• February 21, 2020
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The Leesville Road Symphonic Band marching down Fayetteville Street during the annual Raleigh Christmas Parade. The band will march in the similar, but much larger, London New Years Parade next year.

Each year, members of the LRHS Symphonic Band awake in the early hours of the morning, don their uniforms, and travel to downtown Raleigh to march in the annual Christmas Parade.

They brave the cold, standing around for what seems like forever until the parade begins.

“It was chilly, especially because I was surrounded by a giant piece of metal, but I’m a pretty big dude, so it was OKAY,” said Seth Pixton, sousaphone player in the band.

Having lost most of the feeling in their appendages, the students wait until they receive the order to form their parade block. The students fight the brutal cold by huddling together, and dutifully attempting to keep their instruments warm. Finally, the familiar call of “tech!” rings out– followed by “form parade block!”.

The students go the their spots, exchanging copious high-fives, fist bumps and “good luck”’s along the way. The parade begins several minutes later, and the band starts their approximately 1.4 mile route march through downtown Raleigh.

The gaze of hundreds of spectators and dozens of cameras are trained on the band from the very start. Many students face an understandable nervousness, but all know that their job is to put on a great performance. “It was a little intimidating at first,” said Nicola McIrvine, drum major in the band, “but I just got out there and had fun with it.”

As they march along the route, the band pays tribute to a time honored tradition through their tunes: “Hark the Herald,” “Jingle Bells,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” and “Joy to the World.” The arrangement has been played in North Carolina since the mid 20th century and was brought to Leesville by Dave Albert, the former director of band.

“I was just thinking about how to look and sound as good as possible, while still making it fun,” said Brian Waldron, clarinet player in the band.

Adrenaline is in abundance and spirits are high as the band reaches the end of the route. “It still feels pretty surreal,” said McIrvine. “I can’t actually picture it happening now.” Tired and cold, most students can look forward to a hot meal when they get home.

They can also take pride in a superior performance, and the chance to practice for next year’s London New Years Parade. Compared to the thousands of audience members and hundreds of cameras at the New Years Parade, the Christmas Parade may seem insignificant. But the band welcomes the chance to practice hone skills that will need to be perfect for next year.

“I felt really proud of our band,” said McIrvine. “I love any opportunity to show people who we are, and I can’t wait to do it again next year in London.

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