Few bands can be described as talented yet novel, on-trend yet traditional, well turned out and well regarded, but the Band of An Garda Síochána fit the bill, writes Geraldine Du Berry.
Virtually everyone in Ireland has memories of the Garda Band, from their televised performances at the Rose of Tralee, participating in the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade, or at various matches.
However, in addition to these high profile events, the Band also carry out an average of 160 community based engagements every year. Theirs is a broad and all-encompassing remit performing at schools, senior citizen functions, local festivals and community orientated fund raising events.
Resplendent in their uniforms and perfect in their musicianship, the Garda Band is instantly recognisable. I was a teenager the first time I saw the band perform in concert in our local church. I have never forgotten the energy and sense of fun they exuded, never having seen – before or since – Simple Simon Says performed in a church. I left with a whole new image of Church and State.
Years passed before I was to see the Band live again. This time the occasion was the Garda Passing Out Parade, Templemore. Having warmed up the assembled crowd with contemporary tunes like Happy by Pharrell Williams, there was a subtle change in atmosphere as something very special, intangible happened when the Band led the new Gardaí onto the Parade Square in Templemore to the sound of The Minstrel Boy and the Parade continued with traditional marches such as Colonel Bogey’s March.
The Parade culminated as the new Gardaí and those assembled stood to attention and the band concluded with Amhrán na bhFiann.
It is a remarkable achievement that, barring a hiatus between 1965 and 1972, the Garda Band is almost as old as An Garda Síochána itself, established by the very first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines, in September, 1922. Two vital components were needed for the Band – members and money.