Drogheda Brass Band returned to the National Band Championships of Ireland at the Dean Crowe Theatre in Athlone on Saturday last following a three-year COVID-19-enduced absence and came away with first place in Section 1 Brass, making what is surely one of the longest records for retaining a title – after they won the same section as champions in 2019, when the contest was last held!
For the return to competitive action, the Irish Association of Brass and Concert Bands (IABCB) allowed the bands to choose a piece of their own liking, rather than the usual format of having a set test piece as well as an own choice piece.
Drogheda Brass Band played Lions of Legends by Thierry Deleruyelle – a work originally commissioned by Eurofestival 2016, whose members, similar to these lions, created legends by organizing the first European Brass Band Championships in France.
Adjudicator Michael Ball awarded the band 190 marks out of a possible 200, praising the band’s sound quality, control and rhytmic support throughout the five-movement piece.
It marks a fitting way for the band’s current musical director John Carpenter to bow out. By the strange twist of fate that COVID dealt him, this was to be the only time he would lead the band at the IABCB championships.
“We were delighted with the result,” said band PRO Brian Murphy. “We had a rough time during COVID – as did many bands around the country; the entire process of making music for brass and concert bands is to be gathered in the same room at the same time, rehearsing and improving music to make it performance-ready.
“We are still slowly getting back on our feet after it all, including having to rebuild our School of Music. We had some young players on stage on Saturday making their band debuts and we were blown away by their commitment and enthusiasm – it really made it all worthwhile,” he added.
Lourdes Brass Band, playing Purcell Variations by Kenneth Downie, finished in second place on 188 points, with Stedfast Band, from Dublin, in third place on 186pts, having also played Lions of Legends.
Drogheda Brass Band is now looking forward to a busy summer of engagements under the baton of new musical director Stephen Murray, who takes up the reins in mid-May.
The band has a remarkable record in the National Band Championships of Ireland, having won the top section at the event in 1976, 1987, 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019 and now 2023 (there were no contests in 2020, 2021 or 2022 due to COVID-19).
For more information, follow the band on social media @droghedabrass.