For Evans High School senior Rykie Belles, canceling the trip to the London Parade was out of the question.
"I was told in eighth grade about the trip, so I didn't even think about not going," said Rykie, a flute player in the Evans High School Band. "It's been a fact of life: I'm going to London."
The band will march in the London Parade on New Year's Day, leaving Augusta today and returning Jan. 2.
Security concerns have done little to diminish the number of students and adults who are planning to travel to London. Two hundred thirty-four people signed up for the trip, and only seven backed out, said band director Richard Brasco.
Five bands from the United States, however, reneged on their commitment to perform in the parade, and the Evans band is leaving without the sanction of the Columbia County school board.
Because of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11 and the continuing war on terrorism, some members of the Columbia County Board of Education expressed concern about students traveling abroad. The board voted to prepare a waiver for parents to sign, releasing the board from responsibility.
Director Richard Brasco leads the Evans High School Band in some final rehearsals before its departure for London, where the band will march in a New Year's Day parade. The band is taking the trip without school board sanction.
Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker
"The only thing I'm concerned about is the kids not being alert enough to get pick-pocketed and the fact that the lanes go the opposite way, so they will need to look carefully before they cross the street," Brasco said. "It's going to be a great experience for the kids."
This will be the third time the band has marched in the parade. Brasco recalls similar concerns when the band was scheduled to march in the 1991 parade, during the Persian Gulf War, but the band went.
The jazz band, wind ensemble and marching band willperform in London during the whirlwind six-day trip.
At a gala concert at Westminster Central Hall on Saturday, the Knights concert band will perform an original score called Excalibur: Legend of the Sword, which the school commissioned from songwriter David Shaffer of Cincinnati.
This is the 16th running of the London Parade, which is comparable in size to the Macy's parade, Brasco said. During the parade, the band will perform two songs: The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and We Need a Little Christmas. The parade will begin at noon on New Year's Day.
Jessi Heath, a clarinet player in the concert band and one of the band's four drum majors, said the parade is one reason she auditioned for the leadership role in February.
"I thought it would be really cool to be a drum major in the London Parade," she said. "It's very exciting. I've been looking forward to this since seventh grade."
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