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Pennsylvania High School Band Plays on Great Wall

May 1, 1988

BEIJING (AP) _ A 170-member high school marching band from Pennsylvania barely had room to maneuver their trombones Sunday at the Great Wall, but May Day crowds climbed the ramparts and peered over the parapets to see them play.

The Pennsbury High School Band from Fairless Hills, Pa., entertained thousands of visitors to the wall with renditions of the U.S. and Chinese national anthems, a medley of American songs, ″It’s a Small World″ and other tunes.

″I was very pleased. Now I’m very harried,″ said band director Michael Grothman as his young musicians, trading their orange, black and white uniforms for T-shirts and jeans, scattered for sightseeing on China’s most famous monument.

The band, claiming to be the largest group of foreign musicians to visit China, arrived in Beijing on Saturday night after touring the ancient capital of Xian.

Richard Hansel, a Fairless Hills businessman who helped organize the trip, said 750,000 Chinese lined the streets of Xian to see the band perform. ″It was just magnificent,″ said Hansel, who has two daughters in the band.

The band was unable to parade on the cramped and crowded wall. The crowd, strung out along the wall, was curious but unresponsive, even when the American shouted out a loud ″Ni hao 3/8″ or ″Hello 3/8″

One 9-year-old nodded uncertainly when asked if he liked the music. A young woman commented that Chinese high schools also have bands, ″but nothing so grand as this.″

Wendy Gallena, a 17-year-old senior and pom-pom captain, said being able to play on the Great Wall was ″really emotional.″ She said the Great Wall was ″awesome.″

Hansel, who sells processing equipment in China, helped work out the trip after the band was one of eight to play in the 1986 New Year’s Day Parade of Roses in Pasadena, Calif.

″We wanted to take this art to as many people as we could,″ he said.

He said students paid for about two-thirds of the cost of the trip, which will approach $400,000, by selling candy, Christmas ornaments, plants and other items. Thirty-four chaperones and about 20 others, mostly parents, also were on the trip.

The band on Tuesday will be the first foreign musical group to perform on Tiananmen Square, the vast plaza in central Beijing surrounded by the Forbidden City, the Great Hall of the People and Mao Tse-tung’s mausoleum. The group will also stage a concert Tuesday night at the Capital Gymnasium.

Last year a 100-member band from Live Oaks High School of Morgan Hill, Calif., toured China and played on the Great Wall.

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