Dia de los Muertos is still three months away — but take a trip down Washington Street and you’ll see nearly 150 teenagers getting ready to celebrate it.
If you’ve seen the 2017 Disney-Pixar film “Coco,” you know the Mexican holiday, celebrated from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, is all about family, honoring our ancestors, and praying to help them along their journey in the afterlife.
You’ll also recognize much of the symbolism and imagery in this year’s Amherst Marching Comets competition show.
Students and volunteers have built three ofrendas — traditional alters where pictures of lost loved ones and their personal items are placed each year in their memory.
Band director Christopher Barbaro described how the ofrendas will each represent a fictional family and will be adorned with flowers, lights, flickering candles, and sugar skulls. They’ll connect on the field to form a 32-foot-long stage.
The flag corps will also feature three flag variations to honor the three families, and the show boasts acoustic guitar solos in a Latin style.
The closer is French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre,” an 1874 waltz celebrating the Old World idea that everyone is united in death regardless of their station in life.
Barbaro said it will be a “big, epic drumming closer” with eerie skeletons.
“I hope that people enjoy the journey of the show,” he said.
Amherst football fans are also going to love the Marching Comets’ halftime show, which features pop classics. The playlist includes “Any Way You Want It” by Journey, “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe, “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars, and more.
Whether on the football field or at competition, you’re sure to notice the band’s ranks have swollen from 122 last year to 148 in 2018.
Barbaro said the band continues to grow along with orchestra. Music program directors are seeing a great deal of enthusiasm that’s led to better retention of musicians as they rise through the grades from middle school.
This year will be the first with the orchestra at Steele High School. In fifth grade, musicians can pick the fit that’s right for them, whether it’s the bold sounds and choreography of the marching band or fine, classical approach of the orchestra.
The programs don’t compete for students, said Barbaro — there is plenty of talent to go around.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.