London calling: Hempfield band preps for season, England trip
Members of the Hempfield Area High School band, long known for selling hoagies to raise money, have a big goal this school year — to sell 1,000 sandwiches each to pay for a trip to London to perform in its New Year’s Day parade.
“We started selling hoagies in February,” band director Brian Tychinski said Monday, the first day of a two-week band camp. Students will resume selling hoagies in August to defray the cost for their trip.
“We’re looking for donations and grants,” Tychinski said, which will help to pay for the estimated $640,000 cost of the trip. That includes the cost of shipping band equipment overseas and paying for chaperones.
Tychinski expects about 160 of the band’s 180 members will make the trip, which he estimates will cost each student close to $3,800 as their share of the expenses. That will cover airfare, hotel, some meals and the price of admission to tourist attractions.
Some students who fall short of selling 1,000 hoagies at $7 each could receive money from family to make up the difference, said Tychinski, who noted other students who have reached their hoagie quota could generously donate their sales numbers to fellow band members.
For many students, “this will be the first time they have gone overseas,” Tychinski said. It also will be the first time the band has performed outside the country.
Alyssa Miller, 16, a rising junior drum major, is excited about going to England.
“I think it will be a really good experience to be going out of the country,” Miller said.
Madison Shaffer, 17, a rising senior drum major, was looking forward to experiencing an international city.
“It is super culturally diverse,” Shaffer said.
At camp, the band is taking the first steps — literally — to learning its halftime show at Spartan football games this season. This year’s theme will be the British Invasion, starting with Rule Britannia, a British patriotic poem from 1740. Using the name given to the seemingly endless number of British bands “invading” the United States in the 1960s, the show also will have a rock ’n’ roll flavor with “My Generation” by The Who, “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, and “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. And what would a British Invasion tribute be without “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lady Madonna” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles?
For what Londoners’ promote as the “world’s greatest street spectacular,” the band will treat the Brits to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the inspirational song slavery opponent Julia Ward Howe wrote in 1861 amid the Civil War. They will present Londoners with a song that is a homage to God meting out justice, “trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored” and giving glory to those who “die to make men free.”
They also will play The Beatles’ “Drive My Car” along the 1½ mile parade route — starting at Piccadilly and ending on Parliament Street. They will perform for two minutes for the crowd waiting at the end of the route, Tychinski said. The jazz band will perform at a party at Chelsea Cadogan Hall on the night of Jan. 1.
Hempfield Area will be one of eight bands from the United States — seven high school bands and the Marshall (W.Va.) University Marching Thunder — that will perform in the London parade. It will be the only band from Pennsylvania.
“I’m really excited. This puts us on the global radar, not just the local radar,” said Kylie Crescenzo, 16, a rising junior drum major.
Performing in London on New Year’s Day 2020 “wasn’t even on my radar” in 2018, Tychinski said, when they learned that representatives from London’s New Year’s Day parade invited band officials to apply to appear in the parade.
“They found us on YouTube,” Tychinski said.
The band learned in June 2018 they were selected to participate in the parade, and Tychinski and his staff have been making plans for the trip. Instruments and uniforms will be shipped two weeks before the band leaves Dec. 28 and will return home Jan. 4, Tychinski said.
While in London, band members will participate in a workshop on leadership, Tychinski said. They also will see the infamous London Tower, walk along Abbey Road where The Beatles had a studio and do Harry Potter’s London tour, including King’s Cross Station, straight from the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.
“It is awesome that we were chosen out of all these amazing bands in America,” Shaffer said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .