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The Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps prepared to set off on a 16-day trip cross-country tour Friday. (Simon Rios/Union Leader Correspondent)

Spartans charge into summer road trip

NASHUA — The Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps set off Friday night for its cross-country tour, to perform a dramatized take on Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite.

Paul LaFlamme, Spartans president, explained the annual Drum Corps International event just before boarding the bus.

&#';Every single August we spend two weeks on the road, traveling the countryside, trying to instill the qualities of responsibility, respect and commitment into the next generation of Americans,&#'; LaFlamme said.

LaFlamme described the performance, titled &#';Renewal,&#'; as &#';marching band meets Blue Man Group.&#';

&#';(The tour) has been going on since 1955, when my grandfather founded the organization, and I'm honored to continue that tradition today,&#'; he said.

The trip will last 16 days, with 82 musicians and dancers performing in nine competitions with almost 40 ensembles from around the world.

Beginning in November, the Spartans spent countless weekend hours practicing for their grand finale.

Over the course of some 4,500 miles, the Spartans will travel from Nashua to Erie, Penn., then Michigan, then Wisconsin, then Iowa and finally, the big event in Indianapolis.

&#';And then at the end, standing under the lights at Lucas Oil Stadium (in Indianapolis), performing for thousands of people is a pretty good charge,&#'; LaFlamme said.

Sarah Garfield, 17, a first-year trumpeter with the Spartans, comes from York, Maine every weekend for rehearsals. On the eve of their departure, she had the music on her mind.

&#';Just starting with Stravinsky, it's a really fabulous piece, and what (arranger Jeff Bolduc) has done with it is really phenomenal,&#'; she said. &#';The beginning is the firebird's death, and the second piece is the rising from the ashes, the baby bird. And then it follows the life of the bird.&#';

Judy Luongo, a 14-year veteran volunteer with the Spartans whose husband directs the brass section, said her daughter participated in the event for four years.

She relishes the idea that every year a new generation of kids is able to march, and is thrilled to be able to accompany them.

&#';The amount of respect and responsibility that they come out as human beings is just incredible,&#'; Luongo said.

srios@newstote.com

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