Band Festival rapidly approaching

The Ulster Hall Festival of Marching band’s is now just one week away.

From the outset the event was designed to give as broad a reflection of the Ulster Band scene as possible, and for the most part it has achieved that. Each year deliberate thought has been put into getting both a wide geographical mix and also a mix of genres. This year proves no different, with eight bands on the programme and no two even similar. Accordion and pipe are joined by six flute bands, but each with a very different approach to the instrument.

Derryloran Boyne Defenders Flute Cookstown is a name synonymous within the marching band fraternity, having been marching throughout Ulster and further afield for more than 40 years. In addition to supporting fellow bands at their annual parades throughout the province, they annually participate in loyal order parades, accompanying Cookstown True Blues LOL 459 and Cookstown Apprentice Boys Mitchelburne Branch since the 1970’s. Founded in 1968 as one of the first Blood and Thunder band outside of Belfast, the band has continually moved with the times raising its musical bar to set new standards. In the late 1980’s after 20 years of playing pure Blood and Thunder, Derryloran changed direction. Following the lead of elite bands such as Blackskull and the Sharpshooters they adding marches and jigs to their musical repertoire, soon after beginning to compete at the top level, picking up prizes at many indoor and parade competitions. In 2008 with the purchase of new instruments and new uniforms, the band gained a new lease of life and began to reclaim some of its former glories within the massive Ulster band fraternity.

Formed in 1979 by four former members of the now defunct Foyle Defenders Flute Band, the Pride of the Orange and Blue Flute Newbuildings came into being. Having agreed on the name for the band, a uniform of white jumpers with orange and blue trim, and blue trousers with an orange stripe was chosen. The following year a dedication ceremony, conducted by the Rev. Ian Paisley and Mrs. Anna Hay, was held on the Dam Green in Newbuildings. New uniforms in 1982 led to a major change musically. Military marches were now included and a slight move away from the ‘blood and thunder’ that had been adopted since its formation. The undoubted highlight of that year was a trip to Scotland where parades with the Royal Black Preceptory took place in Glasgow and Ayr. By 1985 the Pride of Orange and Blue had marched in every county in Ulster including Co Donegal. Although smaller in numbers now than in previous years the band still remains a group of dedicated members, ever striving to produce good music coupled with style, appearance and discipline.

Ballycraigy Sons of Ulster Auld Boys Flute was formed in 2005. Originally the goal was to get together ‘old time’ band members to provide accompaniment for Skeffington LOL 493 at the 2006 12th July commemorations in Randalstown. The uniform adopted followed that of the original Ballycraigy band with distinctive lilac shirt and purple trousers, with a now rarely seen tie. Incredibly in this modern age initially there were problems sourcing suitable coloured material, especially for the trousers. The bands repertoire is taken exclusively from the tunes played several decades ago, with all being firmly based in a very traditional Blood and Thunder style. Ballycraigy Auld Boys have tried to stick with as much of the old style format the membership grew up with in the late 1970’s and 1980’s as possible. They pride themselves on their ability to entertain, and with their two bass drums and the well known Reggie ‘Dinger’ Bell on the pole, never fail to put a smile on people’s faces.

Tickets are still available for this year’s concert, with it promising to be an excellent evening of entertainment. The doors open at 630pm with a 730pm start, and with an approximate finishing time of 10pm, it is an ideal occasion to bring children along. Compere this year is the ever popular William Caulfield. Tickets are available directly through the Ulster Hall Box Office.

Drumbeat will be running right through the winter months, and if you would like to publicise fundraising, competition, cultural or indeed any events related to the large Ulster Marching Band community, you can contact it directly by ringing or texting Quincey on 07835624221 or emailing All contributions, opinions and news from the Country’s thriving band movement are very welcome. Drumbeat would particularly welcome band histories and details of band practises from across the Province.