Ballymena and Harryville Young Conquerors Flute Band Spring Concert

BALLYMENA and Harryville Young Conquerors Flute Band has recently celebrated its 125th anniversary and lays claim to being the longest surviving musical group in the area.

The success of the band’s spring concert on Thursday, April 26 at the Braid Arts Centre would indicate that its record in this regard is safe for some time to come. Playing to a packed house, they performed a wide repertoire of pieces from Beethoven to Bond – the latter, a foot tapping medley of well known 007 themes including ‘From Russia with Love’, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘You only live Twice’.

The band’s conductor, Richard Douglas runs a tight ship. Himself an accomplished flautist, he demands a high level of commitment from his players. It is clear that they take pride in putting on a polished performance. They also enjoy a challenge and the extract played from Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers was certainly that.

Prepared for an upcoming competition in Scotland, it spectacularly demonstrated the musicianship of every section and got one of the loudest rounds of applause of the evening. This, like so many of the pieces they performed, was arranged specifically for the band by Mark Douglas (Richard’s brother). Having bespoke material like this is a real asset.

And the future of the band seems secure based on confident debut performances by three of its youngest members – Conor Crabbe aged 7, Dana Kernohan aged 10 and Katie Williams also aged 10.

Given that the world renowned flute player, James Galway has his roots in marching bands, who knows what might be in store for these young people. A recent report produced by the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) identified the contribution that bands make to their local communities.

Not surprisingly, the provision of musical tuition for young people was near the top of the list of benefits. The report identified a total of 327 flute bands across Northern Ireland with 31 of these doing ‘part music’ i.e. using a wide range of flutes and playing a classically based, quasi orchestral repertoire. These have the greatest impact in terms of providing musical training to the younger generation and Young Conquerors is an excellent example of this.

The concert also featured a number of guest artists including Clara Wilson – soprano, Philip Cartwright – pianist and Carl Bennett - oboe. Clara, a contestant on the BBC’s “How do you sole a problem like Maria” sang a number of pieces including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu (first made famous by Sarah Brightman).

Carl’s spellbinding rendition of Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission was another highlight of the evening.

As compere, Jackie Fullerton’s homespun humour and rapport with the audience pulled it together into a great night’s entertainment. Well done to all involved.