Four pipe bands to feature in new look Gatherin

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The final line-up of performers has been announced for The 2016 Spring Gatherin’ which will take place at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast, next month.

As I have already covered in the column, this year’s event is branching out and includes a much wider range of bands such as accordion, silver and flute.

Of course the pipe bands continue to play an important part in proceedings with Ballycoan Pipe Band, Major Sinclair Pipe Band, Portavogie Pipe Band and Sgt Walker Memorial Pipe Band stepping into the spotlight.

This gives four bands who are in the lower half of the competition pyramid a chance to show just how good they are.

Major Sinclair Memorial and Portavogie enjoyed considerable success at the end of the 2015 competition season as the two bands lifted world titles in their respective grades.

Portavogie, who will now be competing in grade 4a, were a dominant force last season and will be hoping to settle into life at the slightly higher level.

For Major Sinclair it is also a season of adjustment as they step up into grade 3b. The Co Antrim band boasts a strong junior set-up which has the potential to support the band for years to come.

Sgt Walker from grade 4b are currently building a band with pipe major Alyson McKnight leading the pipe corps. Numbers appear to be improving following a recruitment phase.

A lot of effort has gone into getting Ballycoan back on the scene after a period of absence. This is a band very much evolving and will be starting out in grade 4b this coming season.

Other performing bands include:

Melody Flute Bands: Pride Of Ballinran; Ballyhalbert; Cahard; Coleraine Fife & Drum Band and Kellswater. Silver Bands: Ballyreagh; Lisnaskea; and Murley Silver. Accordion Bands: Bailies Mills; Ballinamallard; Brunswick; East Antrim Seniors Accordion Orchestra and Vow Accordion Band.

Murley Silver will perform a special closing concert with special guest, world famous tenor horn player, Owen Farr.

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has given the go ahead for the pilot scheme which gives adjudicators the option of conferring during a contest.

Two major championships have been selected – the European at Forres and the UK Championships in Belfast – for the trial and it will be interesting to see just how much conferring actually takes place.

Also introduced was a move to triplicate copies of the adjudicator’s critique sheet instead of duplicate. The purpose of this is to give the judge his or her own copy of the sheet for use during the competition.

Members voted strongly in favour of the changes with very little opposition.

One Co Antrim piper had the opportunity to perform in front of American president Barack Obama in the White House earlier this week.

Grahame Harris, from Templepatrick, was among a small group of musicians from the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland invited to play at a lunch hosted by Mr Obama and vice president Joe Biden as part of the annual St Patrick’s Day festivities in Washington DC.

I’m sure that was an experience Grahame will fondly remember for a long time.

The RSPBA County Down Section in conjunction with R G Hardie of Glasgow are delighted to be joining together for the third year in support of Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice.

A prize draw will be held at the Craigavon and District Championships on June 18 with a set of Henderson pipes the prize.

Bands can contact Mervyn Herron on 07702 681 189 or email for tickets.