PEI

All-Maritimer band takes global stage in Spain

A community band made up of members of all ages from across the Maritimes is performing for the world this week in Pamplona, Spain.

The Maritime Community Band is playing for people from across the world in Pamplona this week

From left, Christine Blanchard, Delia Martin, Liam Bezanson, Mathew Daley and Blaine Bernard rehearse in the Baluarte auditorium in Pamplona, Spain. (Facebook/Christine Blanchard)

A community band made up of members of all ages from across the Maritimes is performing for the world this week in Pamplona, Spain.

The Maritime Community Band is a one-time-only group that has come together just for the cross-Atlantic trip.

Rowan FitzGerald is a retired music educator from P.E.I. who is playing alto saxophone with the band while in Spain. When he is on the Island, he is one of three co-conductors of the Second Chances Band, which has a mandate to give adults another chance to learn an instrument.

"This group is a really mixed bag of players," said FitzGerald. 

He's right, the Maritime Community Band includes members of the Second Chances Bands in Charlottetown, Fredericton and Halifax and two other P.E.I. bands.

Pamplona — a city in northern Spain best known for its annual running of the bulls — has its own community band, La Pamplonesa. That group is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and decided to celebrate by inviting the globe to their stage.

From left, Ken Mayhew, Rowan FitzGerald, Frank McKearney and John Ling have been taking in the sights in Spain while there for the International Festival of Bands. (Submitted by Ken Mayhew)

P.E.I.'s Second Chances Band got the opportunity to join because of one of its members, Ron Murphy. He is also a retired music educator and runs a P.E.I. touring company. He met one of the organizers of Pamplona's International Festival of Bands through that business.

The festival is equal parts exciting and frightening to a lot of the Maritime Community Band members.

After hearing "outstanding" performances from a Japanese middle school band, a Spanish brass band and the Berlin Philharmonic, FitzGerald said "apprehensive would be a bit of an understatement."

However, "this is not a competition," he said. "We are a group of people who love to play. We play once a week and we love it."

Christine Blanchard, centre, conducts the Maritime Community Band in the Baluarte auditorium. (Facebook/Christine Blanchard)

Although FitzGerald has been brave in the face of international bands, the world-class venue is what makes him a bit anxious. The Baluarte auditorium, where the group takes the stage this week, is one of the largest cultural venues in Spain.

"It's the biggest theatre I've ever been in," said FitzGerald. "It has to be 5,000 seats and the stage is really intimidating. It's enormous."

He has some of his oldest friends to keep him grounded, though. FitzGerald and three of his Colonel Gray High School friends are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their own first band trip and decided to reenact the Beatles' classic Abbey Road cover in tribute.

'Here we are 50 years later,' says FitzGerald. 'The four of us, still playing, still being immature enough to carry on … in Spain.' (Submitted by Ken Mayhew)

"And here we are 50 years later," said FitzGerald. "The four of us, still playing, still being immature enough to carry on … in Spain."

And they will be performing plenty of tunes from the Great White North.

"Some that promoted Canadiana … or brought our melodies to the rest of the world."

The group is set to play Canadian folk songs such as She's Like the Swallow and Prairie Wedding.

The International Festival of the Bands runs from Jun. 12-16.

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About the Author

Sean is a P.E.I.-born journalist splitting his time between Canada's smallest province and Toronto. Email him at sean.young@cbc.ca or find him on Twitter at @seanpatyoung.

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