A brass band with a 250-year history, at least, and which performed at the funerals of luminaries such as Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins and O’Donovan Rossa will be giving performances in West Cork this week.

The famed Dublin-based St James Brass and Reed band is heading to Clonakilty.

The town is planning to welcome an estimated 3,000 visitors for a weekend of music and vintage fun.

Thousands of people from all over the country are expected to throng the town’s newly refurbished, flower-decked, streets for the long-established South of Ireland Band Championships and an Old Time Fayre which kicks off the weekend of activities.

The Clonakilty Band Championships officially begin on Friday evening with recitals in Astna Square but the town really explodes in a blaze of colour and music on Saturday.

That’s when a record 30 bands, some of them from Ardee and Drogheda in Co Louth arrive for the 37th annual competition which takes place in venues throughout the town including the local Community College and Clonakilty Community Hall.

The bands feature an estimated 1,000 musicians, some as young as 12-years-old.

On Sunday, the St James Brass and Reed band — the oldest band in Ireland — will be playing at 11am.

The renowned Dublin ensemble, which is at least 250 years old this year, is believed to date back to 1737. It led Parnell’s funeral procession, played at the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa in August 1915 and, in 1922, performed at the funeral of Michael Collins.

The band is also competing in the championships on Saturday.

“As the bands chose their own repertoire, there is a wonderfully varied programme which has something for everyone — music from the movies, classical music to rock and pop,” said Eileen Kingston of the organising committee.

Adjudicators are Tom Davoren from Wales, who will judge the intermediate and senior categories, and Captain Brian Prendergast, conductor of the 1st Band of the Southern Command, who will adjudicate the junior category.

On Saturday at 11am the local library will also hold a puppet show.

Meanwhile, the town’s very colourful Old Time Fayre sees local residents and shopkeepers decorate their windows, dress up in eye-catching vintage costumes and enjoy a range of activities. The streets will be pedestrianised for the event which has run for the last four years.

The whole town, including, visitors will be wearing period costumes, explained Bobby Blackwell, one of the organisers.

Visitors can also enjoy displays of everything from steam engines, vintage cars and pottery to fortune-telling sessions and crossroads dancing.

A performance by a troupe of 20 Morris Dancers, and an elegant Georgian Tea Party will take place at Emmet Square at 4pm.


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