Barrington, Libertyville marching bands representing suburbs in London
Barrington and Libertyville high schools are continuing what's become a tradition of suburban marching band appearances in the London New Year's Day Parade and Festival.
Band members, directors, chaperones and others from the two high schools boarded buses Wednesday for O'Hare International Airport, where they caught flights to London. Barrington and Libertyville are in an elite group of 16 high school bands from the United States invited to play across the pond.
Roughly 500,000 spectators are expected for what will be the 32nd London New Year's Day Parade and Festival. Organizers said roughly 8,000 performers from several nations will parade down a 2.2-mile route in the city's West End.
Longtime Barrington High band Director Randy Karon said it's an honor to be invited back to the London parade, where his students played for the first time in 2014.
"I told the kids, 'Enjoy every minute of what you do, take it in. It should be the experience of a lifetime. You may never get this opportunity again,'" Karon said.
Not only will the Barrington High Bronco Marching Band get to be in the big parade, but also a New Year's Eve preview show on Trafalgar Square near the National Gallery's steps. Sophomore Matthew Harkey was among the 90 band members eagerly anticipating the London visit before boarding two coach buses outside Barrington High's main auditorium.
"It's a really big opportunity and it means a lot to everybody, because we're invited across the sea to a different country to go play in their parade and they think we're good enough to play," said Harkey, who plays tenor drums. "So I think it's really nice."
Lake Zurich High School band director Josh Thompson nominated the Libertyville Wildcat Marching Band for what will be its first London New Year's Day Parade and Festival. Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District spokeswoman Mary Todoric said 81 band members will play in London.
Suburban high school bands are not strangers to the 32-year-old London parade. Lake Zurich, Prospect in Mount Prospect and Naperville's Neuqua Valley are some of the high schools that have been in the parade.
In addition to playing the trumpet in the parade to start 2018, Barrington High band member Madeline Kiss said she looks forward to seeing London. The junior said she's heard from some classmates who aren't in the band.
"Honestly, they're kind of jealous," she said. "They don't get to go and we do. So, it's a cool experience."
William Kiss, who accompanied Madeline before she headed to the airport, said she will be his second daughter to represent Barrington High's marching band in the London parade. Brittany, now a University of Illinois student, played the flute on the 2014 trip.
"The fact that they can go abroad and perform on New Year's Day, it's an experience I never had," said Kiss, who was a drummer in the Rich Central High School marching band in Olympia Fields. "So, I'm just thrilled for (Madeline) and the whole program. It's a great thing that they do."