LIMERICK danced to the sound of 24 marching bands yesterday at the 45th annual International Band Championship.
More than 40,000 people lined O’Connell Street for the curtain-raiser to this year’s St Patrick’s Day festivities.
And they were rewarded as more than 1,100 talented musicians helped create a colourful party atmosphere.
There were celebrations for a 160-strong brass and performance band from the University of Southern Mississippi in the USA, who took the overall band prize.
They impressed judges - including Lyric FM presenters Niall Carroll and Evelyn Grant – with a performance of Thriller, complete with synchronised dance moves.
Their musical director Dr Catherine Rand said: “We are so glad to be here. There were so many wonderful bands from so many different countries, and it was just such a unique experience to be here.”
Asked what made her band stand out, she added: “Whenever you do Michael Jackson’s Thriller’and have the whole band dance, you can’t beat that. It is a really wonderful and exciting performance.”
Meanwhile, nine local bands represented Limerick with pride at the parade.
These included the Redemptorist Centre of Music Concert Band, whose performance of Eye of the Tiger helped secure them the title of Best Local Band.
Conductor Andrew Jordan said they have been working on perfecting their performance since the start of the year. “It is great to be able to represent Limerick and our strong musical tradition we have here. To win this award is fantastic,” he said. “We stepped it up from last year. The pieces were much more difficult this year, and we have many more members this year.”
As is traditional, Sammy Benson’s Limerick City Brass and Reed Band marched in second position. They were joined by the City of Limerick Pipe Band, the St Mary’s Fife and Drum Band, the CBS Pipe and Drum Band, and the Boherbuoy Brass and Reed Band among others.
Charlotte High School from North Carolina took the title of Best International Band, while the Best Youth Band award was given to Maghery Fife and Drum Band from Co Donegal.
The title for Best Musical Performance went to the Romford Drum and Trumpet Corp from Essex, England.
Northern Ireland’s Friendship Band won a special judges award, while the Chicago Police Band won a special award from Mayor Kevin Sheahan.
He said: “It is great to see so many children and families here. We have had some great bands today.”