A group of about 70 people – 33 musicians from the concert and jazz ensembles of the band, 10 members of the Majorettes dance group and about 30 associated "groupies" – left Dawson Creek on Sunday for a two-week stay on the Emerald Isle. The group will be performing in about a dozen different concerts and two music festivals, as well as visiting many different historical sites along the way.
The group will be staying at a lodge in Tipperary, a town in southern Ireland, and will use two buses to tour around the southern part of the country. For example, they have been billeted (permitted to stay with local residents) in Mitchelstown, where they will take part in a parade and perform in a local church the next morning.
"They have a community band there too, so we'll be playing with their band and we will be playing songs like 'It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary' with them," said Mary Beaulne, a trumpet player in both the concert and jazz ensembles and a member of the band for nearly 20 years.
The performers will take part in the internationally-renowned Galway Arts Festival in Ireland's "cultural heart" – the City of Galway – and perform at the country's largest traditional music summer school, the Willie Clancy Festival, in Milltown Malbay.
They will travel to Dublin, Waterford and Wexford, to name a few stops, and visit landmarks like the Rock of Cashel (St. Patrick's Rock) and the port city of Cobh, where the RMS Titanic launched from on its ill-fated maiden voyage across the Atlantic.
Beaulne said she visited Ireland in 2002 on a personal trip, and remembers a vibrant country with some wonderful scenery – rolling hills, awesome cliffs, and lots of green fields lined with stone fences and dotted with sheep, donkeys and other animals.
"You think of Ireland being green, and yes, I do remember it being very green and very scenic," she said.
"Of course, in the pubs there is lots of good music, and a lot of time they will have local people playing in the pubs," she added.
She said she is looking forward to meeting other musicians, adding some friends they've made on other trips abroad are coming from elsewhere in British Columbia, and from other countries in Europe, to join them in Ireland.
"I would say what I'm probably looking forward to more than anything is meeting other people and being involved in their way of life," said Beaulne.
She said she and her husband, who also plays in the band, both recently retired and really enjoy the lifestyle they have now.
"This is a nice change, and I enjoy the music and the band …not the marching quite so much!"
Cheryl Shuman, a flutist and president of the community band, said she has never been to Ireland and has purposefully not done any research on the country so that the experience will be completely new and fresh. However, she said she has been told she must kiss the Blarney Stone, located at Blarney Castle near Cork, as it is legend that the stone endows the kisser with the gift of eloquent speech.
"If you think I talk a lot now, just wait until I get back from Ireland after I kiss the Blarney Stone!" she joked.
She said she is also excited to meet and perform with the local community bands, and to immerse herself in the local cultures and cuisines. She added one of their performances in Ireland will be for a charitable cause.
"One of the the groups there is trying to raise money for some facility – maybe like what were doing for the Calvin Kruk Centre for the Arts – and so they're raising money with the concert we're playing."
As a city councilor, Shuman said she is an eager ambassador for Dawson Creek, adding the group is bringing lots of Dawson Creek pins and anniversary books to hand out while in Ireland.
She said she joined the band several years ago as a busy parent looking for something she could enjoy for herself, and remembering enjoying being in a band as a young person.
"It's fun to play the music, but also to be part of a multi-generational organization. Our youngest member is nine and our oldest member is 80, so you have this whole breadth of experience and differences. I think it's one of the most amazing groups I've ever belonged to."