ORGANISERS of St Laurence O'Toole pipe band's first full-scale concert in Northern Ireland have reported 'overwhelming demand' for tickets for the May 8 showpiece in Newcastle's Slieve Donard Hotel.
And the Dublin musical supremos have pledged to reward the expected 800-strong capacity audience with a three-hour extravaganza of traditional Scottish and Irish piping and drumming selections as well as specially penned compositions and arrangements and a Galician set.
The show (8pm start) is called 'Dawning of the Day', which depicts the start of what St Laurence O'Toole believe will be a season when they can eclipse their own personal best performances in the major competitions.
And the climax to the show will be a 20-minute 'session', combining an array of airs, folk songs, polkas, reels, airs and waltzes when the 30-strong piping and drumming ensemble will be joined by an eclectic collection of traditional musicians on instruments ranging from bodhran, uillean pipes and whistle through to saxophone, clarinet and guitar.
The show, which is being promoted by Banbridge Pipe Band, is being recorded by BBC Northern Ireland, and there is also the possibility of a 'Live at Newcastle' CD being produced.
Compere for the evening is Eric Stein, a member of the Saffron United Pipe Band from Long Island in New York, who has been an avid supporter, friend and admirer of the St Laurence O'Toole band for many years.
Gary McDonald, chairman of concert promoters Banbridge Pipe Band, said: "We consider it an immense honour to have secured the services of St Laurence O'Toole to present a concert of this magnitude, and the interest in securing tickets has been intense."
Some tickets for 'Dawning of the Day', (£12 or 17 euro) are available from Gary (phone 4062 6543 or 07802 505611) and Keith Gourley (phone 4062 3222 or 07786 887776) or from any member of Banbridge Pipe Band.
Other outlets include Beat Street in Cullybackey; Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle; Essey Musical Supplies in Belfast; and Walsh's Newsagents, Banbridge.
The Malahide Festival of Piping and Drumming will be held on Friday and Saturday 14 and 15 May in the beautiful setting of Malahide Castle.
The Friday event is the invitational solos competition which will be adjudicated by Pipe Major Tom Anderson, the new Pipe Major of Grade 2 Niagara Regional Police from Ontario, and Ian McLellan ex Pipe Major of the Strathclyde Police Pipe band, who led his band to victory in the world championships an amazing thirteen times.
Around 40 entries have been received for the Malahide Festival and they include all of the top Grade 1 bands from Ireland. They are St.Laurence O'Toole, Field Marshal Montgomery, Ballycoan, Ravara and Bleary & District.
The adjudicators for Saturday's event will be Tom Anderson, Ian MacLellan, Malcolm MacKenzie and Ian Wood - all for piping, with Ciaran Mordaunt and Gordon Parkes for drumming. Ensemble will be judged by John Noble and Denver Cardwell.
On Saturday evening there will be a novelty solo piping competition in Gibney's Bar Malahide where the winner can pick up prize money of 500euros.
There are 123 bands entered for the Scottish Championships, which are the first of this year's five majors, and they will take place at Dumbarton on 22 May.
Fifteen bands from Northern Ireland will travel over to compete at this event, along with four local adjudicators. They are for Grade I - Sandy Steele; Grade 2 - Ian Wood; Grade 3 - Denver Cardwell and Grade 4 - Gordon Parkes.
All of our Grade 1 bands will be competing - Field Marshal Montgomery, Ravara, Ballycoan and Bleary & District, who will be competing in the top grade One section for their first time after their promotion.
More people now studying pipe band music
MORE people are now studying music at senior grades according to Sam Bailie, Director of the NI Piping and Drumming School which meets at Laurelhill Community College.
Speaking at the school's award ceremony, Mr Bailie said the success of the school was reflected in the performance of its pupils in external competitions. Councillor Ronnie Crawford, who is President of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) Northern Ireland Branch, and his wife Jean attended the event as guests of honour.
Over 90 certificates were presented to students for practical piping and drumming as well as the theory of music, from grade one to eight.
The school is continuing to grow each year, this year introducing bass and tenor classes and launching their own web site to which they hope to add an interactive learning element soon.
Councillor Crawford said the School was the jewel in the crown of the RSPBA in Northern Ireland and that it was impossible to measure its immense positive value to the Association.