Well, to begin at the beginning, as Dylan Thomas would have put it: Today was the first time in years that we had a dry, friendly and even sunny St. Patrick's Day here. To compensate for the unexpected sunshine - after weeks of much rain and severe storms - it was rather cold, despite the Sun smiling down on us. But that's no problem. A winter coat, scarf and hat take care of that.
I was happy for the hundreds of people who have worked for weeks to organise the parade, build the floats, make costumes and prepare the celebrations in other ways. Far too often I have seen groups in fancy dress soaking wet - but still marching on, as if it was to win a war - and brass bands wrapped up so tight in plastic raincoats that they could hardly play their instruments.
But fortunately that was not the case today. Buíochas le Dia! Someone must have said prayers and burned enough candles...
As there was no rain, damp or other climatic impediment, I expected the bands to march in good spirit today, blasting away the people's mental cobwebs with some good and cheerful tunes.
Sadly I have to report that this was not the case. Very rarely were we treated to a proper and melodious tune this afternoon, while most of the bands chose to march to long-winded, boring and - quite honestly - mind-numbing sequences of monotonous drumbeats. I have been to many parades in my lifetime, but never before were my ears so bored and annoyed by the sound the bands produced.
I felt a bit like certain members of the armed forces ten years ago: Had they issued us with some ear protection, I would have used it. But no such luck. There we stood, watching colourful groups and elaborate floats passing by in good cheer, and were treated to nothing more than the same old tamptera-tam-tam of the drums. I begin to wonder what might have happened to our bands and their once quite broad repertoire. Did someone brainwash them all? Did they suddenly and unexpectedly forget all their tunes? Did they loose their notes - all at the same time?
Or is the whole thing more sinister?
I have no idea, and wish I had. But it bothers me. We have the bands, they have no shortage of musicians, there are enough instruments, and still all they produce for ages on parade is a stupid tamptera-tam-tam, again and again. So what's the problem? Please, if someone knows, don't be shy and let me know!
And it's not just me. I was talking to some people who made the same observation and wondered in similar ways I do. Could it be - one of my neighbours suggested - that the young lads who are now in the bands just haven't got the skills any longer? Are they spending too much time in pubs and playing computer games these days? Or might it be a subtle creeping-in of the all-present and really quite offensive sounding drum beats one can hear in the modern "music" they call Techno?
The day passed without us finding an answer. Perhaps we never will. But it was very annoying, boring and took a lot of the joy away one has usually during a parade. And I know already that I won't be going next year - regardless of the weather - if it is all drumbeat and no tunes again.
In case we do have a domestic problem with skills and talents, such can easily be solved with more practice. And should this not bring us the desired results, it would be better to admit to be musically challenged and look for help from abroad. There are thousands of good brass bands in most foreign countries (like the one pictured here), and many of them would be delighted to come over for St. Patrick's Day and play in the parade. All it needs are some kind invitations, sent out as early as possible, as good bands have full diaries. For the foreign bands it would be a good experience - and fun - and we would once again hear some proper tunes. Because there is no other country I know of that would tolerate the monotonous tamptera-tam-tam we have encountered today.
Not even in the North they beat their lambeg drums alone. They play along with flutes and fifes, which sounds boring and monotonous enough. But not as bad as what we had to endure today, on the day that should inspire the whole nation to joy and celebration.
I suppose that it did not need all the drumming to bring the many thirsty people into the pubs in town after the parade. They would have gone anyway. But today even I felt close to being called to a bar, just somewhere to hide from the constant drum beats. But since I do not frequent the public houses, nor indulge in alcoholic drinks, I just went home, made myself a good pot of Earl Grey tea, and then put one of my CDs into the player. "Great European Marches" the sampler is called, and it gave me within minutes what I had missed for more than an hour during the parade: Good and uplifting tunes that make the heart beat faster, raise one's spirit and put a smile on every face within earshot. Well, I hope that the parade you went to see today gave you that without going home and playing a CD. Slan abhaile!
The Emerald Islander