PREPARATIONS are now underway for the 62nd All Ireland Championships, which will be held in Donard Park in Newcastle on Saturday July 7, commencing at 11.30am.
This year 62 bands have entered for the competition. It is hoped that the BBC will be there to televise the whole event and, as in the past, this has always proved to be an entertaining show.
This year with the support of the Ulster-Scots Agency the Northern Ireland branch are planning to put on a family festival event, which will include a Highland Dancing competition, an historical re-enactment by Irish Arms, children's activities as well as the pipe band championships.
The adjudicators will include, for piping, F. Connolly, D. Cardwell. J Wilson and D. Ingram, for ensemble, C. Mordaunt, D. Clark and for drumming G. Parkes and D. Brown. There will then be a one-week break for the holidays with the competitions re-commencing on Saturday July 21 with the North Down Pipe band Championships in Bangor.
10-year-old Bradley Parker, who plays in Cottown Pipe Band, appeared on ITV recently along with his tutor Norman Dodds. After giving a solo performance it was explained that Bradley had won a new set of bagpipes worth £3000 presented by the Arts Council.
This young talented piper has been making quite a name for himself and now with such a quality instrument available to him, look out for his name on future championship trophies.
Banbridge Pipe Band, who have been unable to compete this season due to lack of personnel, are back in business again and will be out at the last competition of the year, which is the North West championships to take place in Portrush.
The band compete in Grade 3A under the leadership of Pipe Major Alan Gourley and his brother Ian who leads the drum corps. This outfit is one of the oldest competing bands in Ulster and it is good news that they will be out once again competing at competitions.
The Competing Soloists Organisation will again promote its solo piping and solo drumming competitions as part of the festivities at Glenarm Highland Games on Friday July 13 and Saturday July 14. This, the third running of the event, has fast become an annual promotion.
Set in the picturesque ground of the Earl of Antrim's estate at Glenarm Castle, the competitions take place in a true Highland Games atmosphere and are very much looked forward to by the young soloist as one of their favourite solos.
An added attraction at this year's event will be the appearance of young pipers and drummers from Kintyre Schools Pipe Band from the Campbeltown area of Argyll in Scotland. These extremely talented young musicians will entertain the massed crowds playing as a band with individual players also taking part in the solo competitions.
The RSPBA have confirmed that a new company has been formed to film and record the non Grade 1 bands at the majors. The association will get a nominal fee for each disc sold and its success will depend largely on the bands concerned. It they don't buy the DVDs or CDs the project won't work.
So Chairman Kevin Reilly is urging all supporters and bands people to support this new idea.
In his message to bands men and women he said: "Bands who today may never find the fame and fortune of Grade 1 will nevertheless soon be able to have a personal record of their hard work and achievement- something of value that will grow with the years."