I love marches. But for the most part it is a guilty love. Marches generally make me think of soldiers with rifles on their shoulders. Soldiers make me think of wars, and wars remind me of killing people. I’m not a fan of wars. So, as I wrote, it is a guilty pleasure. I still listen to them and enjoy them, but not quite so much as I enjoy a Chopin Nocturne or Beethoven Symphony.
But there is one form of march that I can totally lose myself in, without a trace of guilt – college fight songs played by school marching bands. (At least most fight songs are in march form) They have a purity and innocence about them. And the only conflict related to them takes place on football fields and basketball arenas – and they always end with handshakes. Plus, win or lose, the students, alumni and fans continue to love the teams.
When played by the school marching bands they build up such enthusiasm in players, students and grads, and evoke the sense of belonging or memories of ones youth.
Here is the University of Wisconsin Marching Band in concert outdoors before a game playing the school’s fight song “On Wisconsin”. It is very special to me because my high school borrowed it for its fight song.
Here is the start of the band’s pre-game show in which they play both their fight song and that of the opponent. By game time there will be 80,000 people in the stadium, almost all dressed in red. It takes almost two minutes for the entire band to get on the field before they start playing and marching. The Wisconsin band has a unique marching step. Instead of landing normally on their heels they step with their feet at a 45 degree downward angle and land on their toes. It is a mystery to me how they are able to play wind and brass instruments at the pace that they march.