Northern Ireland Round-Up: Belfast Tattoo/ Pipe Band College/ World Solo Drumming/ Blackthorn/ All Irelands

After two years absence, the Belfast International Tattoo finally returned on September 2nd and 3rd with three shows at the SSE Arena. The cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 shows placed many challenges at the door of the organisers.

I was present on the Saturday night when there was a very good attendance and I understand that was the case across the other two shows. This has obviously encouraged the Tattoo Board: they have given a number of announcements then and since indicating they are looking forward to 2023.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

Pipers and drummers were central to the show with the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment Bugles and the Pipes and Drums and the Tattoo’s Massed Pipes and Drums making a major contribution.

The tenor drumming and Drum Major Display teams performed their flourishing and drill routines to very modern music with strong lighting features which emphasised the skills of the participants.

A trio of pipers also performed some extremely harmonic music, and at the end of the night solo piper Alastair Donaghy played the haunting Mist Covered Mountains to bring the show to an end. The compère for the evening was BBC personality and ‘Kintra’ presenter Helen Mark who along with the Tattoo support team kept things moving along on time.


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Pipe Band College Northern Ireland
The College Principal Mark Faloon is extending a warm welcome to students of all ages and ability to avail themselves of the SQA exams endorsed by the RSPBA and its partners. 

He is inviting players to use the five NI centres at Banbridge, Broughshane, Cookstown,  Derry-Londonderry and Enniskillen, or their online service. All are guided by trained tutors at the different levels.

In addition the College invite those who may not wish to take up exams but would like to improve their playing or theory, to get in touch. This is part of their open-door policy of committing to doing their best to deliver on each individual’s expectations.

The College is also extending its services to our local bands offering help, advice and assessment of performances. Workshops tailored to each band’s needs can also be arranged.

The College offer tuition on pipes, snare, tenor and bass and drum majoring. Register online here. Email queries to college@rspbani.org or call 028 9267 0445. While the College operates from the five centres mentioned, students may be allocated an alternative venue depending on numbers. Following registration an allocated tutor will be in touch to confirm a suitable class, payment and start date.



McLees is the first UK Solo Drumming Champion
Many congratulations to Gareth McLees on winning the inaugural United Kingdom Solo Drumming Championship held last Saturday at Greystone Primary School, Antrim. This pre-qualifier for the World Solo Drumming also saw Stephen Creighton, William Glenholmes and Rachel Thom take the remaining three semi-final places for this prestigious event to be held on Saturday 22nd October at Glasgow Caledonian University.

UK Solo Drumming Champion Gareth McLees with the Bobby Rea Trophy flanked by Stephen Creighton (l), William Glenholmes and Rachel Thom

The trophy for this competition is named after the legendary local drummer Bobby Rea and it was timely that it was competed for on what would have been the great man’s birthday. The presentation was made by Ciaran Mourdant, recently retired RSPBA Drumming and Ensemble adjudicator.

Eleven drummers competed for the title and in addition to those already mentioned good performances were given by Alex Buchanan, Daniel Mulcahy, Matthew Shaw, Gavin Macrae, Ashley Fyffe, Fíonn North Murphy and Ben Gibson.


Blackthorn Pipers Society back for a new season
Wednesday September 21st is a date for your diary as is the third Wednesday of each month thereafter as the Blackthorn Pipers Society returns for another season. Based at the Discover Ulster Scots Building, 1-9 Victoria Street, Belfast BT1 3GA, the new season will get underway around 7.30pm and the guest piper is Ashley McMichael a four time All-Ireland and Ulster Solo Piping Champion and member of Field Marshal Montgomery.

Blackthorn guest piper Ashley McMichael (l) pictured in 2015 with band mate Kris Coyle

The first hour of each evening is open to any piper who wishes to play a tune and the organisers are open to performances on all types of pipes. So if you are free why not drop in to what is a very relaxed environment. 


All Ireland Solo Piping and Drumming Championships 
Hot on the heels of last week’s UK Solo Drumming come the All Ireland Solos and the JAC Solo Piping and Drumming Championship which both take place from 10am next Saturday, September 17th at Lisnagarvey High School. Check out the draws here.

These Championships are organised under the joint auspices of the RSPBA NI Branch and the Irish Pipe Band Association. Entries closed last weekend and I am delighted to see that a total of 50 pipers, 41 drummers and nine tenor drummers have entered the All Irelands while 11 pipers and 10 drummers have entered the JAC. There is a strong entry for most of the top piping categories and an even larger entry in the piobaireachd sections.

The opposite is the situation for the drummers, with the larger entries in the junior grades, however all the big guns are included in the Adult section. A good day’s piping and drumming is in store for the spectators. The JAC competition features lots of young pipers and drummers who will benefit enormously from competing at this level. 

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