WATCH: Over 1,000 musicians defy blizzard-like conditions in Limerick spectacle

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh


WATCH: Over 1,000 musicians defy blizzard-like conditions in Limerick spectacle

Tubaist with Clondalkin Youth Band braces the cold as snow builds on his brass instrument

WE WERE told there would be no Beast from the East in Limerick during the St Patrick’s Festival weekend, but plummeting temperatures and blizzard-like conditions proved otherwise this Sunday. 

Visibly, due to the inclement weather, there were significantly fewer crowds at the International Band Championship than the massive crowds for the St Patrick’s Day parade. 

But the scattered snowfall didn’t dampen the spirits of the audience – young and old – during a musical spectatcle that saw more than 1,300 musicians from Limerick, Ireland and abroad perform while marching down O’Connell Street. 

Twenty bands participated in the 48th annual Limerick International Band Championship, and each had their own unique offering for the well-clad audience. 

And snow didn’t just accumulate on the umbrellas of parents sheltering their young ones; musicians with heavy instruments had a layer of snowflakes coating their brass pieces. 

In a championship first, it was announced, CBS Pipe Band performed Jingle Bells to embrace the Christmas atmosphere during the spell of snow.

But the snow, which exponentially grew thicker as the parade progressed, did not stop the Youngsville High School Marching Eagles – from Pennsylvania – from stealing the show, as they were crowned the overall winners. 

The 70-strong Youngsville musicians were presented with the Kenneally Jewellers Perpetual Trophy as overall winners of the championship organised by Grooveyard on behalf of Limerick City and County Council.

Mayor of the Metropolitan District of Limerick Cllr Marian Hurley congratulated the winners: “The Limerick International Band Championship is such a unique event and I’m delighted that it is continuing to be as popular as ever, drawing high quality bands to Limerick. Even though it was so cold and snowing, people’s hearts were warmed by the wonderful sounds coming from the bands.  They were amazing and they were all in such good humour.”

“They did their drills just as they would have rehearsed and hats off to them.  They were brilliant and to all those people who stayed and watched and cheered them on, fantastic!”

Bands performed at the reviewing stand for three minutes as part of the judging process with the winners announced at Arthur’s Quay following the march.

Performances at the 48th Limerick International Band Championship were judged by an international panel consisting of Dr Stan Michalski, Norman Rogerson, Dr Andrea Strauss, Evelyn Grant and Niall Carroll.

The head judge, Dr Stan Michalski said: “I want to congratulate all the bands for taking the opportunity to walk through the entire parade, because it was very difficult on the instrumentalists with the weather being so cold and the snow falling.”

“This is one of the good parades and international competitions because it features all types of bands and you can see the improvement over the years.  I’ve been judging here for five years and I’m very much impressed with the improvement in the parade and musicianship.”

And even though nearly all sports games and matches have been cancelled in the region due to the snowfall, the grand finale of the fireworks extravaganza is still going ahead at 9pm tonight. 

Dramatic illuminations will be projected onto the historic castle, followed by a spectacular fireworks display which will transform the city’s skies into an explosion of colour!  This promises to be a tremendous treat for the whole.

St Patrick’s Festival Extravaganza at King John’s Castle event is a collaboration between King John’s Castle and Limerick School of Art and Design LIT, with grant funding from Limerick City and County Council.

The best viewing points are Clancy’s Strand and Sarsfield Bridge. 

The winners in the other categories at the International Band Championship were:

Best International Band – Vestavia Hills High School Band, Alabama, USA

Best Youth Band – Clondalkin Youth Band, Dublin, Ireland

Best Local Band – Newcastle West and District Pipe Band, Limerick, Ireland

Best Musical Performance – Trommlerzug und Musikkapelle Uffing, Germany

Best Uniform – Stony Creek Fife and Drum Corps, Connecticut, USA

Most Entertaining Performance – The Friendship Band, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Special Judges Award – City of Limerick Pipe Band, Limerick, Ireland

Special Judges Award – St Mary’s Prize Band, Limerick, Ireland

Special Judges Award – Banna Chluain Meala, Tipperary, Ireland