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Irish band wakes up the echoes in Dublin

Sam Stryker | Thursday, August 30, 2012

DUBLIN – Golden helmets. The Leprechaun. The “Notre Dame Victory March.” And of course, the Band of the Fighting Irish.

These are the ingredients to the most classic of University recipes – a Notre Dame football weekend. And even though the season-opener for the Irish will be held in Dublin, expect the ingredients to be the same – including the presence of the band.

On Wednesday, approximately 165 students left campus on their way to Ireland for this weekend’s Emerald Isle Classic. Band director Ken Dye said this number does not represent the entire marching band. Students applied in the spring to travel on the trip, and this group earned their tickets to Ireland based on seniority and service.

“The trip is a special opportunity for our students to experience a Notre Dame football game in a foreign country,” Dye said. “Many of our students have Irish heritage and have an appreciation for Ireland and her people.”

Band members who made the trip to Ireland have been preparing for the event for months, Dye said. Participants had to prepare music over the summer so they would arrive on campus in “mid-season form,” and they have been practicing daily since Aug. 18 on top of their regular marching band obligations.

“We have treated the Ireland Band as a separate band in addition to our 2012 Marching Band,” he said. “The band staff has been working over a year to write Irish Band music and work through all the travel logistics.”

Dye said performing in Dublin presented “unique music and planning challenges.” In addition to researching songs that are popular in both Ireland and the United States, he said the band had to tailor their performance to the size of Aviva Stadium, which typically hosts rugby matches.

“Aviva Stadium is wider sideline-to-sideline than most American stadiums and presents staging challenges to reach most of the audience,” he said.

Additionally, travel arrangements and accommodations tested the planning skills of the band staff, Dye said. The band had to charter an aircraft due to Labor Day scheduling and the influx of American visitors, and instruments were shipped ahead of schedule and stored because of charter weight limits.

Band members will be housed in University College Dublin dormitories and will eat meals at performance and rehearsal sites, Dye said.

Immediately upon arriving in Ireland, the band will be busy with rehearsals and performances. In addition to the game, the band will perform at Friday evening’s pep rally at the O2 Arena in an event titled “Notre Dame: A Welcome Home,” in what Dye called “one of the performance centerpieces of the weekend.”

“It has been rewarding to collaborate with Irish producers and directors to prepare the big show,” he said.

The band will also perform at a tailgate in the Temple Bar area of Dublin on Saturday, according to the Notre Dame Gameday website.

Building interest for these Ireland events has been months in the making, and a recent trip to the country previewed the band for the Irish people. Over the week of Notre Dame’s spring break in March, Dye said members of the band participated in performances throughout Ireland, including marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and opening the late-night talk show, “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” on national television.

“The publicity from the appearances helped generate local enthusiasm and ticket sales for all the events,” he said.

In addition to Ireland, Dye said the band has visited China, Brazil and other parts of Europe in the past, typically traveling and performing after Commencement weekend.