This November 24th, 2016, the West Point Band will march the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a huge honor to be selected by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Committee. We had to apply as far back as March of 2015. This Macy’s parade performance will launch the celebration of the West Point Band’s 200th Anniversary. On June 8, 1817, the West Point Band officially became an organization to serve the United States Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Army, and the nation. Musicians were actually stationed at West Point as early as the Revolutionary War, but our official beginning was in 1817.
The West Point Band has performed in this parade at least two other times, in 1970 and 1982. Since Macy’s is celebrating its 90th parade, it is very likely the West Point Band marched it during the early years. About three million people will line the streets of New York City to watch the parade and another 65 million will watch on television.
The West Point Band’s preparation focuses on two parts of the day: the live street parade and the TV broadcast. The band will march the parade in a typical parade block with the Marching Band in the front and the Field Music (the Hellcats) in the rear. On the route, the band will perform standard marches in rotation: Washington Post, by John Philip Sousa; National Emblem, by E.E. Bagley; America Exultant, by Al Hays (a pen name of Henry Fillmore); and the trio strain of The Official West Point March, by Philip Egner. Between the marches, the Hellcats will perform a few traditional holiday selections.
Once the band approaches 34th street, it moves to a broadcast silent zone. The band will re-configure from the standard block to the Macy’s show block. Once we are on the ready line, the band will get a cue to perform its one minute and 15 second marching show. The music we perform is called a Joyful Fanfare and includes a number of song references in this short timing.
The band will march into position with Auld Lang Syne. While this song is best known for ringing in the New Year, it is performed to ‘bid farewell’ at other occasions like graduations. At West Point, Auld Lang Syne is part of the West Point Graduation March. This medley of songs was put together in 1938 and represents music from the early days of the Academy (formed in 1802). Auld Lang Syne pulls together the “Long Gray Line” (West Point graduates) at two alumni parades a year, at homecoming, and during graduation week.
After the band has marched into position, snippets of The Army Goes Rolling Along, Army Blue, and On, Brave Old Army Team will sound as the band drills on the Macy’s star. The Army Goes Rolling Along is the Army’s official song and is performed at the end of official ceremonies throughout the Army. Army Blue is a traditional West Point song performed at graduation. The melody was originally from the Civil War song, Aura Lea. This song represents the emotions of West Point graduates as they change from the Cadet Gray uniform to the Army Blue uniform on graduation day. On, Brave Old Army Team is the United State Military Academy’s fight song and was composed by a former West Point Teacher of Music, Phillip Egner.
The traditional rope tension drums will be featured just before the Hellcat buglers perform Joy to the World. This bugle rendition is often heard on the West Point Holiday Show. The band ends the show with a short musical quote from Let There Be Peace on Earth.
The West Point Band will then march off to the Army’s official song, The Army Goes Rolling Along and then the full version of On, Brave Old Army Team.
It is awesome to lead this band as drum major! Thank you to everyone involved in making this show happen. The West Point Band — inspiring leaders for 200 years!
Words by Sgt. Maj. Christopher Jones -— Concert Band Element Leader and Drum Major Emeritus