Young singers gobble up Thanksgiving opportunity

Members of the William Henry Sixth Grade Select Ensemble will perform during the Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia. Under the direction of teacher Reginald Daniel, the ensemble singers are Madison Butler, RJ Chandler Jr., Kayla Crippen, Mariyyah Daniel, Jasmine Houston, Jaylea Landfried, Unique Morris, Mary Roisland, Isaiah Potter, Samara Potter, Anisha Wilkerson. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Members of the William Henry Sixth Grade Select Ensemble will perform during the Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia. Under the direction of teacher Reginald Daniel, the ensemble singers are Madison Butler, RJ Chandler Jr., Kayla Crippen, Mariyyah Daniel, Jasmine Houston, Jaylea Landfried, Unique Morris, Mary Roisland, Isaiah Potter, Samara Potter, Anisha Wilkerson. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Thanksgiving Day is going to be a lot more than the traditional gathering with family, giving thanks and eating a feast of food for 11 sixth graders at William Henry Middle School on Thursday.

Rather, the school’s sixth grade Select Ensemble choir will get a chance to seize the spotlight when it performs in the 97th annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is the oldest one in the country.

Reginald Daniel, who serves as the fifth and sixth grade band director at William Henry, has secured the school’s appearance in the 1.4-mile parade that will take place from 8:30 a.m. until noon through the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday.

The Select Ensemble will perform a medley of songs from the popular musical “Grease,” including such memorable hits as “We Go Together,” “Grease Is The Word” and “Hand Jive,” among others.

“I’ve never been to the Thanksgiving Parade,” Mr. Daniel said. “I’ve always watched it on TV but I’ve never actually been to one, so this will be my first time going. It’s going to be fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Isaiah Potter, a member of the ensemble, actually earned a spot to be one of seven soloists in the parade after he sent in a video of himself singing the song “Treasure” by Bruno Mars.

He traveled up to Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago and pre-recorded “Hand Jive” in preparation for Thursday’s parade.

“He’ll have a little solo spot on TV during the event,” Mr. Daniel said. “He’s going to be doing one of the songs out of the ‘Grease’ medley. I think he’s doing ‘Hand Jive.’”

Isaiah Potter said he doesn’t remember ever going to Philadelphia or singing in front of such a large audience before recording his song.

“I was nervous [during the audition] because when I was singing the song I had to do it a couple of times because my voice was cracking,” he said.
“I’m very excited. I was surprised they called me back because I thought there were still a lot more talented kids that could have beat me.
“Singing at the parade might be a little bit scary, but I’m really looking forward to being on TV.”

The William Henry students will join dozens of other performers — including choirs, dance groups, marching bands and more — in the parade that will run along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and finish at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

There will also be decorative floats, featuring kid-favorite characters, including an appearance by Santa Claus, who will officially usher in Philadelphia’s holiday season.

There will also be the traditional mammoth balloons floating down the parade route, led by Tweety Bird, Mr. Potato Head and the Cat in the Hat.
Mr. Daniel said his talented group deserves a chance to show off their talents in a forum such as a parade.

“They’re a great group of really good kids who like to perform and everything,” said Mr. Daniel. “They actually performed at ‘Super Senator Day’ at Dover High School earlier in the year and did great.”

Mary Roisland said that she and her fellow performers from William Henry just love to sing.

“I am really looking forward to it because whenever I’m bored in the car travelling or there’s nothing to do in the summer, that’s what I’ll do – I sing,” she said. “Sometimes I like to sing Michael Jackson, and other songs and music you hear. The older songs have more beat to it to me.

“The second week of school [Mr. Daniel] was like, ‘We’re going to be in a parade,’ and we were like, ‘What?’ We couldn’t believe that he actually got us in. It’s going to be really big and I’m scared almost, but I’m really excited.

And ever since the day of Mr. Daniel’s announcement, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade has been the word around William Henry’s Select Ensemble – as well as Grease.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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