Defence Forces Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

Defence Forces Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Defence Forces annual benefit concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin with members of the combined army bands marked the 90th anniversary of the Army School of Music. The programme contained some fascinating articles and photos about the history of music in the Irish army, including the appointment in March 1923 of two senior German army officers who were musicians to lead the new school once the Irish Free State was established.

Pipes & Drums at the Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

Pipes & Drums at the Concert Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Director of the DF School of Music Lt Col Mark Armstrong writes about his predecessor, the first director, Colonel Fritz Brase, who had been a very highly regarded German bandmaster. He led the school until his death in 1940. Brase brought with him another talented musician, Captain Friedrich Christian Sauerzweig. The first public performance by the new army band was on October 14th 1923, exactly ninety years ago, at the Theatre Royal in Dublin.

Celine Byrne and Lt Col Mark Armstrong are applauded  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Celine Byrne and Lt Col Mark Armstrong are applauded Photo: © Michael Fisher

In 1922 when the state was founded General Risteard Mulcahy was the first Minister for Defence. To advise on the formation of an Irish military music school, he appointed Dr John F.Larchet, who was then Professor of Music at University College Dublin.

Therein lies another connection with the past. The National Concert Hall in Earlsfort Terrace was for many years the main building for UCD. Indeed I remember doing first year Arts exams in the Aula Maxima, which has now been transformed into an international concert hall and provided the splendid setting for Saturday night’s concert.


Irish Army Trumpeters

Garden Party

Another historic week in Northern Ireland. Two days after Queen Elizabeth stayed at Hillsborough Castle during her diamond jubilee celebrations, the Defence Forces (Irish Army) No. 1 Band appeared at an official engagement in the North for the first time. Two trumpeters sounded a fanfare as the Lord Lieutenant for Belfast Dame Mary Peters arrived at the front entrance. A location that has been the setting for several important events during the peace process. Under the baton of Lt Colonel Mark Armstrong, Director of the School of Music, the band entertained guests at Hillsborough at a garden party. The event was the climax in a year of celebrations for Belfast Rotary Club, marking its centenary. The band combined at one stage with the Abbey Singers from Newtownabbey in a good example of North/South co-operation. The North’s Justice Minister David Ford was among the guests. He took the opportunity to congratulate the band on their appearance.

Lt Col Mark Armstrong & David Ford

Lt Col Mark Armstrong & David Ford

Over 600 guests attended the charity event, with 75% of the takings going towards Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign and the balance going to local charities. The band played a selection of tunes including marches and they delighted the large attendance. Guests were also able to enjoy a stroll in the Castle grounds as the entertainment took place. Happily the sun shone as the band played. The Rotarians included the current Belfast President Dr Adrian Kerr and the incoming President Alan Rundle, whose father was President fifty years ago. Alan is an optician and I should declare an interest as he is the person I get my glasses from! I passed on the congratulations of Belfast Lions Club on this special occasion. I was also pleased to meet my former neighbour from Ardilea in Dublin, Mark Doyle, who is President of Dublin Rotary Club.

Michael Fisher and Mark Doyle

Like the Lions, both Dublin and Belfast have long-standing ties and the event at Hillsborough has served to strengthen North/South ties.  It was nice to meet several Rotarians from the Republic. The District Governor for Ireland Barney Callaghan is from Limerick and there were also members there from Wexford and Dun Laoghaire.

Michael Fisher and Dr Adrian Kerr