By Bethany Pham & Elise Tran, Staff Writers
On Sept. 21, Councilor Robert Davis, Lord Deputy Mayor and Deputy Leader of the Council of Westminster in the United Kingdom, visited Fountain Valley High School (FVHS) to officially invite the Fountain Valley Royal Regiment (FVRR) to perform in London’s2019 New Year’s Day Parade and Festival, which FVRR graciously accepted.
Along with FVRR, members of theatre and orchestra were invited to perform as well but were not present during the welcoming ceremony.
“[FVRR] were really lovely. I know lots of schools and I think this is one of the best I’ve ever heard. It was just brilliant. I’m very impressed,” said Davis.
Davis, who donned a traditional outfit of a red coat and white gloves, entered the school gates to a welcoming by the percussion section and color guard, which was followed by a full band performance in the bowl. Accompanying Davis was Robert ‘Bob’ Bone, the Executive Director of the London New Year’s Day Parade and Festival, who expressed his amazement at the band’s ability to adapt in performing in unorthodox environments.
“I was very impressed,” said Bone. “Where we were sitting today, we had the pit [the bowl] directly in front of us, the percussion and stage behind, and all the instruments surrounding us. That being said, however, I thought the sound blended really well.”
Instrumental Music Director Mark Irons said, “Mr. [Al] Nelson, the assistant band director, and myself had the opportunity to eat dinner with the Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster and the parade directors. They’re true patrons of the arts, and they really appreciate good music, and good music-performing ensembles. One of the things that stuck out to me about the dinner last night was how many times they continued to praise the group because we did a short performance before we did the invitation ceremony last night.”
As a gift from Buckingham Palace, Davis presented a plate to the school with the royal coat of arms in the center with the listing of the kings and queens of England since 1066 surrounding it. A pair of cufflinks with the coat of arms were given to Principal Morgan Smith and Instrumental Music Director Irons as personal gifts. Seniors Angelina DePersis and Ryan Terry as well as sophomore Kaitlinh Pham were awarded the London New Year’s Day Parade pin for their positions as drum majors.
“I felt really honored to have [the pin],” said Terry. “It was really cool to be able to represent the whole band, to have the opportunity to be right next to the Lord Deputy Mayor.”
Seniors graduating this year in the summer of 2018 will be invited back as alumni to perform in the 2019 celebration as well as next year’s incoming freshmen, class of 2022.
“I’m very excited to say that we’re inviting all the seniors this year who are graduating,” said Irons. “We’re gonna invite them with us to the parade, and we’re also gonna talk to the incoming eighth graders for next year, so that they can start getting ready.”
Performing in London’s 2019 New Year’s Day Parade and Festival not only provides a chance for students to travel internationally, it also offers an opportunity to perform in front of a world-wide audience.
Band president Denise Le added, “We haven’t had such a big opportunity like this in a while, so I think all the members are excited, especially since we’re going to go out of the country to London. It’s a really big deal for us. The only events we’ve been going to have been the Disneyland parades and Bahamas trips every four years, so, usually, out-of-the-country trips that the band does is rare. This is a big opportunity for us to perform in front a lot of people and [for] such an important figure.”
In Irons’ eyes, this event creates a new world of opportunities for FVRR for years to come.
“I’ve been here for eleven years now, and I’ve been to the Bahamas twice with the band, I’ve been to Dayton [in Ohio] three times with the band, and to Las Vegas more times than I can count with the band. So we do travel a lot,” Irons said. “But in terms of a ‘big trip,’ this is a departure from our normal ‘big trips.’ We normally have fun big trips, but this is going to be a performing big trip for us, and that’s the direction I personally want to go with the group. Hopefully, this can open up even more avenues for more high-profile events, like this.”
The directors of the London New Year’s Day Parade and Festival extended an invitation to FVHS’ band, orchestra and theatre departments after receiving a referral from one of the 2018 New Year’s Parade performers Cris Moura, the band director of Oak Grove High School. Moura’s suggestion prompted the parade directors to look into FVHS.
While not performing in the parade, FVHS’ orchestra is scheduled to perform at highly esteemed venues like Hyde Park and Royal Albert Hall while FVHS’ theatre will conduct a tour in the west end as well as be involved in other aspects of the parade.
Irons recalled the last time that FVRR was given the chance to perform at such a venerable event was in 1981, when the band was invited to perform at Ronald Reagan’s inaugural parade. With over 200 students flying to Washington, D.C., it is, to this day, one of the most high-profile events band has performed in; the London Parade will rival that, according to Irons.
“I am extremely humbled and honored on behalf of the entire program: band, orchestra, color guard, percussion, as well as the theatre department. It’s such an honor for the community and the band.”