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FHS Band accepts London invitation

Members of Farragut High School Band will begin the New Year abroad as they march in the 23rd annual New Year’s Day Parade and Festival in London, England.

The former Lord Mayor of Westminster, Catherine Longworth, and Robert Bone, executive director of Youth Music of the World, which organizes the parade each year, traveled from London Wednesday, Oct. 29, to personally deliver the formal invitation to the band.

FHS assistant band director Michelle Lewis said the band has performed in the London parade before but not recently.

“Due to the events of Sept. 11, [2001] Knox County put a moratorium on overseas travel, and last year they lifted it,” she said.

Forty-four band members and 13 parents will make the trip.

Although the band held a fund-raiser for students interested in marching in the parade, band members and parents are responsible for paying for their own trip.

“We are all excited,” Lewis said.

“We will be doing ‘Viva Las Vegas,’ which is part of our half time-show, and we will alternate between that and ‘Anchors Away,’” she added.

Bone spoke to the students regarding the breadth of the event.

“London’s New Years Day Parade is in its 23rd year this year. It will have an audience of some 750 million people. They will be added to by some 220 million people worldwide who will tune in around the world,” he said.

“Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has about 4,500 participants every year. Our parade has about 10,000,” Bone added.

The parade is hosted each year by the Lord Mayor of Westminster.

Longworth addressed the students wearing the official mayoral robe of Westminster.

“As Lord Mayor of Westminster I dined at Buckingham Palace, which, of course, is where the queen lived, I met heads of state, but the high point was joining in the New Year’s Day Parade,” she said.

“I love marching bands.

“I have traveled a bit in America now and I have seen several marching bands perform and I think they are amazing.

“The talent and the expertise and the people who help you — the commitment of the parents and teachers — I think it is fantastic,” she said.

“There is nothing in the schools in England that have marching bands. We do not have marching bands.

“We have very good choirs and very good orchestras, but we do not have marching bands,” Longworth added.

In addition to the framed formal invitation to the parade, Longworth and Bone came laden with gifts.

FHS was presented with a limited edition 2008 Buckingham Palace plate, while band director Ron Rodgers and FHS principal Michael Reynolds were presented with a set of coins representing the five royal palaces in the United Kingdom.

Lewis and fellow assistant band director Steve Taylor received medals of Buckingham Palace.

Farragut Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III was presented with a pair of cufflinks bearing the crest of the Lord Mayor of Westminster.

The parade begins under the famous Big Ben clock in Westminster and will proceed through the streets of London.

Participating students will leave Dec. 28 and return Jan. 4, giving them time to enjoy the sights of London.

“You are going to be ambassadors for your art and your country, showing Londoners what you can do with your marching bands. There is a wonderful relationship between Great Britain and America and that is something you can foster,” Longworth told the students.

The trip will cost each participating student and parent $2,700.


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