Paladins march on Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day
The Furman University marching band hadn’t performed outside the United States since 1986. They were invited to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland, in 2021 but COVID-19 put a fermata on those plans. When they finally got the chance to go this year, they didn’t miss a beat.
There was one hiccup. The parade would coincide with the NCAA Tournament, a trip our men’s team hadn’t made since 1980. But in a story already told far and wide, in late January, Drew Ingraham in Athletics talked with Director of Bands Sue Samuels ’87 and worked out a plan. Musicians from North Greenville University, under the direction of Gary Rhoden ’11 M’17, would sit in for the Furman band if necessary. It became necessary when the Paladins won the SoCon conference and headed to Orlando for the tournament.
Members of the Paladin Regiment, several alumni, friends and families of the band members, flew to Ireland on March 10. They spent a few days seeing the country, kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, visiting the Cliffs of Mohr and touring other castles. Then it was off to Dublin to prepare for the parade.
Spring is usually symphonic band season. French horns replace mellophones and players extract themselves from Sousaphones to play concert tubas. Drummers pick up other percussive instruments. Back at campus, the Furman musicians had to switch from concert to marching mode and pick up some parade experience. March march march march march turn a corner.
On NCAA Selection Sunday they crowded around a computer in the hotel and cheered and yelled for Furman. On Thursday they found a TV and watched the game, as noted by The Irish Star.
On Friday, St. Paddy’s Day, the band performed their own brand of excellence, playing show-stopping numbers such as Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” Gloria Estefan’s “Turn the Beat Around,” and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” About 20 alumni and parents marched, too; about a dozen of them played cowbell and tambourine.
“The Dublin crowd was incredibly receptive and warm, the Furman students loved every second of the parade experience!,” Samuels told Fox Carolina.
It was the first time Furman’s band had performed outside the country since 1986, when Samuels, principally a clarinetist, was a student and the group toured Germany, Austria, Belgium, and France.
The band won the Best Senior Band Award in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival, the top prize for collegiate bands out other marching universities, including Purdue. Samuels says the band will travel again, hopefully every other year so students have the opportunity for two international trips.
Winning a prize was the cherry on top, Samuels said on March 20, a day after returning home. “My favorite part of the trip was watching students spending time together and making memories, taking silly pictures and singing songs on the back of the bus. They built a closer bond and it will make us an even better musical ensemble,” she said.