LAST weekend was the busiest yet for the many hundreds of bands, with every corner of the Province having a representative on show and the largest event of the year so far taking place in Coleraine.
The Freeman Memorial Flute have consistently held one of the most popular street processions in the Province for several years now, thanks primarily to their commitment to travelling across the country to support other bands, and this year proved to be no different.
From the early evening large crowds lined the North-West town's street before the parade began at 8.30pm led by the Coleraine-based Ballyrashane Flute, the oldest band in the Coleraine district, who are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. In all 50 bands were to follow, with the quality of musicianship, marching, discipline, style and appearance all excellent. East Belfast Protestant Boys Flute were out for the first time this year introducing the crowds to some of the new tunes in their 2008 repertoire, while another Belfast outfit, Whitewell Defenders Flute, made their first ever journey to the town and were well received.
The Blackhill and Burnside Accordions were in fine form while Giant's Causeway Protestant Boys and the Portrush Sons of Ulster Flutes both entertained the many spectators in their usual energetic style. The host band ended a very successful evening, as the last band in the procession, their new Clifford Rae flutes were in perfect tune, and they can now look forward to another busy year of parades.
n Elsewhere on Friday night successful events were held in Lurgan, hosted by Star of the North Flute, and Killyleagh, hosted by the William Savage Memorial Flute, both drawing over 20 bands.
There was a choice of four possible venues on Saturday night for the band community, with Dunmurry, Donaghadee, Markethill and Armoy all possible venues.
In Dunmurry, the Ballylesson Old Boys Flute attracted 27 bands to their annual parade and competition, with the calibre of melody flute bands on show particularly high, the Mourne Young Defenders, Shankill Road Defenders and Skeogh all challenging strongly for the silverware on offer. In Blood and Thunder, the young Lower Woodstock Flute continued to impress while the Ulster Grenadiers and Lambeg Orange and Blue maintained their reputations as proving that it doesn't take large numbers to be among the top in the genre.
In Armoy, the Silver Plains Flute hosted an event of 23 bands with some notable performances from Limavady bands, Ballyquin and Pride of Orange. Mosside Accordion also stood out and despite small numbers on show amply illustrated the sense of pride and dedication within the band's ranks.
In North Down, the Pride of Donaghadee Flute held their first ever parade, and despite the many other events throughout the country, attracted a very creditable 17 bands to the town, sure to increase as the band and night becomes more well known. A strong showing from Belfast saw the West, East and South all represented, with Shankill Bands Warkworth Purple Star and West Belfast Volunteers Flute both excelling. Meanwhile in Markethill, Enagh Accordion attracted fantastic crowds to watch their annual parade, bolstered no doubt by the good day and evening's weather, and almost 30 bands enjoyed what was an excellent atmosphere.
n This weekend is even busier than last and will see nine events taking place with each county of Northern Ireland hosting at least one parade. Tomorrow night Newtownhamilton in Co Armagh will have the annual parade of Carnagh Accordion starting at 7.30pm, while Lisbellaw in Fermanagh will see the Derryclavin Pipe hold their traditional event, also starting at 7.30pm. Elsewhere on the night, Red Hand Defenders Flute Newtownstewart and Skeogh Flute Dromore are both scheduled to start at 7.30pm, while Ballycraigy Sons of Ulster Flute Antrim will begin at 8pm.
Saturday will see the famous Shankill Road host the local Sons of Ulster Flute starting at 6pm, Magheraveely Village in Fermanagh the Knox Pipe at 8.30pm, Craigavon Protestant Boys Flute in Lurgan at 7pm and Pride of the Faughanside Flute Drumahoe at 8.30pm.
n You can contact Drum Beat by ringing or texting 07835624221 or emailing email@example.com, with all contributions, opinions and news from the country's thriving band movement very welcome.
In association with the Ulster Bands Association