The new year is upon us which brings with it all the excitement and anticipation of another season of pipe band competition both locally and in Scotland.
Northern Ireland bands and drum majors enjoyed a successful 2015 season and even at this very early stage I feel we can look forward with some certainty to more silverware in 2016.
There are plenty of events being held in the coming months but one of the most recent ones to be announced is particularly exciting.
Cullybackey Pipe Band is hosting a recital evening with Stuart Liddell on Saturday, March 19. The recital will take place in the Michelin Athletic Club, Ballymena, commencing at 8pm.
Stuart Liddell is pipe major of the grade one Inverary & District Pipe Band and an outstanding solo piper. He has enjoyed much success both with the Inverary band and as a soloist over the past year.
As a solo competitor he has collected lots of silverware. At the 2015 Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championship he took first place in the Piobaireachd and was third in the March, Strathspey and Reel.
However it is perhaps for his band achievements that Stuart will have come to the attention of local piping followers.
Inveraray & District’s rapid rise through the grades has seen the band firmly established in the grade one prize lists. In August they were placed third at the World Championships behind winners Shotts & Dykehead and second placed St Laurence O’Toole.
This is likely to be a very popular event and tickets priced £10 including a light supper are available from any Cullybackey Pipe Band member, through the band’s Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was some sad news before the end of the year with the passing of Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Northern Ireland Branch Patron, Lord Erne, Henry George Victor John Crichton, on Wednesday, December 23.
I understand a memorial service will take place in Enniskillen in the Spring.
The Blackthorn Pipers Society brought its 2015 events to a close in the run-up to Christmas with performances from Ryan Cupples-Menendez, society secretary Andy Wilson and guest soloist Kevin Rogers, from Kilkeel.
Kevin is a long-time member of the St Laurence O’Toole band from Dublin and has played during their most successful times including a World Championship win in 2010.
Kevin had actually just returned from a ten day trip to Australia were he had guested with the new City of Whitehorse Pipe Band at one of their local competitions.
The next Blackthorn event will take place on Wednesday, January 20 and hopefully a good crowd will come along and support it.
I received an email before Christmas from Ballymartin Pipe Band informing me that the members are hosting an open evening on Monday, January 18, in Ballymartin Orange Hall from 8-9.30pm.
Ballymartin is one of only six Brian Boru pipe bands currently in existence and they have performed at all manner of events since they were formed almost 50 years ago.
Like all bands the recruitment of new players is of paramount importance and it is hoped the open evening will stimulate some interest particularly among potential pipers young and old.
This open evening is an opportunity to get an insight into the workings of a Brian Boru band and to have a chance to try out some of the instruments.
In relation to the possibility of the Special General Meeting of the RSPBA NI Branch, any bands wishing to show their support for Mervyn Herron are asked to return their letter to him before January 12.