Members of West Cork’s St. Patrick’s Youth Pipe Band have just returned from a 14-day trip to Russia. The band was invited by ‘Spasskaya Tower’, an international military music festival, where it played in front of audiences of up to 8,000 people each night – including the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Performing in this prestigious festival were many other acts from around the world including China, Pakistan, Belgium, Belarus, Italy, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Greece, Japan, as well as from across Russia, and the shows were filmed for television and online.
West Cork’s local pipe band brought a different element to the show, as it is comprised of youth and civilians, whilst the majority of other acts were military force groups. As well as being hugely popular with spectators, St Patrick’s attracted an abundance of media attention; band members were featured in many TV interviews and press releases.
Drum major Ava Lane, the youngest person to ever perform at the festival, captivated both spectators and fellow performers. Daughter of pipe major Joy Lane, nine-year-old Ava, bravely marched into the famous Red Square each night, leading the Irish delegation. After each night’s finale performance – as the performers marched from the arena – Ava was led to the centre of the stage by the Chief Military Conductor, and head of the military band service of the Russian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Valery Khalilov, where he gave her a big hug and presented her to the audience.
Each night, in front of the beautiful backdrop of the Spasskaya tower and St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Irish delegation performed a selection of Irish Marches and Russian pieces. At the end of the group’s selection, a Moscow-based school of highland dancing performed to a selection of reels.
For the finale, all of the night’s performers – musicians, bands, singers, dancers, army marching drill groups and stilt walkers – came together to perform a medley of Russian traditional and contemporary pieces, conducted by Lieutenant General Khalilov – a breathtaking moment for both performers and spectators. A fireworks display then set the sky alight over St. Basil’s cathedral before all performers marched out of the grounds.
Apart from the nine nightly shows, St Patrick’s took part in many daytime festivities around Moscow, including a parade through the city and a concert at the People’s Palace outside the Kremlin, where West Cork pipers and drummers took centrestage. Ava Lane, a gifted Irish dancer, performed light jigs, hornpipes and reels for the delighted spectators. The drummers of the band also played a crowd-pleasing fanfare entitled ‘The Moscow Military Fanfare’. Finally Pipe Major Joy gave a solo performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ before conducting the entire pipe band to join in with the Pakistan Military band – a spectacular linking of two extraordinary bands.