and members will go on to participate in concert band, a slightly more staid and traditional (not to mention seated) style of performance. But in March, they will travel to Dublin to step in time once more in the city's famed St. Patrick's Festival Parade.
Senior Courtney Culver, who plays French horn, says participating in marching brand has a way of bonding members together in a community that defies traditional "band nerd" notions.
"There's kind of this stereotype of high school marching bands being geeky and kind of weird, but I think this show we're doing is kind of cool," Culver said. "I feel like people would really like it, that it doesn't have to be this stereotype."