The Artane Band traces its history back to April 1871, when Brother Thomas Alphonsus Hoope formed a band of young musicians from the boys’ school that was soon to be officially established in Artane. The context in which it was formed was a tumultuous one. The Fenian attempt at rebellion had recently occurred. and the Irish Home Rule movement and Land War were about to become the issues of the day. It was an interesting time to form a band. However, within a few short years, the band had established an excellent reputation for its level of musicianship and professionalism as it performed at many high-profile events and locations.
Fifteen years after its foundation, the band established its hugely rewarding relationship with the two-year old Gaelic Athletic Association, when it first performed at a GAA match. This relationship would help to chart the future of the Artane Band right up until the present day, as it would later become synonymous with Croke Park and Gaelic games right throughout the country.
Over the subsequent years, the Artane Boys Band, as it came to be known, continued to develop as a centre of talent in Dublin, as more generations of boys went through its doors and continued what was quickly becoming a proud tradition. Performances at more prestigious locations and for more high-profile dignitaries, including the future King Edward VII, as the nineteenth century drew to a close, set the scene for what would be a prolific new century for the Artane Boys Band.
The early years of the twentieth century were dramatic in Ireland, and the Artane Boys Band bore witness to all of this. On the precipice of the revolutionary years towards Irish independence, the band performed for and was addressed by King George V during a visit to St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth. In the months before Europe was to be engulfed in the trauma of the Great War, the band was due to play in Lourdes. On Easter weekend 1916, the band was performing at a GAA match, as Dublin was about to be thrown into turmoil. Later, the band continued to play on throughout guerrilla war and subsequently civil war. The Artane Boys Band played witness as the world around it transformed dramatically.
After the inception of national radio broadcasting in 1926, the sounds of the Artane Boys Band were regularly heard in the homes of ordinary people across the country, as 2RN greatly grew the audience of the band. And when television become a mainstay of everyday life on 31 December 1961, when RTE made its inaugural broadcast from Dublin with the Artane Boys Band present, the band was now also seen as well as heard through the homes of Ireland. The band was continuing to grow in status as a national institution. When the U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, visited Ireland in 1963, he became the first serving U.S. President for whom the band performed (many years earlier, the band had performed for the Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan, in Dublin). Around this time also, another iconic Hollywood actor, Bing Crosby, would refer to the band as “the biggest little band in the world”.
A New Era
With the closure of the Artane Industrial School in 1969, the Artane Boys Band became an independent entity that was no longer associated with any one school. It now welcomed boys as members from schools right across Dublin. The influx of new boys represented an injection of new energy and growth to the organisation. Soon after, the band moved to its present building in Artane as one chapter closed and it embarked upon a brand new era in its history.
In 1986, the Artane Boys Band took another firm step into the future when, for the first time in its history, a lay Board of Management took control of the band and commenced an enormously successful fund-raising drive over the subsequent years. Two years later, Joe Lynch, the legendary and greatly-admired musical director of the band, founded the Artane Senior Band, which initially consisted of former members of the Artane Boys Band. It would go on to establish a prestigious reputation in its own right.
The outstanding work that was achieved by the new management of the band became clear as several successful trips abroad took place, including to Russia, Canada and the United States of America. In 1997, the establishment of the new Artane School of Music was announced, with the Artane Boys Band as the jewel of its crown. The GAA officially became a trustee of the band and the occasion was marked with a visit by President Mary McAleese to the band-room in Artane. Within this new organisation, many new expressions of Artane talent sprang up. These included new bands, ensembles and choirs. Also, music lessons for aspiring young people and adults were begun, as well as Junior and Leaving Certificate music classes.
A major change came about in 2004, when for the first time in its history, membership of the band was opened to girls, and the word “Boys” was officially dropped from the name of the band. Seven years later, in 2011, some of these pioneering girls would help to bring an era of Irish history full circle when they, along with their male band colleagues, performed for Queen Elizabeth II of England in Croke Park, one hundred years after their predecessors in Artane had performed for her grandfather, King George V.
Today, the Artane Band is a thriving hive of talent, potential and activity within the community of Artane and further afield. It looks back with pride on its long history and traditions, which began as the children of the Great Famine were coming of age and which would go on to touch three different centuries. But also, it looks forward with a great deal of excitement about its future, as more and more generations of talented young individuals find expression for their aspirations and hopes through the opportunities in music, leadership and friendship that are part and parcel of the Artane Band.