Dunloy Accordion Band raise £3,000 for Help for Heroes

THE LONG, dark winter nights often provide a great opportunity to bring communities together and a fantastic way to do this is through the form of a charity concert.

One such concert took place last Friday night when the members of Dunloy Accordion Band hosted their annual Concert of Marching Bands in the Braid Centre Ballymena.

After the concert group’s performance the band took the opportunity to complete their most recent charitable efforts with the presentation of a cheque for £3,000 to Neil Sommerville from Help for Heroes.

This fantastic sum had been raised at their tattoo and beating retreat which had been organised by the bands drum major Davy Mercer and staged in Seaview football ground in September last year.

On receiving the cheque Neil Sommerville said he could not thank Davy and the band enough for organising the beating retreat event. The generous amount of money raised for the charity will be used to help servicemen and women of our armed forces who otherwise would have faced a bleak future and difficult times ahead.

This concert has become an annual event since its inception several years ago and its popularity is now such that although the official start time was 8pm, audience members had begun to assemble in the Braid Centre foyer at 6.30pm. When it was time for curtain up only a handful of seats remained and an electric air of expectation filled the auditorium.

What followed was a two and a half hour spectacular of the very best marching band music to be heard. Opening act was the Dunloy Bands’ own concert group who gave a performance including marches, pop, sacred and traditional music. The bands’ vocal soloist Diana Culbertson left the audience enthralled with her performances of Caledonia and Amazing Grace.

One of the traditions established within the band since its formation has been their work in support of various charities. A notable feature of the concert in the last few years has been the inclusion of brass bands in the line-up of artistes. This year was no exception as the Dunloy band had invited 3rd Carrick Silver Band to perform in the concert.

Unknown to many in the audience, the band were greeted with warm applause as they took to the stage with their conductor. From the very first note, the Braid Centre was filled with the most glorious sound of a resounding brass band. Under the watchful eye of their conductor, the 3rd Carrick Band moved effortlessly through a program that ranged from the sublime Concerto De Aranjuez to the finger twisting Bugler’s Holiday.

Warm when it needed to be, orchestral when they wanted it to be, the sound they made from their band, soloists and ensembles was greeted by rapturous applause at the end of their half hour program. ‘More please’ was the request from many spectators as the band exited the stage.

After a short interval, Maiden City Beat was next on stage and from the point where they were introduced to the audience it became very clear that the assembled music lovers were in for a real treat. This 5 piece ensemble are all members of Londonderry’s Churchill Flute Band and are testament to the true diversity, range and quality of musical talent that exists within our marching bands today.

Multi-instrumentalists, they performed a set that ranged from raucous and bawdy traditional pieces to classics from the pen of Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits moving seamlessly from instrument to instrument and each displaying virtuosic qualities of music making regardless of which they were playing. Particular outstanding were the flute solos of premiere flautist Janice Channing who held the audience in the palm of her hand with the quality of music she produced for them.

A great concert always needs a great finish and what better way to round off the night’s music than with one of the provinces’ most outstanding flute bands – the East Belfast UVF Regimental Band. The term ‘flute band’ really doesn’t do this ensemble justice as they are more like an orchestra of flutes due to the quality of the sound they produce. Dressed in their authentic First World War uniforms, the band performed piece after piece of beautifully arranged and very carefully prepared Melody Flute Band music.

The most striking thing about the bands performance, as is always the case when they play, is the care and attention they lavish on every single bar of the music – almost as if every single note counts equally to them. Backed up by a superb drum corps, this was a performance that ended the evening with style, panache and true class. Bravo!

Of course, the individual acts in a concert are only as good as the ‘glue’ that holds it all together – the compere. If you haven’t heard compere Brian Johnston before then no words written about this gentleman could do him justice. The most consummate professional, Brian entertained the audience with stories, jokes and anecdotes that left a smile on everybody’s face regardless of age or background. A tireless worker for charitable causes, Brian added a touch of class to the night that many considered the ‘icing on the cake’ of a perfect night out.

The members of Dunloy Accordion Band would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in any way that made their annual concert such a success. The band members were delighted with the support the concert received from the public on the night and are already looking forward to next year’s event.