New London - Cool winds began to whisk across the field. Mothers squinted skyward; children held out chubby palms.
The New London-based 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps marched onto the field; the heavens opened up.
It poured. And the band played on.
"You're gonna see a good show today," Tim Rall had earlier told the crowd gathered late Saturday afternoon in the bleachers of the New London High School football field.
He probably hadn't meant the torrential rain.
Rall, the director of a group of about 60 young musicians, dancers and color guardsmen, had introduced an open-house performance of his group, set to go on national tour today to compete with other Drum Corps International ensembles from across the country.
Family and friends had piled into the bleachers to cheer on their sons, daughters and peers as they gave a preview of what they'll be bringing to their two-week Midwest tour.
As individual performers stepped up to the grass in their slick black uniforms - a pale blue "7" emblazoned across the chests of the brass players, black jumpers over blue tees for the percussionists - clouds gathered.
The brass ensemble played Bruchner; a formidable marimba soloist did Bach. A vocal solo of Regina Spektor's "Samson" preluded a polka-dot-clad, ponytailed color guard's dance to a Marylin Monroe number from NBC's musical show "Smash."
By the time the Connecticut Alumni Senior Drum and Bugle Corps had finished their performance - a black-brimmed-cap, black-gloved-salute deal that included a rousing rendition of "America the Beautiful" - it may as well have been nightfall.
As surely as if they had planned it, the first drops fell as the first notes sounded.
They slipped seamlessly from the classic to the super-modern, from Beethoven to Sibelius to ethereal Icelandic band Sigur Ros. It was impressive range, made more impressive with every piece of choreography executed in sync.
But it was when the majestic, booming horn lines came through in the downpour that the crowd roared loudest - or when a perfect flag twirl landed satisfyingly in a row of color guardmen's hands.
The rain, somehow, made it even better.
"That's what we try to do," said Andrew Mastronunzio, a visual instructor for the corps. "Just face whatever adversity they have and make the best of it."
A few skittish showgoers skedaddled with the first drops. But for the most part, the crowd - only a fraction of whom had the foresight for rain gear - stayed. And stayed. For the whole 20-minute performance, they cheered like it was just another sunny day.
"Are we crazy or what?" said an exhilarated Rall after the performance ended. It's a good omen, he said, as they look ahead to their competitions. Drum Corps International, a global nonprofit for youth that calls itself "Marching Music's Major League," hosts an annual tour that features more than 100 events throughout North America.
"It's something they'll look back on for the rest of the season," he added, "and for the rest of their lives."