On the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the Holland (Mich.) American Legion Band will travel to Normandy, France, to celebrate the 1944 Allied Invasion and eventual liberation of France. Each year, Normandy celebrates the heroic and bloody invasion of June 6, 1944, and citizens from around France participate in local parades and celebrations. Through Gateway Music Festivals & Tours, band director Thom Working heard of the opportunity to be a part of the annual celebration.
“This one caught my eye because it’s so closely related to our relationship with the American Legion and various veterans’ organizations around Holland,” Working says. “I just thought it would be a natural kind of thing. … Everyone was very enthusiastic about it.”
Although the band features more than 75 performers during the summer when the group is most active, only about 45 members will make the trip, Working says. The band will perform at Utah Beach (one of the landing sites during the invasion) on June 6, and will then participate in a D-Day ceremony and concert in Saint-Lô, just 45 minutes south. During the band’s time in France, they will also perform at Omaha Beach (another landing site) in Carentan and in Arromanches.
“We really emphasize a very personal, very intimate way of experiencing history,” says Kate Pearce, who helped plan the trip with Gateway Music Festivals & Tours. “Having stepped on the soil of Utah Beach; having shaken hands and hugged veterans who were there; having seen the churches that were bombed out. We use the phrase, ‘Coming face to face with history.’”
The band will also play two concerts in The Netherlands on the way back to the United States.