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Mount Saint Charles Band Keeps Irish Ties Strong

Saturday, April 16, 2011


For the past 16 years, band director Marc Blanchette and the Mount Saint Charles music department have enjoyed a lasting friendship with the members of a small Irish community nearly 3000 miles away.

The FCJ Bunclody Secondary School band came to stay with Mount host families for the first time in 1995. Since then, the two schools have each visited each other three times, creating a kind of band exchange program. Now, for the first time since 2007, a very lucky group of 151 Mount Saint Charles band and choir members have packed their bags and instruments, and are on their way to the Emerald Isle.

"The Irish kids try to grab your hand as you walk by..."

The students will explore the city of Dublin, enjoy a traditional Irish dance on the remote Aran Islands, and perform in front of a soccer stadium full of screaming Irish kids. “A lot of the younger Irish kids view Americans almost like rock stars,” said Blanchette. “They’ll try to grab your hand as you walk by just to say that they touched an American.” On past trips, the Mount band and chorus, directed by Greg Cooney, had performed at the esteemed National Concert Hall in Dublin. This year, the students were scheduled to meet the President of Ireland, but plans fell through at the last minute.

Marc Blanchette is thrilled to be bringing another generation of students to Bunclody.  “It’s such a great experience for the students to stay with these hospitable families who seem humbled to share their homes. They buy us gifts for staying in their homes! It seems crazy.”  When asked if the students of both schools had any preconceived stereotypes of each other, Blanchette laughed. “Of course. But once they get to know each other and realize that they share a passion for music, they form friendships that last for the rest of their lives.”

Want to follow the Irish adventures of the MSC band and choir? They will be blogging at www.mscireland.tumblr.com.

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