TROY — Over one-hundred Troy residents were able to ring in the New Year across the pond against the glorious cityscape of London, England.
The Troy High School Marching Band were invited back for a fifth time this year to participate in London’s New Year’s Day Parade. The parade is regarded as one of the world’s greatest street spectaculars, featuring more than 8,000 performers and following a 2.2-mile route past some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
In 2016, an official invitation was extended by parade directors to Troy High School band director Kathy McIntosh and her students, along with invitations to 14 other high school bands throughout the United States.
The trip, which ran from Wednesday, Dec. 27 to Wednesday, Jan. 3, was led by McIntosh, along with associate director Molly Venneman and assistant director Casey Layer, as well as dozens of adult chaperones.
“We had 157 people along on this trip,” McIntosh said. “Eighty nine of them were students, and the rest were instructors, family and friends. I think it was the most we’ve ever brought.”
For the duration of their trip, the group was accomodated with prestigious lodgings by parade officials.
“They did all of the prep for us,” McIntosh said. “They put us up in Park Plaza Waterloo. It’s a very high-quality hotel. It’s located about two or three blocks from Big Ben. It’s also right on the tube line, which was a major mode of transportation for everyone while touring, and was very convenient. I can’t express enough how nice the place was. It would run a regular person a few hundred dollars a night for one room.”
“On New Year’s Eve, we had a little party for everyone in the hotel, and I think the kids went to bed around 1 or 1:30,” Layer said. “We got them up at 5:30 to bus them over to the square, which was about five minutes from the hotel, threw them out of the bus with their uniforms on, and had them playing on a walled-off corner before the parade. It was very surreal, because everything was getting set up, and there was nobody downtown yet. It was a cool experience for them to be selected to do that.”
Following their street-side performance before the commencement, the THS Marching Band took their place in the parade to belt out some trademark tunes for miles of onlookers.
“For the parade march, we played ‘Celebration,’ by Kool & the Gang, which is a really fun parade tune,” Venneman said. “Then, at the end of the parade, there’s a performance opportunity that allows you to put on a very small version of a show. For that, we did a Billy Joel medley of ‘Piano Man’ and ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire.’”
“We prepared special drill for the Billy Joel section,” McIntosh said. “Drill is essentially a marching term for dance choreography, and that made for some great photo opportunities that have already made the rounds on Facebook.”
In addition to the New Year’s Day Parade, in which all 89 students participated, another performance opportunity arose, offered up by none other than BBC1.
“There were some producers from BBC1’s ‘BBC Breakfast’ who contacted Mrs. McIntosh and asked if some groups would be interested in doing sort of an intro,” Layer said. “‘BBC Breakfast’ is sort of like ‘Good Morning America’ for Great Britain. We did a couple of segments where we’d come in after a commercial. We’d be playing, and they’d talk to Kathy a bit about the group and the fundraisers that we do to get there. We didn’t expect to have that when we went, so that was really cool.”
Aside from the band’s performance segments, the group was afforded many opportunities for shopping and sightseeing throughout the greater London area.
“On any given day, the students and chaperones had at least a little bit of time where they were in groups, and could explore different parts of the city,” Layer said. “Molly worked really hard ahead of the trip to assign chaperone group and collect information on different activities that groups could do around London, like visiting Westminster Abbey or Piccadilly Circus.
“There’s incredible locations there for sightseeing, and lots of great stores to go shopping at. There’s different tours available to see the monuments; people wanted to go by and see Big Ben, the pier, the London Eye, and other things like that. A lot of our students elected to purchase a ticket to go on the London Eye, and that filled a good portion of a day.
“We also took them on a water taxi from Westminster Pier to Greenwich. We saw a bunch of sights on the river Thames on the way to Greenwich, and then they climbed up to the Royal Naval Observatory and saw the amazing views there. They got to see the Prime Meridian, which goes right through that area.,” Layer said.
During sightseeing excursions, groups were given tour guidance of both human and electronic means.
“Any time we went to see big sites, our provided audio walking devices could provide information,” Layer said. “They kind of look like old cell phones. Each monument or site has a number associated with it, so you click the number on your audio guide, and there’s a story in there associated in there with what you’re looking at.
“We also had Blue Badge guides with us, who are certified professonials. They take a huge test and train for a couple of years to be able to guide people around London. They made everything a lot more meaningful and entertaining,” Layer said.
Apart from the group tours in London, some travel was also done outside of the city to locations throughout Bath, and also to the illustrious grounds of Stonehenge.
“Stonehenge is really great,” Venneman said. “Having now been there three times, it’s clear there is major knowledge and research done in between every visit. There’s still a lot of questions that are unanswered, and new developments being found all the time. On this trip, our guide was talking about another site called Woodhenge. The wood has since deteriorated and is no longer around, but they found holes in the sublevels of the ground that indicated where it is. On our last trip, they didn’t talk about that at all. While it’s so ancient of a site, it’s still very much prevalent in history and science.”
“Mrs. McIntosh is kind of the spearhead for getting us into Stonehenge,” Layer said. “That’s one of those really remarkable things that you know all of your students will know and have learned about. There’s a good chance that many will end up in London during travel sometime, but they probably won’t go to Stonehenge. After having been there, it’s really an incredible place to be, and I’m glad we got to take the kids there.”
It has now become tradition for the band to take the trip every four years in order to afford each student the chance to go once during their high school tenure, a custom that Troy High School’s band directors hope to continue to uphold.
“It’s just always really rewarding to watch the students take in this experience,” Venneman said. “They’re exhausted from the amount of stuff they get to do, but seeing them experiencing it is great. It’s a big international trip with lots of people, so we’re super thankful to the administration for letting us go. We’re really thankful for the community support we’ve had through different fundraisers and events. We couldn’t do it without all of their help.”
“Going back a fifth time was an honor,” McIntosh said. “For these kids, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
For more information on school events, visit www.troy.k12.oh.us.
For more photos from the trip, see B1 in today’s paper.