PIPERS and drummers have become regular visitors at Stormont in recent times.
The latest group to make a visit were members of the Northern Ireland Piping and Drumming School, who attended last week.
An audience of Assembly Members, representatives from Arts Council NI and Arts Council Ireland were treated to a festive feast of music as the NIPDS celebrated over three decades at a reception held in the Long Gallery at Stormont Parliament Buildings.
Miss Michelle McIlveen MLA, chair of the Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure, welcomed guests including piping expert and vice president of the Piobaireachd Society, Andrew Wright, who travelled from Scotland to attend the event.
“It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the NIPDS on their accomplishments down the years,” said Miss McIlveen.
“Education and arts combined are a powerful force and the unique approach of the NIPDS shows just how successful these elements can be when dedicated people are in the driving seat. I wish them every success for the future.”
Rosa Solinas, Head of Music at Arts Council of Northern Ireland was also in attendance.
She said: “The Arts Council has supported the Northern Ireland Piping and Drumming School throughout its 30-odd years of nurturing and developing the talent and skills of our local performers. Their tuition has enabled players to realize their potential and has been a major factor in the consistent success of Northern Ireland’s bands on the national and world stage.”
Students and tutors of NIPDS have attained top awards in solo competitions in both piping and drumming at the highest level and others have led bands to world titles.
NIPDS Director Mark Armstrong paid tribute to those who had brought the school to such a high level.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped make the school such a success over the years,” said Mark. “In particular I’d like to thank the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for the vital funding they have provided since Sam Bailie founded the school over 30 years ago. Without this vital support, the piping and drumming fraternity of Northern Ireland would not be in such a healthy position.”
NIPDS currently operates from two permanent centres in Northern Ireland at Laurelhill Community College in Lisburn and Portora Royal School in Enniskillen. To enrol in a course, contact Sharon Noade, Lisburn on 07745 169 327 or Cecil Jones, Enniskillen on 07533 979 404.
* The new year will see the start of a pilot tuition course taking place in Co Down.
The programme of tuition is aimed specifically at solo pipers and will be held in Edengrove Church Hall, Dromore Street, Ballynahinch, starting on Saturday, January 5.
The man at the helm of this project, which is part of the RSPBA NI Branch School, is Ian Jess. Ian is certainly well known on the pipe band scene and comes with an impressive piping pedigree both in bands and as a soloist.
Ian began piping at age six and within three years he had achieved his first solo piping prize. It was at around this time that he started competing with Ballynahinch Pipe Band under the direction of his tutor, pipe major Joe McAdam.
Indeed at age 11 Ian was a member of the Ballynahinch band which won the grade 1 title at the All-Ireland Championships in Lisburn.
From the age of 9 to 15 Ian won first place in every solo piping competition he attended. He won prizes at home and in Scotland. At the end of his competing days Ian had amassed 168 prizes – 145 of these were for first place.
In the band arena Ian is a former pipe major of the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and also played with Field Marshal Montgomery.
Ian is now focussed on teaching and earlier this year released a tutor book entitled ‘Learn to Pipe in Twelve Steps’. The book has proved popular selling locally and further afield.
The course, which costs £35, will take place over 12 weeks. An extra charge of £15 is applicable to sit the PDQB exam at the end of the course.
* Cairncastle Ulster Scots have issued an open invitation for people to join them at their December Soiree on Friday 28th December at 8pm in Halfway House Hotel, Ballygally, followed by a dance.
There will be more than 20 musicians attending including Grousebeaters, Hugh Brownlow of Maghera and more. There will be plenty of entertainment to suit all tastes.
Everyone is welcome including anyone who plays a musical instrument or can dance.
For more information contact Bobby on 07774401935.