Top honours for the Drogheda brass band
The Drogheda Brass Band claimed top honours at the National Band Championships at the weekend, winning the championship section of the contest for the ninth time in the past 11 years.
Under the baton of Musical Director Michael Maher, the local band stormed to first prize with a fantastic performance of two pieces of music, California Legend and Three-Part Invention.
The victory was a lovely birthday present for band President Tony Collins, who celebrated his 77th birthday on the day of the victory, and who performed with the band on stage at the Solstice Centre in Navan.
The band beat stiff competition from local rivals Lourdes Brass Band, who came in second place after a great performance under their conductor Michael Alcorn. In third place was The Stedfast Band from Dublin conducted by Brian Daly.
Drogheda Brass Band has a fabulous record of success in this competition. This was their ninth success at the top level in the past 11 years.
Adjudicator for the weekend competition was Archie Hutchison, conductor of Dalmellington Band in Scotland, and a long-time friend of the Irish banding movement. Mr. Hutchison awarded the trophies for the best own choice piece and winning band to Drogheda Brass Band Musical Director Michael Maher. The band was awarded 48 points out of a possible 50 for their own choice piece, California Legend by Bruce Broughton, and 93 points out of 100 for the test piece, Three-Part Invention by Kenneth Downie.
Band spokesman Anthony Murphy said the weekend had been a memorable one for Drogheda, and paid tribute to the dedication of Michael Maher and indeed all the band's players who had worked very hard over the past three months to deliver a contest-winning performance.
"Michael will certainly go down in history as one of the best brass band conductors this country has ever known. His record speaks for itself. He has 12 victories with Drogheda Brass Band in this competition, nine of them in the past 11 years. We are proud of his commitment to the band. He has been involved in the organisation for decades as a player, mentor and conductor. He's a legend," Anthony said.
"The band is a terrific group, and the players are both talented and dedicated. We have a great bunch of young players too who are a fabulous asset to us. We couldn't have done it without them."
It was a great weekend for local bands. Drogheda and Lourdes came first and second in Championship Brass, while Ardee Concert Band won best brass section and second prize in the Championship Concert section. The Irish National Foresters Brass Band from Navan won first prize in the Section 4 Brass competition, while neighbours Kells Silver Band came second. St. Mary's Brass and Reed Band Kingscourt came second in the Section 3 Concert section. Stedfast Shoes Brass Band from Carrickmacross won first prize in the Section 3 Brass competition under the baton of Drogheda man Mark Newman who plays with Lourdes Brass Band.
And in Section 2 Brass, Navan Silver Band won first prize under conductor Stephen Murray from Drogheda, who plays with Drogheda Brass Band. Drogheda-based conductor Harry Kelly, who has conducted many bands in the region over the years, was awarded honorary life membership of the IABCB, as was adjudicator Archie Hutchison, for his contribution to the Irish banding movement over the past number of decades.
There was a moving tribute at the championships to the late Christy Smith, who passed away suddenly last month. Christy had been heavily involved in brass bands in Drogheda and the wider region for most of his life and had been awarded honorary life membership of the competition's organising body, the Irish Association of Brass and Concert Bands (IABCB), at the same competition in the same venue last year.
IABCB chairman Stephen Murray led the tribute by asking everyone at the centre to stand for a minute's applause in memory of the great contribution Christy made to the brass band movement.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to hear the champions in concert, the Drogheda Brass Band will be playing at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, on Bank Holiday Easter Monday, (April 17th) at 2pm.
For more information on the band, see their website www.droghedabrassband.ie or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/droghedabrass/.