A party of 190 visitors is to descend on Athlone next week as the local Ravens Marching Showband plays host to a prestigious Canadian marching band.
The Burlington Teen Tour Band from Ontario, Canada, led by Sir William Hughes, is to spend three days in Athlone following their appearance in the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade, with a major musical extravaganza planned for Wednesday March 20.
On that day they will be welcomed by mayor of Athlone Jim Henson at 3pm in the Civic Square, before marching through the town to the west side where they and the Ravens will treat the public to more great music at the newly refurbished Athlone Castle.
The local Sheraton and Hodson Bay Hotels will be their base for the stay, during which they will visit local secondary schools to exchange tips and musical skills with local students, and also take advantage of some of the attractions the town and surrounding area have to offer.
Ronan Meeley of Athlone’s Ravens Marching Showband explained that the band had visited Athlone before Christmas and were looking forward to returning to play in the town’s character-filled streets.
“They loved the idea of playing in the narrow streets as they are used to playing in big stadiums. That night they told us they would like to use Athlone as a base on their way from Dublin to a competition in Limerick,” said Mr Meeley.
The Ravens have been practising with the Burlington Teen Tour Band via an online link, to ensure they will be able to accompany them when they perform in Athlone.
The Canadian band follow in the footsteps of the Seattle-based Shorecrest Marching Band who visited Athlone last year, and next year an even bigger influx is expected when 450 members of the Chicago Police and Fire Band are due to spend time in Athlone.
“We are trying to get bands to use Athlone as a base, instead of just coming to Dublin for St Patrick’s Day. We have a very good drum line, and the kids have been practising the music together with the Burlington band and are looking forward to the visit,” says Mr Meeley.
“We are delighted to bring them into the town, and it highlights what a voluntary group can do to bring business into Athlone. Last year the Seattle kids were tweeting and on social media talking about what they were doing. It is a great way to promote the town.”
Cllr Aengus O’Rourke praised the Ravens for organising the trip.
“Credit is due to the Ravens as this is the second year they along with others have secured a visiting band like this for Athlone. The visitors will stay here for three days and make a significant contribution to the local economy. I see great potential in this opportunity in future years as more and more touring bands from the States look to visit welcoming and interesting destinations like Athlone.
“We hope that the general public come out and enjoy the spectacle of 200 young, energetic, and talented musicians playing in perfect harmony.”