Watching the London New Year’s Day Parade was like playing a Marching Band Mom version of Where’s Waldo?
That’s my ‘Waldo’ (daughter Amanda) in the foreground of the photo to the left, marching tenor sax next to her BF, Stephen Matzas. This was a major league squee (“There’s Oak Grove!”) peppered with moments of frustration (will those blooming hosts never stop talking and let us hear the bands play?) and nostalgia (I wanted to go back to England so badly I could taste the curry, cottage pie, and tea).
We TIVO’d the parade from a feed on RFDTV—a channel targeted to rural America. I can only imagine that’s because farming communities are a hotbed of marching band activity. Most of the bands were from high schools and colleges back east, though I think every high school in Clovis and Fresno have competitive marching bands of different sizes.
Amanda’s school—Oak Grove—is one of only a handful of high schools in Silicon Valley that have music programs like this and they are almost entirely supported via volunteerism, donations, and fund raising like you wouldn’t believe.The exception to this is the 310 member marching band and color guard fielded by James Logan High School in Union City, which is a well-funded arts school. And they are a wonder to behold and hear, I must say.
As I commented to Amanda recently, with her older siblings, the high school was a place we went to drop off, pick up, and go to see plays. With her, Oak Grove and its band programs are the center of our daily lives. The only place I spend time more often is the Baha’i Center.
Anyway, you can also see the LNYD parade on the feed from the LNYDP.com site. Amanda and the band make their first appearance at about the 2:20 mark (that’s 2 hours and 20 minutes). They do their performance for the grandstand near the very end of the parade at about the 3:15 or 3:20 mark.
The site has a profile of each band in the parade (all from the US). Oak Grove’s profile includes a video of their 2016 field show, The Playground. I watched it for the tenth time or so just for fun. It was a great field show—very playful, which suits the band ethos.
The way the parade worked was typical. The bands played on the move, stopping four or five times to play an entire piece for the crowds lining the parade route, and to allow the color guard to do their thing. Our guard placed first in the WBA championships this year (for their size of band), so the guys are understandably proud of them. When they reached the grandstand where the hosts were seated, each band or borough entry had two minutes to perform.
Most of the bands (with one notable exception) scrambled into the performance area, hastily set up and executed their 2 minute piece with marching routines that they’d probably had only a couple of weeks to learn and practice. The exception was one of the University bands which obviously did this often enough that they had a tight marching routine to go with their well-executed medley of music. Chris Moura, Oak Grove’s band director made an interesting choice, here: OG was the only band that marched cadence into the grandstand area, set up in neat sections and played a straight up Christmas carol with no choreography. They focused on the music and they sounded good. They let the color guard do all the dancing and somersaults. Then, instead of running out of the area, they turned and marched cadence out again.
I have to ask Amanda if Moura told them they should wear ‘cadence face’ all the way through the parade. Though Amanda assures me they were having lots of fun, they looked as solemn and businesslike as ever. Moura has rules about this. In competition, the band marches cadence all the way back to their bus; at football games, likewise, they march in and march out all the way back to the band room before they’re allowed to break order.
This ranks, in my book, as one of the Wonders of the World, and if Chris Moura isn’t the king of all Cat Herders, I’m the Queen of England.