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London Calling

Churchill musicians visit London on Winter Break trip.

Ricky Alexander has one clear memory from performing in London last month — “All the screaming fans,” Alexander said.

BeatleMania in reverse? Not quite, but a group of 93 musicians in Winston Churchill High School’s symphonic orchestra, symphonic band and jazz orchestra were a hit when they traveled as a group to London during Winter Break.

CHURCHILL’S MUSICIANS were the keynote performers at the Harrow School, alma mater of Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s former prime minister. More than 400 years old, Harrow School has a chair for each of its alumni — Churchill students took turns sitting in the chair of their school’s namesake.

“The kids were really inspired by the event historically and musically,” said David Levin, music director at Churchill. The Harrow School performance, before a large audience in the Speech Room, was especially inspiring to the students.

“It was a pretty packed auditorium,” said baritone saxophone player Daniel Eichberg.

Said Alexander, “It was nice to have a paying crowd …”

“… For once,” added Chandos Culleen, a horn player for the jazz band.

Several students flouted the advice they’d received to keep their American-ness low-key. Several wore cowboy hats early in the trip, and others attended a formal New Year’s party with creative interpretations of “formal” attire. “We made a good impression,” Culleen said with a laugh.

There remain situations where Americans are in demand abroad, and the London Parade wanted marching bands from the United States. “The British don’t really have much in the way of marching bands — it’s by and large an American tradition,” Levin said.

NONE OF Churchill’s bands or orchestras are marching bands, but there was another way the students could participate. They marched with two giant parade balloons — one of American rock icon Buddy Holly, the other of British cartoon character Noddy — each of which required 38 handlers.

Before the parade, Churchill students went to a breakfast at a private club for members of England’s Liberty Party. Later in the week, they visited London attractions like Tower of London, and traveled outside the city to Stonehenge and the city of Bath.

“I liked spending 24-7 with my friends, getting to go out on our own and navigate,” said Helen Sitar, who plays clarinet in the jazz band. She even fondly recalls getting lost on London’s Tube subway system. “We got home, that’s what matters,” she said.