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Lambert High band performs in London
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Lambert High's marching band in London's New Year's Day parade. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

SOUTH FORSYTH -- Students from a Forsyth County high school rang in the new year a few hours earlier than those still in the county. Or country. And the next day, they rang it in with drums, trumpets and more than 200 other instruments.

Lambert High School’s band traveled to London to take part in its 29th annual New Year’s Day parade.

Scott McCloy, who has been band director since Lambert opened, said they were scouted last year without knowing. They were the featured group and last performance of the parade, which started at The Ritz London, traveling to Piccadilly Circus and through Trafalgar Square before ending at Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster’s houses of Parliament.

About 160 students were in the marching band.

“Great Britain doesn’t have the marching band tradition like we do,” McCloy said. “What they love about that parade are the marching bands because it’s something they don’t have, and it’s a sound they love.”

He said the streets and grandstands were packed from 9 a.m. through when they marched by around 3:30 p.m.

They had to start fundraising about 18 months ago, he said, after they were visited by the executive director of the parade, the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Duncan Sandys, who is the great-grandson of Sir Winston Churchill.

Lambert’s marching band also performed in the grand finale with six other groups, a TV broadcast that featured Lambert for 10 minutes. The drum line led all seven bands through the performance.

Twenty members from the school’s orchestra performed for a brunch that fed the Lord Mayors of London before the parade, McCloy said.

Twenty chorus members performed at an international choral festival, and Lambert’s wind ensemble showed three pieces at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

“[The parade] is equally as large as the Macy’s Day Parade or the Rose Bowl parade,” said McCloy, adding there are usually between 60,000 and 100,000 people watching the route.

He said the parade always has a theme, which the musical performances try to play in accordance with. This year’s theme was “on the move,” so the marching band played 1970 one-hit-wonder “Vehicle.”

Other songs included The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride,” a patriotic medley of American songs, a compilation of Queen’s “Bicycle” and “Drive My Car” by The Beatles, and “Rule, Britannia!”

“It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “You can go there as a tourist anytime, but to be able to participate in that parade, they loved it.”

They did, of course, squeeze in some tourist time, too.

About 40 to 50 parent chaperones accompanied the students, and 60 to 70 more family members went along to support and vacation.

Tonya Mashburn, Lambert’s assistant band director and director of percussion, Principal Gary Davison, Ryan Wason, the choir director, and Julie Rosseter, the orchestra director, also went.

The total cost was about $3,000 per student, of which a “good portion” was raised through the previous year.

“It was great to experience other cultures, see great huge pieces of history we don’t have in America,” McCloy said. “It’s a great sense of pride for the students.”