THE sixth annual Ulster Festival of Piping and Drumming, incorporating the Ulster Solo Piping and Drumming Championships, will take place on Friday 19 April and Saturday 20 April.
One of the big changes this year is that all competitions will be held in the same venue - Monkstown Community School at Doagh Road Newtownabbey
The juvenile piping and drumming grades will start at 7pm on Friday evening, with all other competitions being run on Saturday.
The action on Saturday gets underway at 9.30am with the Piobaireachd competition and many of the remaining piping and drumming grades commencing at 10am.
With all events 'under one roof and with full catering facilities available, these new arrangements should prove more amenable for both competitor and spectator, especially those who have to travel a distance.
As in previous years, the judging panel for the Ulster Solo Championships has been selected with solo players in mind.
This year those entrusted to adjudicate the piping competitions include Rab Wallace, gold medal winner; John Wilson, former Pipe Sergeant with Strathclyde Police and gold medal winner; Chris Armstrong, a brilliant younger generation piper with Strathclyde Police and Ronan Maguire of the St. Lawrence O'Toole Clondalkin band.
Empanelled for the drumming competitions will be Reid Maxwell, leading drummer with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and a top placed soloist in the world solo drumming championships; Tom Brown the 'father figure' of drummers of Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia bands; Brian Purves of the Chivas Regal Pipe Band, another top performer at world solo level, and Keith Orr from the local panel.
Additional adjudicators may be required from the local panel, this being dependent on the numbers of entries in the lower grades.
As part of the continuing development of the Ulster Solo Championships, this year Intermediate 'A' pipers will be required to submit two marches, two strathspeys and two reels with their entry.
The adjudicator will select one of each type of tune for the soloist to perform. This change in playing stipulations was brought about following a request from the Intermediate soloists and was agreed at the RSPBA Northern Ireland Branch's 2001 Annual General Meeting.
All soloists should have noted from the syllabus for the Ulster Solo Championships that a Code of Conduct will operate.
This code stipulates that players entered must turn up to play, that they should be ready to compete when requested and, as a mark of respect to all concerned, all participants should be in uniform when performing and collecting prizes.
Guest adjudicators will contribute to the proceedings through recitals and demonstrations - should time permit.
The Full Bands Indoor competitions organised by the Co. Down Section of the RSPBA will take place on Saturday 2 April in Banbridge High School.
This unique event has always attracted large entries from across Ireland, and has excellent facilities for bands and spectators alike.
The adjudicators will be Pipe Major Trevor Dear from Scotland and local man Gordon Parkes.