Kieran O’Mahony talks to Michael McCarthy of Bandon’s Old Town Hall Band about bringing the sounds of previous generations back to the people of West Cork – and all to raise funds for causes in the community
AS a musician or a band, you know you’re doing something right when you get booked to play at a wedding in two years’ time. This was just one of many requests that the members of The Old Town Hall Band have received since they got together in 2006 to play music, initially as a fundraiser for the then newly formed Bandon Concert Band (formerly known as Bandon District Brass and Reed Band).
‘At our age we’re not planning ahead and at a recent concert a woman came up to us to ask us would we play at her wedding in two years time as she loved the music. We had to tell her that we couldn’t guarantee her that we would be around in two years’ time,’ said Michael McCarthy of The Old Town Hall Band.
Describing themselves as ‘Ireland’s oldest boy band’, all of the members played with dance bands of the ’50s and showbands of the ’60s and ’70s and their ages range from over 80 down to 45.
But their love of the music and their urge to help out another musical outfit has even seen them release a CD full of their favourite music. The official launch of Enjoy Yourself took place recently in the Munster Arms Hotel and Joe Mac of The Dixies was there on the night to do the honours.
‘Our CD reflects the music that was played in the old days and includes tunes like “It’s Now or Never” and “Five Foot Two and Whispering”. There has been a great reaction to it so far and hopefully the sale of it will cover the costs of recording it, which was done at Tony Kirby’s studio in Ballincollig.
We funded the recording ourselves and all of us play voluntarily.’
Music has always been a part of Michael’s life and he got his first taste of the live music scene with The Ritz Dance Band in the 1950s and while he describes himself as an ‘accidental drummer’, he is still behind the kit to this day. They played all over the country to packed halls and Michael recalls ‘long journeys in dodgy vehicles with no heaters.’ The band later became the Ritz Show Band and Michael left them for a period to play with the Dick Cashman Band, who were playing out of Midleton.
‘In our day there was no such thing as an electric guitar or electric bass and the only one I ever saw with one back then was Victor Sylvester. It was very rare to see.’
As mentioned earlier, the formation of The Old Town Hall Band was a fundraising initiative for the Bandon Concert Band, which was formed in 2002.
Led by Herbie Hendrick, the band named themselves after Bandon Town Hall, a venue that most of them played in down through the years, and it’s still the place where they rehearse today. As well as entertaining audiences, the band also take time out to teach both young and old how to play musical instruments and it’s certainly proving popular. Thanks to their efforts the Bandon Concert Band now has a membership of 39 members and they have been able to buy musical instruments as well as getting to play at events like the Engage Arts Festival and the Walled Town Festival in Bandon.
The recent flooding in Bandon has now inspired the band to hold another fundraising concert for Bandon Flood Relief on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14th.
‘We all have Bandon connections, and when the floods happened we decided we would like to do something to help those affected, so the concert we are doing will raise funds for the Bandon branch of the Irish Red Cross,’ added Michael.
The Old Town Hall Band is made up of 10 members including Tadhg McCarthy, alto saxophone; Michael McCarthy, drums; Timmy Lawlor, vocals; Richard Dukelow, keyboards; Dan O’Donovan, tenor saxophone; Paul Broderick, bass guitar; Herbie Hendrick, cornet, trumpet and vocals; Jerry Larkin, guitar, banjo and vocals; Nicholas Motherway on piano, and Bob Kearney on accordion, clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone.
Enjoy Yourself by The Old Town Hall Band is now on sale in shops around
Bandon for €12.
• The Old Town Hall Band will play a fundraising concert for Bandon Flood Relief on Sunday, February 14th in the Munster Arms Hotel at 8pm. Tickets are €10.