The echo and the acoustics of the White House grand foyer made a lasting impression on a group of Palatine High School musicians Saturday morning.
The six members of the school's Brass Ensemble performed for two hours, serenading about 1,000 visitors to a holiday open house with their talent for Christmas carols.
The sounds of their two trumpets, two trombones, tuba and French horn blended and echoed off the foyer's marble floors and tall ceilings, adding to the atmosphere from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.
"There is a lot of echo in the room, so the brass sounded fantastic in that type of acoustical space," said Raeleen Horn, Palatine's director of bands and music department chairwoman, who conducted the group.
Senior ensemble members Jenna Campbell and Joe VanBladel of Palatine said it was the first time they set foot inside the presidential home, decorated Saturday with trees, garland and lights.
"The room was so full and our tone sounded great," said Campbell, who plays French horn. "The echo was great and it was so cool to play in an atmosphere like that compared to our band room."
The ensemble played at the White House in 2010 and Horn said she applied for the opportunity again this year -- her 33rd at Palatine -- because she is set to retire next spring. Horn said many of those touring the White House stopped to watch and hear the brass group play, although the sound carried throughout most of the first floor.
"It was not distracting, but you definitely felt their presence," trombone player VanBladel said about the spectators. "As a performer, it was exhilarating playing for that many people and it was a really great experience."
After the performance, the group planned to tour monuments around Washington, D.C., before attending a Saturday night performance of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Bonding with fellow performers and the conductor was another highlight of the trip, which brought the six performers, Horn and two parents to the nation's capital.
One of the parents, tuba player Ken Cervenka's mother Jill Cervenka, snapped photos. Another parent, trumpet player Natalie Stevens' mother Alice Stevens, played short piano interludes to give the brass players a break between songs during their time in the White House spotlight.
"It was extremely memorable and I think the students were incredibly excited," Horn said about the performance. "They did a wonderful job today."