By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — It was a big stage for a big band when the 260-member Londonderry High School Marching Lancers marched past the presidential reviewing stand Monday on Pennsylvania Avenue.
With music director Andy Soucy at the helm, the smart, red, white and blue clad musicians performed a patriotic medley for the president and the crowd estimated at nealy 1 million.
But big performances are the norm for the band, which has performed in China, in three Tournament of Roses parades, in the Orange Bowl parade and numerous times in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Soucy had some sound advice for his young charges Sunday night, according to 16-year-old Erin Conti, an LHS junior and color guard captain.
“He told us to get a good night’s sleep and mentally prepare yourself,” she said.
By all accounts, they did just that.
They warmed up in their hotel lobby early Monday morning, then headed out to the parking lot for a last-minute rehearsal before boarding their coach buses for the trip into the city, security checks and a very long wait.
The Lancers were in the fifth and final division of the parade and the sun had long ago set when they stepped sharply into view, all in perfect formation, and represented the Granite State before the president and assembled guests in the reviewing stand.
The color guard members sparkled in their shiny blue berets, their flags twirling in the fading light, their faces bright with excitement.
“I think it will be surreal; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Conti said before the parade. “I am so excited. The best thing is marching in the parade with all my friends.”
For some, it was a long-awaited trip.
Freshman tenor saxophone player Tyler Stapleford had been waiting a long time to travel as part of the Marching Lancers, mother Christine said.
“He’s been looking forward to his first trip since fourth grade with the band,” she said.
Plenty of local residents tuned in to C-SPAN to see the band in its glory.
Many of those same people turned out early Saturday morning to see the band off, lining both sides of the road at Mack’s Apples to cheer the six coach buses and instrument truck on their way to Washington. A police escort led the caravan out of town.
Even the insides of the buses were decked out in patriotic style, festooned with paper streamers and stars.
The young musicians appreciated the community support.
“It was a great start to a fantastic trip,” drumline captain Dalton Gyorda said.
The students first night in Maryland was interrupted by a fire alarm just before 3 a.m., Gyorda reported, but it was a false alarm and they were soon back in bed.
Sunday, the band, color guard and their 30 chaperones toured Fort McHenry, where Franic Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner;” toured Baltimore’s Inner Harbor; shopped, ate and visited the National Aquarium.
After the parade Monday, the group headed to Bubba Gump’s for a celebratory dinner.
The plan called for the band to leave Maryland at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, with an estimated arrival time of 9 p.m.
Reality would soon set in for the well-traveled musicians with final exams for the rest of the week and SAT testing Saturday.