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The Daily Tar Heel

CHHS Singers Join N.Y. Parade

Members of the Chapel Hill High School Choral Department toughed out two 10-hour bus rides, early morning wake-up calls and a practice schedule befitting a professional dance troupe during their trip to New York City, where they performed in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"It was really tiring, but it was quite an experience," said junior Hallie Zook. "I've always seen the parade on television, but to be in it was a different thing."

The almost 100-member choral department arrived in New York City on Tuesday afternoon.

They were just in time for rehearsal with John Jacobson, president of America Sings!, the nonprofit service agency that invited the choir to perform in this year's parade.

"We got there at 3:30 on Tuesday in time to check into our hotel," Zook said. "Then we went to rehearsal for six hours."

Ann Huff, director of the group, said it was a thrilling trip and a great experience for the students.

"I liked this trip because the students had to rehearse like any professional would," she said. "The directors expected very professional things of them."

Less than 48 hours later, they were performing in the heart of Manhattan, accompanied by nearly 1,000 members of high school choruses from across the United States.

"We all went down to Herald Square in front of Macy's and did `We Believe in the Music,' - that was our big, televised, choreographed spot," said junior Ned Malone. "Then we went on the subway to 81st Street and joined the parade."

Hundreds of thousands of bystanders looked on as the performers took in the excitement of their surroundings as they marched, sang and danced their way through the core of the Big Apple, Malone said.

"We all had our choreography down so well that we could actually see the city and the sights while we were marching," he said.

"It was so cool to be able to walk straight through the middle of New York and Times Square."

One of the things the group did not miss seeing was the fact that they followed one of the world's greatest icons through the streets of Manhattan.

"We marched three hours in the parade . behind Santa Claus," Zook said.

Students did more than just sing and dance while they were in the city.

As part of the America Sings! program, students performed social service activities on the day before Thanksgiving.

"On Wednesday morning, we were supposed to be on the top floor of our hotel to make sandwiches at 7 a.m.," Malone said. "We were each making three or four sandwiches.

"When you've got 1,100 kids making three or four sandwiches, you've got a whole lot of sandwiches."

Both the sandwiches and toiletry packs put together by students were then delivered to local shelters.

Helping New York City's homeless was an important part of the choral group's experience, said junior Kate LaVange.

"It was really rewarding to know how much we made and how much was going to the homeless," she said.

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