By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
On Sunday night, Londonderry High School music director Andy Soucy told his 260-member Marching Lancers to rest up for their big day yesterday.
The band made its second appearance in four years in the presidential inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. They represented New Hampshire, after a successful application process.
Soucy said earlier he was surprised and honored the band was invited back.
The competition was stiff; some 2,800 groups applied to participate in President Obama’s second inaugural parade.
But the Lancers succeeded and looked sharp as they marched past the presidential reviewing stand in the fifth and final division of the parade.
Fittingly dressed in their trim red, white and blue uniforms, the young musicians played a “Tribute to America,” a patriotic medley. Most of the band sported tall hats with white plumes atop. The tubas and sousaphone players wore red berets and the color guard sparkled in shiny blue berets.
The parade was carried live on C-SPAN and the Londonderry group, one of the bigger bands in the parade, got plenty of airtime.
For 16-year-old Erin Conti, an LHS junior and color guard captain, it was the experience of a lifetime.
“I think it will be surreal; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” she said before the parade. “I am so excited. The best thing is marching in the parade with all my friends.”
The band left early Saturday morning to some fanfare. The six buses and an instrument truck were sent on their way in style. Parents, fans and residents lined the road at Mack’s Apples and the fire department suspended a huge flag over the road as they departed.
Drumline captain Dalton Gyorda said band and color guard members were excited by the crowd that saw them off and the police escort that led them out of town Saturday morning.
“It was a great start to a fantastic trip,” he said.
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.
A fire alarm, which turned out to be false, sent the students out into the parking lot in the middle of their first night. But they still got up early Sunday to tour Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Then it was off to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for the students, while band directors went to a parade meeting in Washington. Chaperone Fiona Moran reported it was warm and sunny in the capital.
Students visited the National Aquarium and feasted on Italian food before heading back to the hotel for a final band meeting before the big day.
Early yesterday morning, the Lancers, in full uniform, may have surprised a few other hotel guests when they did a last-minute practice through the lobby of their hotel. They also warmed up in the parking lot there before heading in to Washington for security checks and instructions before the parade.
It was a long wait before the band had its moment to shine, but the members were well prepared.
“(Soucy) told us to get a good night’s sleep and mentally prepare yourself,” Conti said.
Their chaperones waited for hours at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street, but they also got a close-up look at the president and his wife when they walked the parade route ahead of the parade.
Last night, it was off to Bubba Gump’s in Baltimore for a celebratory dinner.
The band was expected to leave Maryland at 8:30 this morning, with an estimated return to Londonderry at 9 p.m.
With music director Andy Soucy leading the way, the band has traveled and performed in China, three Pasadena Tournament of Roses parades, the Orange Bowl parade, numerous trips to New York City for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and much more.