Big thank you from

World piping maestros mark `dawning' of the new season.  

Pipe Bands by Mervyn McConnell

ONE of the world's premier pipe bands will provide a unique musical feast when it presents its first-ever full-scale concert in Northern Ireland this spring.

Dublin-based St Laurence O'Toole Pipe Band, recognised the world over for its innovative style of music and its inventive and exhilarating arrangements, will take to the stage in the 800-capacity Shimna Suite at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, Co. Down.

The concert, which is being promoted by Banbridge Pipe Band, takes place on Saturday, May 8 - just a week before the start of the 2004 season. And fittingly, given the timing of the event, the concert - which is expected to be a sell-out - will be entitled 'Dawning of the Day,. St Laurence O'Toole, founded in 1910, have been the Irish Pipe Band Association's finest ambassadors over the last two decades, and last August recorded their highest-ever finish in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, where they came ninth overall.

Under the direction of Pipe Major Terry Tully, Pipe Sergeant Ronan Maguire and Drum Sergeant Dean Hall, the band will present a two-and-a-half hour extravaganza featuring traditional selections as well as specially written compositions and arrangements.

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 Pipe Band to present a concert of this magnitude, and already the interest in securing tickets has been intense.

"Over the last two decades many of the world's top pipe band have played to sell-out audiences across Northern Ireland, and St Laurence will now rightly take their place among that distinguished roll of honour.

Tickets for 'Dawning of the Day, (£12 or 17 euro) are available from Gary McDonald (phone 4062 6543 or 07802 505611) and Keith Gourley (phone 40623222 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; Andante Percussion in Banbridge; and Walsh's Newsagents, Banbridge.

The Sergeant Walker Memorial Pipe Band will be staging their annual concert in the Masonic Hall, Armagh on Friday 19 March.

As well as the host band there will be performances from Banbridge Pipes, Altnaveight Memorial band, the drum corps of Howard Memorial and solo piper Ian Burrows.

And if that line up doesn't convince you to attend there will also be a dance at the end featuring music by 'Manhattan'.

All this for £5 and you can pay at door.

The Quinn Memorial Pipe Band will be holding their concert in Garvagh High School on Thursday, 25 March at 8 pm.

Last season the band had great success on the, competition field which secured their promotion to Grade 3A. They were one of the bands selected by BBC television to feature in their broadcast of the world pipe band championships.

As well as the Quinn there will be music from Emma Culbert and Robert Watt -, both very entertaining performers. The compere will be Robert Ramsey and tickets cost £5 and are available from all band members.

As admission will be by ticket only and there is a limited number available, it is advisable to get yours early. Contact Pipe Major Harold Bloomfield on 2954 1393 for further details Entries close on 27 March for the Saintfield Mini Bands contest, which will take place in Ballygowan Church Hall on Saturday 10 April. Adjudicators will be John Moles (piping) and Billy Dunlop (drumming).

Contact Wendy Patterson on 97 528995 for further details.

The members of the Northern Ireland Branch of the RSPBA are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Myrtle McCarroll MBE, wife of the ex President of the RSPBA Tom McCarroll from Ahoghill.

Myrtle was an untiring worker for the pipe band association and was chairperson of the Ahoghill Village Festival every year, in which the pipe band contest took pride of place. She died peacefully on Saturday 6 March and deepest sympathy is offered to Tom and all the family members.

Ulster Star