Band Students Experience Ireland During Concert Tour

News Story: January 29, 2016

SHU students perform in Ardee, Ireland.

Band members at Sacred Heart University had the experience of a lifetime when they traveled to Dingle, Ireland, for a concert tour over winter break.

The weeklong adventure involved 65 band students playing four concerts while traveling throughout the region. Every two years, the band takes an international trip to learn about new cultures and to share the universal language of music with others. SHU’s connection with Dingle (the University offers a Freshmen in Dingle program every year), the region’s picturesque landscape, the welcoming townspeople and interesting history made Dingle a logical choice, said Keith Johnston, director of SHU bands.

“When the band travels the most important thing is for them to get a good experience, rather than just see the sights,” Johnston said upon the band’s return. “It’s important we interact with the locals.” He said Dingle is a small town where the people are very “friendly and welcoming.”

“I could not believe how welcoming the locals treated us,” said sophomore psychology major Michael Fritz. “In Dingle, all the locals knew that the Americans from Sacred Heart were there. They made our adjustment very easy, and we all felt nothing but welcome.”

The band’s first concert occurred in Dingle at the Skellig Hotel. Johnston said the concert, which raised money for a youth counseling center in Dingle and for Hope Guatemala, which supports educational initiatives in Guatemala, was well-attended and included choirs from Dingle.

“They have such a musical culture; it magnified every performance we did,” said senior Mary Award, a flute section leader. “The people were so excited to see us play because music is ingrained into their daily lives. That aspect of it made everything so much better.”

The following day, the band performed at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart at the Diseart Institute. Johnston said there was an organ tuned just for SHU that dated back to the early 1800s.

Another concert was played in Ardee where SHU students joined forces with the Ardee band. “It was a really great experience,” Johnston said.

Fritz, a baritone saxophone player, said, “Playing with the Ardee senior band was an unbelievable experience. As tired and bus-sick as we all were, we put on one of our best concerts as a band. Surreal seems like the best word to describe it. I actually had to sit back and say to myself, ‘I'm playing Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) with a senior Irish band in Ireland!’ I had goose bumps.”

The last stop of the band’s concert tour was with the Irish Symphonic Wind Orchestra. The SHU band was the orchestra’s opener. When the SHU group finished, they sat back and listened to the orchestra. “They were a wonderful-sounding ensemble,” Johnston said. “We were really honored they asked us to perform.”

In between playing concerts, students had free time to explore. They hiked and experienced the beauty of Dingle. The group also traveled to other parts of Ireland, including Dublin. “I liked the overall experience of the trip. It’s not every day that you get to travel to another country to do what you love,” Fritz said. “The views and scenery were breathtaking. Pictures couldn’t do it justice.

Johnston said another benefit of traveling internationally is that music is an “international language,” and it’s something that can be appreciated and understood even if the spoken word is different. “Everyone understands music,” he said.

The band had practiced since October for their concert tour, and the hard work was well worth it. “Ireland was great,” Awad said. “It’s beautiful; it’s just how you picture it. It’s so scenic and the landscapes are all incredibly green and dynamic. I would love to go back and travel to more towns within the country. It’s such a wonderful country, and I’m lucky I got the chance to experience it.”