The Belfast Tattoo returns later this year with over 600 performers and will showcase some of the finest marching bands, musicians, and dancers from across Ulster and beyond.
Just before Christmas organisers confirmed the full line-up for the event with The Band Of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines the headline act for 2015. The band is world-renowned for their musicianship and precision marching performance.
This year’s format has been altered slightly - there will continue to be three shows however it will be Friday evening followed by a Saturday matinee then a Saturday evening performance.
It’s good to see that there has been a fresh selection of pipe bands engaged to take part.
Bleary & District return after a debut in 2014, and the trio of Killeen, Drumlough and Thiepval Memorial pipe bands will also feature.
These bands all enjoyed success in their respective grades during the last competition season.
Bleary & District were the star turn in grade 2 and featured in the prizes at the major championships.
I would like to shine the spotlight on the other bands.
Thiepval Memorial dominated grade 3b going the entire season undefeated locally and in Scotland. That is quite an achievement for pipe major Alyson McKnight and her band. Their reward was a move straight into grade 2 for the 2015 season.
Now adjusting to such a dramatic rise in standard will bring challenges, but I understand the band are working hard in preparation for what lies ahead.
Killeen have been making steady progress since their return to the competition scene after a brief absence.
Killeen were previously a fixture in Grade 2, winning three All-Ireland titles, placing second in both the European and Scottish championships, and a top 10 finish at the 2010 World Championship.
The band returned for a season in grade 3b before moving up into grade 3a where they have remained.
Drumlough Pipe band was formed in 1950 and entered their first competition in 1953 at the mini bands, Novice Grade, at Belfast’s Ulster Hall.
The patron of the band in it’s formative years was Harry Ferguson, famous in agriculture circles as the inventor of the Ferguson Tractor.
Drumlough have been settled in grade 3a for much of past ten years and featured in the prize lists regularly throughout the 2014 season.
Among the visiting bands will be the Calgary Police Service Pipe Band (Canada).
Since its first public performance, leading the 1975 Calgary Stampede Parade, the Calgary Police Service Band has represented the City of Calgary and the Calgary Police Service by performing across Canada, The United States, and Europe.
The Calgary Police Service Band is made up of serving and retired police officers as well as civilian members. All members volunteer their own time to practice and perform.
The band has more than 50 pipers, drummers, and dancers and continues to perform annually at a wide variety of events including Calgary Police Service functions, municipal and provincial events, parades, and highland games.
The band performs with the permission of it Colonel-In-Chief, Rick Hanson.
The full line-up is confirmed as The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines; Drum and Showband Adest Musica - Netherlands; The Ravens Drum and Bugle Corps - Ireland; Storici Sbandieratori Delle Contrade Di Cori - Italy; Bleary and District Pipe Band; Killeen Pipe Band; Drumlough Pipe Band; Thiepval Memorial Pipe Band - Ireland; 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment Pipe Band; Calgary Police Service Pipe Band - Canada; Brookeborough Flute Band; Lisburn Young Defenders Flute Band and The Belfast Tattoo Highland and Irish Dancers
Other highlights for the 2015 Belfast Tattoo include an 80-strong dance troupe of Highland dancers and Irish dancers, performing to a piece of music specially written for the event.
Tickets are currently on sale and available from Odyssey Box Office, by contacting 028 9073 9074. Alternatively book online at www.odysseyarena.com.
Next weekend sees the annual Winter Storm event in Kansas City, USA.
The Winter Storm master classes annually attract approximately 350 piping and drumming students of all ages, a great many of whom are young learners. In addition, 150 pipers and drummers enter the solo contests, and nearly 1,000 attend the public concert.
The event features performances from pipers and drummers from around the world and as you would expect there is a sprinkling of local talent involved.
John Scullion plays a major part in the drumming workshops and the open concert, while Andrew Carlisle is competing in the piping competitions.
St Laurence O’Toole leading drummer Stephen Creighton is also taking part in workshops.
I understand there are still some tickets available for Cullybackey Pipe Band’s concert featuring Fred Morrison on Saturday, March 7 in Ballymena.
Tickets are available now priced at just £10 including a light supper.
For details on how to purchase tickets visit the Cullybackey page on Facebook.