Lehigh's Marching 97 prepares to perform in the London New Years Day Parade on Jan. 1. The band performed a setlist featuring Lehigh fight songs as well as contemporary ones. (Courtesy of Rachel Swope)

Marching 97 performs in London New Year’s Day Parade

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The Marching 97 rang in the New Year on its first international trip in the history of the band. The group spent the holiday in London, where it had the opportunity to perform in the city’s annual New Year’s Day Parade.

Each year, the parade is organized by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, who is currently Catherine Longworth. In 2016, Longworth went on a grand tour of 32 U.S. colleges to scout marching bands for the 2018 parade.

That year, the Marching 97 received an invitation to the parade from Longworth at President John Simon’s house and immediately began to prepare for and fund the trip.

Incoming band manager Eddie Gardiner, ’19, said accommodations needed to be made to transport not only the musicians, but also their instruments, overseas. In addition, outgoing manager Daniel Beadle, ’18, said the group had extra practices to prepare for the parade.

“The first reaction (to the invitation) was disbelief,” Beadle said. “The second reaction was, ‘This is amazing, but how are we ever going to raise the money?’”

Beadle said Marching 97 alumni donations made up almost two-thirds of the funding for the trip.

Marching 97 historian Rachel Swope, ’19, said some alumni made the trip to London to watch their alma mater perform in the parade.

Gardiner said the band performed a mixture of pop songs, such as “Pompeii” by Bastille, and Lehigh fight-songs, such as “Goblet” — songs similar to what the group performs at football games.

“We were able to do our thing where we were in the parade, marching, but also dancing around and having fun with it,” Gardiner said.

Beadle said the group also performed at Cadogan Hall, a converted church in London where the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performs. In addition to the performances, the band toured London, other English cities and the Greenwich Observatory.

Swope said for her the highlight of the trip was watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

“It was definitely a lot of fun to get to go there with a bunch of (my) best friends and explore a new city and experience the culture of London and England,” Swope said.

Gardiner said the trip opened many doors for the band and provided them with more opportunities at Lehigh.

“Performances like the London New Year’s Day Parade are really great for the Marching 97 as an organization and we were able to represent Lehigh in a really positive light,” Gardiner said. “That’s something I’m really happy that I think we did.”

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