Earlier this month, a cacophony of musical notes could be heard coming from the band room at Mill Creek High School.
The Pride of Mill Creek, the school’s marching band, was warming up during the group’s last official practice of the year, making it almost impossible to hear anything else going on.
Then, with a signal from band director Erik Mason and the opening cadence from one of the drummers, the band broke into a well-rehearsed version of Michael Jackson’s classic song “Thriller.”
This is one of two songs — the other being Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” — the band has been playing at Friday night football games for the last few months. And they’ll perform both songs Friday on the streets of London for the New Year’s Day Parade.
“I was just looking for something light-hearted, something everyone would know,” Mason said about the music selection. “I was there (in England) last summer when he (Michael Jackson) died, and you kept hearing his songs from the cars.”
At noon Friday, the students from Mill Creek will join dozens of other bands and performers at the intersection of Piccadilly and Berkley streets and make their way through Piccadilly Circus, Lower Regent Street, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Street, according to the parade’s Web site.
The band found out last year that they were chosen to perform in the New Year’s Day festivities, and the students wasted no time preparing for the occasion. They raised money for the trip, performed their songs week after week this fall and held practices specifically geared toward the parade performance to ensure they would be ready to perform Jan. 1.
“We’ve had five or six parade practices, and we already know the music because that’s what we’ve been playing at football games. And we learned to turn corners and march,” said Kelly Shay, a junior who plays the trumpet in the band.
The band organized several fundraisers, selling everything from Coca Cola to pine straw to gift cards, to raise the funds to make it across the pond, said Tyler Raeford, a senior drum major.
“We wanted to make sure everybody had the opportunity to go,” he explained.
The band landed in London on Sunday and has spent the week touring the historic city leading up to the big performance, which has the band feeling a mix of emotions.
“I can say that we’re all extremely excited, but we’re also a little nervous,” Raeford said.
“It’s not exactly a Friday night football game,” Shay interjected.
But their nervous feelings haven’t dampened their spirit or the belief that they’ll be one of the best bands in the parade, they said.
“I know we’re an awesome band,” Raeford said.
As to England’s penchant for rainy weather, the band members don’t seem phased by the possibility of wet weather for the parade.
“If it rains, we’re all going to throw on jackets and umbrellas,” Shay said.