This St Patrick’s Day in Balbriggan was a very special one for the town’s 35-strong brass and reed band, which bears the name of Ireland’s male patron saint. For St Patrick’s Brass and Reed Balbriggan Town Band, it marks the start of celebrations of its 140th anniversary, culminating in a gala concert in November. Founded in 1883, the band has taken part in every St Patrick’s Day Parade in the town since then. It was an emotional day for long-serving members, including band master Larry Dunne, Oboe and Clarinet player Damien Byrne and saxophonist Gary Tolan. Larry has been integral to the band since reviving its fortunes in the mid-1970s, while chairperson Damien, a native of Artane, where he was a member of the famous boys’ band, found a ready-made community when he moved to Balbriggan in 2003.But, in the late 1960s, numbers had dwindled and its instruments were put in the care of the town commissioners until Larry revived the band. Now, its make-up is representative of Balbriggan’s youth and cultural diversity, with a burgeoning beginners’ group and members and past members from across the globe. “When my wife Amelia, who plays trumpet, and I moved to Balbriggan we knew nobody until we joined the band after seeing it at the St Patrick’s Day Parade. Now, our daughters, Emily (12, clarinet) and Norah (9, trumpet), are in the beginner group, so we are basically replacing ourselves for down the line,” said Damien. According to Gary, the only language that should matter to any band is music. “We have had members from African countries, Italy, the Philippines, Spain and Ukraine. We are multi-cultural and integrational,” said Gary. Joining as a beginner will get you an instrument (if they have one spare) sheet-music and reeds all covered by €10 a-year membership and a €5 weekly subscription. Advancing years are no barrier to joining, members have been known to take up learning an instrument and playing with the band after retirement. The band meets each Wednesday night at the Cairde premises at the old St George’s School at Hampton Street, beginners from 7.00pm to 7.45, with band practice from 8.00pm to 9.30. There are thoughts of using another weekday or Saturday mornings to start another beginner group. It is on the lookout for a larger, more user-friendly base so if your interested we hope to see you soon!