Members of Hendersonville High School’s Band of Gold and Select Chamber Choir plan to ring in 2020 in a unique way – by performing in London.
The school’s marching band was invited to perform at London’s New Year’s Day Parade while choir members will participate in the London International Choral Festival.
Both groups were personally invited in October when Winston Churchill’s great-grandson, Duncan Sandys visited the school.
“This is an incredible honor for them,” said HHS Director of Choirs Elizabeth Evans. “It is an extremely prestigious honor and it is very hard to be invited.”
According to Dan Kirkby, communications director for event organizers Destination Events, usually around 20 U.S. marching bands are invited to perform in the parade and four or five U. S. choirs are selected for the festival.
“It’s wonderful that Hendersonville High School will be with us for the 2020 parade,” Kirkby said in an email.
While band members will perform in the event, chorus members will get to carry a “giant balloon,” Evans said.
According to its website, more than 650,000 spectators lined the 2.2-mile route for the 2019 parade that included 8,000 participants from 26 countries and 15 London boroughs.
Organizers are hoping to stream both the parade and choral festival performances online, according to Kirkby.
“Full coverage of London’s New Year’s Day Parade will be offered to your local TV stations (and your website) free of charge,” he said.
This will be the first overseas trip for both the band and the choir.
It’s not the first time the Band of Gold has been invited to perform overseas, however.
“We were slated to go to Ireland when the Lockerbie bombing occurred several years ago,” said Band Director Jeff Phillips. “We were just in the preliminary stages of planning, but we had to cancel, obviously.”
The band also travelled a couple of times to Toronto, Canada, before Sept. 11, 2001 and the heightened security that followed.
“This is a huge deal,” said Phillips who has directed HHS’ band for 28 years. “It’s the largest parade in the world – both in the number of people who attend as well as an international televised audience. It’s really huge for our band and also for the community.”
Phillips said he was encouraged to send in an audition tape by a regional representative for the company that recruits bands for the parade.
Once the band was accepted, Phillips encouraged Evans to apply for the choral festival.
“We had been talking about going to an event together for a while,” he added. Travelers will leave Dec. 27 and return on Jan. 3, 2020.
Around 76 band students have signed up for the trip as well as two dozen or so parents and a few graduates.
Evans admits cost - $3,655 per person – is keeping some of her students from going.
“I can add people all the way up until September 1 and currently I have 25 signed up, but that is including parents,” she said. “I need more of our singers to sign up so that we can have a balance of all the parts. Their only hesitancy to sign up is the trip cost.”
Select chorus alumni, as well as friends and family members are also invited, Evans said.
During a March 12 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Evans asked the community for help.
“I know the incredible value it is to have this experience,” she said. “So many may not have this opportunity again. I hate to look in their faces and say, ‘you can’t go.’”
Evans is asking local businesses and community groups to donate. The goal, she added, is to cut the cost for each student by about $1,000.
Phillips said that a few local restaurants have offered to hold spirit nights with some of the proceeds going to help defray the cost of the trip. A few other local businesses have offered to help offset the costs as well, he said.
“We appreciate as much support as we can get,” Phillips added.
If you would like to make a donation, contact Evans at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-824-6162.