By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — The Marching Lancers will honor St. Patrick’s Day with two major performances in two days.
The 225 band and color guard members leave Friday for Washington, D.C., on a tour nicknamed “A Tale of Two Cities.” They will spend time in the nation’s capital prior to performing in that city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade March 16.
Immediately after that parade the band boards buses to head to New York City to march down Fifth Avenue for another St. Patrick’s parade March 17, the nation’s oldest.
While in Washington, the band will visit Arlington National Cemetery and will sound “Taps” at the grave of 2006 Londonderry High graduate Peter Sohm, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. Sohm, 23, was killed in 2011.
The Washington visit also includes tours of the White House and the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. Students also will attend a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts.
Music director Andy Soucy said this year’s schedule made it possible for the students to enjoy both parades.
“This year, we had the opportunity to do both,” Soucy said. “The dates were back to back, so it worked out perfectly.”
The Lancers have attended the New York City parade for the past 19 years, including the 250th St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2011.
“The kids always enjoy going to New York,” Soucy said.
The Washington trip was an added perk. Londonderry has performed in that city’s parade three times.
Students said they look forward to the annual band trips.
Senior Stephanie Conti is the mellophone section leader. She said the band has had wonderful opportunities through the years.
As a freshman, she traveled to the Rose Bowl in California. That was a big trip to organize, she said.
Gina Occhipinti plays tenor saxophone and has never been to Washington before. She said the band has had a lot of travel practice and she is looking forward to the weekend.
“I think it will be very fast paced, but we’ve been doing it for so long,” she said. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Soucy said it’s a prestigious opportunity for the band to perform alongside marching units from all over the nation, as well as being able to see national landmarks during their stop in Washington.
Visiting Sohm’s grave will also be special.
Soucy told his students that when Sohm was a senior in high school, he performed a trumpet solo during a halftime show to the band Chicago’s song, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
This year, the band performed that song again with current drum major Joe Conti playing the trumpet solo. At Arlington, Conti will have the opportunity to sound “Taps” at Sohm’s grave.
Students return to school March 18.
“Our music staff is very proud of their (students) commitment and dedication in preparing for these ambitious programs,” Soucy said. “They truly represent our school and community with pride.”
This weekend’s schedule will be a busy one, Conti said.
“It will be different as both parades are within 24 hours of each other,” she said. “There will be some level of stress, but all of us get together and realize how lucky we are and it’s great to have these opportunities.”