The Park City High School Marching Band will perform in France next month as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of D-Day. It’s the only band from Utah that will perform and it’s one of 13 bands invited.
On June 6, 1944, 160,000 allied troops invaded a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast. It was the start of a long trek across the European continent to defeat Adolf Hitler’s troops and liberate Europe.
Park City High School Assistant Band Director, Bret Hughes says normally, a band would apply to perform at the D-Day event. Taking a large group of students to Europe involves significant planning as well as funding.
“We were invited to perform at it based on our performance and our student’s professionalism and stuff like that when we were in Pearl Harbor in 2016. We had not intended on traveling this year. We planned on waiting another couple of years. Trips like this are a monster. We talked with Bob O’Connor who was the principal of Park City High School at the time and Ember Conley who was the superintendent at the time and both of them said you would be stupid not to go.”
Hughes says they’re taking 77 kids. They’ve worked hard for two years and raised money to help pay for the trip.
“You know, right now we’ve paid off the actual trip itself. But we’re still getting ready to incur luggage costs and gratuities for bus drivers and things like that. So, there are always costs that pop up. So, yeah. Donations are always welcome. When we went to Hawaii, we spent about $8000.00 on luggage costs to get all the instruments to Hawaii and back.”
The band will perform three days in the Normandy region.
“Our town square performance and our parade, we’re going to take more of a pop and rock approach and play tunes people are going to recognize. We’re going to play Hey Pachuco and Sir Duke and some of the best hits we’ve played on the Fourth of July. Hits we’ve played here over the past 10 years. The two performances at the cemeteries, those actually have a mass band performance. There are 13 bands going from the states.”
The night of the 8th, the band goes to Paris for a little sightseeing and another performance.
“We do actually have a performance in Paris. The park that sits right next to the Eiffel Tower, we’re going to perform in on Monday, June 10. And, again, some of the more pop and rock stuff. A little bit more crowd pleasing, have some fun, style performance.”
Hughes says the experience the students had in Pearl Harbor in 2016 was very moving and he expects the Normandy event will be even more impactful.
“The first day that we were in Pearl Harbor, we actually performed on the dock right next to the USS Missouri and that overlooks the USS Arizona Memorial. And as the band marched in to perform next to the USS Missouri, the kids will tell you they actually had a kind of epiphany of, oh wow, and they started to understand the weight that was Pearl Harbor and what that meant.”
The band will perform a send-off concert on Wednesday, May 29th. Weather permitting, it will be held on Dozier Field and if the weather does not allow them to be outside, they’ll take into the front gymnasium at the high school.
The renowned composer John Williams has given special permission for the combined bands to perform an arrangement of the The Hymn to the Fallen during the events in Normandy.