“WE’RE an exclusive group, a bit like U2 — no-one is allowed in or out.”
That’s how Rebel Brass band member Caoimhe Barry jokingly describes their tight-knit unit as they prepare for their appearance on the Late Late Toy Show this Friday night.
Only in existence for just over a year, the New Orleans style jazz group already has the distinction of playing for Prince Charles and President Higgins when they visited Cork, and can now claim Ryan Tubridy as a fan.
This ensemble of young musicians is presented by the Barrack Street Band in partnership with Music Generation Cork City, which brings music education to young people in schools across the city.
Three professional musician tutors are dedicated to Rebel Brass: Clodagh Kearney, Stephen Manning and Shauna McCullough.
Shauna, of Dublin, has been living here for 15 years and is a graduate of the Cork School of Music.
“While doing the degree I started teaching brass,” she said. “I’ve been working with Cork Barrack Street Band for a number of years through their partnership with Music Generation Cork City (coordinated by Margaret O’Sullivan), which is an outreach instrumental music education programme for children and young people.
“There are a number of enthusiastic and energised music teachers involved in the programme, currently accessed by 2,000 children, and together we have worked hard to develop and grow a fantastic music education access programme through local schools in and around Togher, Greenmount, Ballyphehane, St. Finbarr’s and Mahon communities.
“The programme itself provides opportunities for children and young people to learn a wind or brass instrument, so everything from flute to tuba.”
There are 16 players in Rebel Brass, which comprises 13 dedicated young musicians and three dedicated, slightly older musicians. The age range of the youngsters is 12-17 years old and they are not currently open to new members.
“There may be a gap in the age range from the youngest to the oldest but you would never even know when you meet them, they are like a big family,” said Shauna.
“The dynamic and friendship of the group is indescribable really — they look out for, encourage and support each other to be the best they can be and rise to new challenges — we’ve had plenty of those!”
Shauna said that herself, Clodagh and Stephen love working with the young players, so much so “half the time we feel like teenagers again.”
They play what they like, what they would listen to themselves, and what they think sounds good.
“Our set is influenced by other bands we have been lucky enough to meet like Booka Brass Band and Hypnotic Brass Band but our biggest supporters and influencers are the lads from New York Brass Band who are a staple part of the Cork Jazz Festival diet.
“They’ve been really amazing to us and given us some of their arrangements that we use in our current set so a bit of Bruno Mars, Daft Punk and Jackson Five.
“We even throw in a bit of Rebirth Brass now and again for good measure!
“We are hoping to add a bit of vocals to our set for the new year, we discovered recently that our trombone player Caoimhe Barry has a great singing voice!” added Shauna.
Before they even travel to Montrose, they have enjoyed an incredible year, with Shauna saying they get stronger all the time.
She said: “There is something magic about playing music together — there’s a social and creative connection between players that’s not easy to describe and it gets stronger every time we play together.’
This year’s highlights include performing at the Jazz Festival alongside the New York Brass Band and with the world-famous, Chicago-based Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.
In the summer, the group was among the first to welcome His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to Ireland, outside the English Market. In March, they performed for guests including President Michael D. Higgins in the City Library as part of the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.
But Shauna said: “Every time we play is a highlight to be honest. We really love just seeing people enjoy our music and that’s a big part of why we do it.
“We are really proud of Cork city and we want the city and its people to be proud of us.”
Corkonians will certainly be proud when well over a million people tune into the Late Late Toy Show on Friday. Their exact set is being kept strictly under wraps until the night.
They band only applied for the Toy Show audition on a whim.
“One Tuesday evening at a rehearsal session we got talking and decided to throw our hat in the ring.
“Two of our players, Amy O’Callaghan and Caoimhe Barry, put the application together and sent it off — next thing we knew it we were called for the auditions in Limerick.
“We were lucky to get the day off school and have parents and family carpool us.
“We knew that going for the audition was going to be tough because it’s the Toy Show — everyone wants to be on the Toy Show!
“There were lots of other brilliant and talented acts auditioning, singers, dancers, drummers, loads.
Ryan (Tubridy) was exactly like you see on TV, he was bubbly, chatty and all about the music — he was so impressed with the band he even out us up on his Instagram and spoke really highly of us on this morning show the next day.”
Rebel Brass will also be hitting the city streets during December including at Glow.
“If anyone comes across us, say hello and join us for a boogie!” says Shauna.
See Rebel Brass Cork on Facebook for more.