THIS year's Annual General Meeting, held in Glasgow recently, had 62 delegates present including 21 from the Northern Ireland Branch.
Top of the agenda was the proposed amalgamation of the Grade 4 A & 4B bands. This motion was defeated but the 2/4 marches plus a medley selection at all major championships will still be implemented.
Our own local competitions will not be affected and bands will be allowed to continue to play their medley of tunes. This rule will become operative from 2006.
One result coming from the AGM is that the Northern Ireland Branch has now three important positions within the body of the Mother Association. George Ussher from Ballinderry was re-elected as President of the RSPBA, with Kenny Crothers from Lisburn also re-elected as convenor of the finance and sub-committees.
Taking over a new post will be National Council, contest secretary and Co. Down secretary Mervyn Herron. He will now add the title of convenor of the marketing and media sub-committees to his already busy schedule.
Congratulations to all these men on the recognition of their wholehearted dedication and enthusiasm to the pipe band movement.
The Ulster Youth Ensemble, which is a cross-cultural, cross-community project, incorporating piping, drumming, drum-majors and dancing is inviting anyone interested to view an Open Dress Rehearsal in The Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown, on Wednesday 30 March at 7.45pm. Admission is free.
The Ensemble has already given two performances in recent months since its formation and will be providing the musical programme at the 25th Presentation of Certificates of The Northern Ireland Piping and Drumming School in the Lisburn Civic Centre on Wednesday 11 May.
The Ensemble is drawn from performers from all over the province and some from across the border, most of whom play in successful championship bands.
They have, therefore, great demands on their time and effort in producing a repertoire, which is both interesting and varied. All concerned deserve great credit for being able to manage the demands of both local band and ensemble.
The Ensemble is in its first year, being funded through The Rural Development Council, but has succeeded in attracting some of the best piping and drumming talent in the country.
An ambitious Training Programme, which was open to anyone to attend, has been provided through The Institute of Ulster Scots Studies, University of Ulster with the backing of The Ulster Scots Agency over the past number of months, using the world's leading instructors in their field.
These have included Andrew Wright, Terry Tully, Brendan Monaghan, Patrick Molard, Donald MacPhee, Christine Lacey, Tom and Gordon Brown and Willie MrCallum
The drum majors too, have achieved enormous individual successes, including world titles. They are under the competent guidance of Brian Wilson and Paula Braiden.
The dancing element is provided by the Lynsey Ellis group of Highland dancers and the Royal Tara School of Irish Dancing. Elma McCausland's group of Scottish Country Dancers is also involved but will not be performing on this occasion.
The programme being provided in the Burnavon Theatre is intended to depart from the usual production of pipe band performances and will include a section on classical and piobaireachd music and dance alongside Irish and Scottish music and dance. This is a significant development in the piping scene in Northern Ireland and all the instructors, themselves heavily committed in championship bands, should be congratulated for their unselfish efforts in getting this project off the ground.
The Ensemble is about to go into recess for the outdoor competition season but anyone between the ages of 12 and 25 who is interested in joining should contact Sam Bailie, Director, at 38A Railway Street, Lisburn BT28 1XP, Telephone 92 628591 or 90 485436. All applicants will be interviewed and anyone with skills in keyboard or tuned percussion will be particularly welcome.
Please note also that Donald MacPhee will be continuing his course on 'Piping for Highland Dancing' on Saturday 9 April in Dalriada House, University of Ulster, Jordanstown Campus, from 1.30pm. till 4.30pm.
Those completing the course will be eligible to enter for the Certificate in Piping for Highland Dancing awarded by The Northern Ireland Piping and Drumming School.
The closing date for entries for the 18th Annual Solo Piping and drumming competition organised by Cullybackey Pipe Band is Saturday 26th March. For details of this competition and entry forms please contact Mr. J.Gribben, 52 Elmwood, Cullybackey, Ballymena. BT43 5PY tel. no. 25 881901.
Seven Towers Pipe band will be once again staging their popular concert on Saturday 16th April in Ballee High School commencing at 8pm.
As well as performances from band members supporting artists will include Kellswater Flute Band, Kellie and Edith and compere Robert Agnew. Tickets cost £5 and can be obtained from Pipe Major David Reid telephone 25 881119 or any band member.