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VIDEO | NI brass band hits a high note with competition win

VIDEO | Enjoy this beautiful heartwarming and award winning performance by Downshire Brass in the video at the bottom of page.

With no opportunity for live performances available during the Covid pandemic this year, Downshire Brass members made a recording to go head to head in a worldwide brass band competition.

The Cory Band Championships saw 68 bands from Singapore to Scotland, Europe and the USA compete in an online competition during which Downshire Flugelhorn player Lauren Stewart brought one of the judges to tears.

The 20-year-old was named Best Soloist while the band was named as First Section Champion Band!

The programme (below) entitled’ Tales and Yarns from Home’, by Downshire Brass draws its inspiration from the people, places and cultures of Northern Ireland. In a sequence of three interlinked works composed and arranged by the band’s MD, the programme takes us on a journey from the ancient, rural landscapes of Co Down to the modern, urban maritime landscapes of Belfast – from the old to the new.

The programme opens with an arrangement of “She Moved through the Fair”, featuring flugelhorn soloist Lauren Stewart and solo contributions from Gary Dodsworth, Lauren Ward and Jonny Sproule. The piece is scored for the lower instruments in the band together with two vibraphones – played conventionally and bowed.

The second and third works were written specially for this contest by the band’s MD and recorded in the last few weeks in his garage! The first piece is based on a traditional tune, “A Ragged Hank of Yarn”, which Michael Alcorn notes is a reflection on the historical importance of crafts and the textile industries to Northern Ireland in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This traditional reel gives way to a solo, played by the band’s principal euphonium Jonny Sproule, symbolising the transition from rural to urban, from County Down to Belfast in the 1940s and 50s and the strains of the well-known local song “I’ll Tell Me Ma” begin to emerge. The last part is a short romp that takes us through Belfast’s maritime quarter and features vocal contributions from members of the youth band and special guests Gracenotes.

“Special thanks to our guest players who helped us with this unique project. In particular, thanks to John Murdock, Fraser Ramsay, Adam Smith and Ben McKeown. Many thanks also to Gracenotes (Alexandra, Aurora, Grace and Pam); our quartet of 'Young Gracenotes' (Aoibhy, Holly, Ella and Lana) and to Sarah and Kay from the Ulster Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.”

Well done guys! Superb!! ♥️👏🏼

Check out Downshire Brass’ Facebook page and Youtube channel for more fantastic sounds. 🎶🎵 🎼

𝗙𝗔𝗖𝗘𝗕𝗢𝗢𝗞: @DownshireBrass


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