Spirits are high in Ulster’s marching band scene with their fifth annual Ulster Hall showcase event set to take place tomorrow night.
The News Letter Festival of Marching Bands, in association with the Ulster Bands Forum and returning sponsors Translink and the Ulster-Scots Agency, will draw concert-goers from the thriving band scene to the 7.30pm event.
Organiser Quincey Dougan said the festival prides itself on “combining high quality along with a good geographical spread and being representative of Ulster’s bands, with his year being no different”.
He said the eight bands on display tomorrow night “each offer their own unique contribution to a massive Ulster band movement”.
The line-up includes: Somme Memorial, Bangor; Red Hand Defenders, Newtownstewart; Letterbreen Silver, Letterbreen; Dungiven Crown Defenders, Dungiven; East Bank Protestant Boys, Londonderry; Vow Accordion, Ballymoney; Pride of the Shore, Belfast; and Ballyvea, Kilkeel.
Mr Dougan said: “Incredibly we are entering the fifth year of the Ulster Bands Forum/Belfast News Letter Festival of Marching Bands. The previous four years have showcased some 40 bands from across the length and breadth of Northern Ireland, indeed beyond in the form of Drum Accordion from Monaghan, and each year has never failed to deliver a truly excellent display of marching music. This year will be no different.
“In December 2013 we have much to be proud of. There are believed to be more Ulster bands in existence now than ever before.
“For almost three years now new bands are starting up at a rate approaching one a month, and bands across the length and breadth of Northern Ireland are recruiting well.”
He said our local bands are “a direct result of the fusion of British military convention with the Irish population”.
“At one time almost a third of the British Army was Irish so it is no surprise that they integrated the military marching band into their communities when they came home,” he said.
“Ulster bands today are British yet at the same time are arguably the most undiluted form of Irish traditional music on the entire island.
“Today’s enormous band scene, 30,000 active members, is thriving. As many as 170,000, around 10 per cent, of our population have been in a band at some stage of their lives.
“It is one of the few traditional cultural and musical movements in the Western world that isn’t just holding its own, it’s growing.”
Tickets are available for purchase from the Ulster Hall Box Office on 028 9033 4455.