Marching band takes London by storm

Weather actually holds out for New Year's Day parade, despite rainy week for visit

More than a year ago, Hinsdale Central drum major Deona Julary was given an umbrella along with an invitation for the Hinsdale Central Marching Band to participate in London's New Year's Day Parade.

Her instructions? Keep the umbrella on her person to ensure good weather for the parade. She did as she was told.

"The umbrella did work," Julary said Monday after returning home from a six-day trip to London. "It was raining every single day in London except parade day, and we are really grateful the umbrella did work."

Marching in the parade with about 8,000 performers before a crowd of some 500,000 was a memorable experience, Julary said, but came with some anxiety.

"I definitely felt a lot of pressure going into this parade because you are representing Hinsdale Central on a global scale," she said. "I felt really confident with the people going into this trip and the band that was performing. We all had confidence in our skills and ability to really show up and do our best. Once we got there, the pressure kind of eliminated and we were able to enjoy it more."

The two-mile parade route starts down the street from Buckingham Palace near Piccadilly Circus. Band director Matt Kurinsky said Central musicians lived up to the occasion.

"You march past a bunch of monuments and you end up by Big Ben and Westminster," he said. "They definitely did some of their best marching and playing ever. It was really fun."

For the two-minute televised "show stop" at the end of the parade, the band performed "Greased Lightning." While marching, they played "Fanfare for the Common Man," "Red Devils" and "Animal."

The band also performed with two other bands at an evening concert at St. John's Church in Waterloo.

The band actually began preparing for the parade in the spring of 2023, playing two of the concert pieces during its year-end performance, Kurinsky said.

"We started doing weekly practices after football season," he said. "We planned our football season to include some of the music we were going to do for this."

Band members committed to memorizing their music for the performance, something they typically don't do.

"This level of performance, it really makes everybody just step up their performance a notch," Kurinsky said. "Everybody takes it seriously. Everybody was paying better attention to their horn angles and things like that. Everything was a little more serious."

When band members were not performing, the focus was on having fun. Many families joined their students for the parade, with some flying over early or staying a few days late.

The Tatum family left for Paris right after finals ended Dec. 22.

"We did the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre on Christmas Eve," said Melanie Tatum, whose son, Blake, plays snare drums. "It was amazing."

The family met up with the Central group on Dec. 28 in London.

"We went straight away to sightseeing. They had organized tours every day. We had two buses," she said.

Among the stops were Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden and Windsor Castle. The group even took a day trip to Oxford.

"Oxford was a lot of fun," Tatum said. "All the kids were wearing Oxford sweatshirts. It was really cute."

The family traveled to Rome four years ago when Blake's older sister, Hannah, played clarinet in the Rome parade in 2020.

"It's an incredible opportunity," Tatum said. "We're so fortunate to have the opportunity to go do this on the world stage."

Julary enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with fellow band members while on the trip.

"There were so many times where you would be touring Oxford or Windsor Castle and we'd just be smiling and having a good time," she said.

Kurinsky, who visited London in college and again when the band played in the parade eight years ago, enjoyed those moments as well.

"I always see something different," he said, mentioning a trip to Harrods with a few of the trip's 14 sponsors. "It's such a big, cool city. There's always something new. It's fun to see."

While some band members have traveled extensively, this was the first trip out of the country for some.

"We had one girl - it was her first time on an airplane entirely," he said.

Kurinsky said the parade is a once-in-a-lifetime performance for students, comparing it to the Rose Parade or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"There are few things like it," he said.

Julary has had two once-in-a-lifetime experiences, as she was selected to be the drum major for the Macy's parade in November. She said that parade was more focused on celebrities.

"The London parade is very community-based and it's very centered on the people," she said. "It was really inspiring and eye-opening participating in both parades and seeing the similarities and the differences."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean