BELDING — The Belding High School Marching Band put on a show so moving Saturday evening that Mother Nature herself was found weeping as the final note played.
With a mysterious, transic melody flowing through the air, a tranquil routine of dance and motion on display on the field, complete with a perplexing and shape-shifting marching routine, the band’s performance was a fitting and impressive conclusion to a day that featured 17 high school bands and more than 1,700 students performing on Rudness Field at the second annual Redskin Invitational.
As members of the band began performing their third and final movement of their show titled “The Bermuda Triangle,” the first few drops of rain began to fall.
As the band continued, the rain fell harder, and by the time the students had reached the show’s dramatic end, an outright downpour from the skies swallowed up the band as if the Bermuda Triangle were engulfing Belding itself.
But the students weren’t phased. They played on until the last note, and by the time the night was over, there was reason to celebrate.
With a final score of 67.4 from the judges, the band had jumped 8.85 points from a score of 58.55 a week ago, a massive improvement, according to Belding Marching Band Director Laura Hyler.
“I’ve been talking to them all season and telling them, don’t wait to be amazing,” Hyler said. “They knew that they had a lot of work to do individually tonight. It was their turn to be better, and they were. This was their turf and they wanted to do the best they could. They stepped it up.”
Hyler said the band had spent the past week working diligently on music and the marching routine after receiving a subpar score during their competition in Grant the week prior.
By rule, being that the band was the host of the invitational, Belding did not place in Saturday’s competition, but receives the score as an exhibition score.
“It’s an awesome feeling as a directer,” she said. “We worked on everything the judges suggested we worked on and obviously the score shows it.”
Drum Major and senior Taylor Reeves, 17, had the duties of co-directing the band on the field and said she could tell right away that the hard work had paid off Saturday evening.
“Tonight, since we were on our home field, we wanted to blow everyone away,” Reeves said. “We just played as best as we could and it went pretty well from where I was standing.”
Reeves said the lower score from a week ago was likely a result of having just finished learning the show in combination of not having all of the props used to tell a story during the show.
“We had just gotten the whole show done, we didn’t have any of our props, and the show didn’t exactly make sense,” she said. “Having more elements in place this week, it made it much better.”
Those elements included a disappearing act of sorts, in which students ran across the field with a massive blue tarp, representing a wave, and carried it over a prop freighter ship on the field. As the wave overtook the ship, the ship itself disappeared, leaving the crowd in a state of amusement.
“When we accomplish something like this, it just proves to us that we can be as good as we want to be,” Reeves said. “That makes us want to be even better the next week. This week at practice, everything will be hard and intense and hopefully our score will go up again.”
The element of rain added an extra measure of difficulty for the band, but senior flute player Rachael Warner, 17, said she thought it was a fitting end to the show.
“We brought the Bermuda Triangle with us,” she said. “I think everyone tried their hardest and did their best. Obviously the end was different, but it made it better.”
Belding freshman Alec Lafler, 14, has been dreaming of performing at Ford Field in Detroit since he was just eight years old.
It was six years ago that he watched his aunt perform with the Belding High School Marching Band at the state finals.
Belding, which performs in the “Flight IV” category statewide, will make a return trip this year if they qualify, combining their two highest scores.
After Saturday night’s performance, Lafler is optimistic he’ll be making the trip.
“This has been so much fun, going to all of the competitions, all of the practices, being able to stay up late — all of it,” Lafler said. “Anyone that can do this, I want them to do it, because it’s so much fun. It’s very challenging, but the payoff is so big.”
Lafler said Saturday evening’s performance meant that much more because it was played in front of hometown fans and visiting bands.
“Playing at home, it’s thrilling, there’s a lot more pride in it,” he said. “You just say to yourself, ‘this is my hometown,’”
Hyler said she wanted to thank all of the parents and volunteers who helped make the invitational happen.
“I have a great parent organization that helps me and we were so well prepared for the competition today,” she said. “My parents worked extra hard tonight.”
The Belding Marching Band will perform again next week where the students will seek to increase their score again.
Hyler said there will be more props and surprises added as the band continues to practice, hoping to make a return performance to Ford Field for the state finals again.
“It’s maintain or improve going forward,” she said. “Only 12 bands qualify in our flight for the state finals, so we will definitely be aiming to improve.”