North West Music Festival concludes in style!

The Alley came alive for three days of thrilling music performances, competitions and workshops, highlighting the very best in talent not only within Strabane and the North West, but across Northern Ireland and the rest of Europe. From the magnificent Swedish National Youth Brass Band to St Joseph’s Brass Band storming to victory within their section, the North West Music Festival surpassed all expectation.

The festival started on April 2nd with musical workshops for local students interested in pop, rock and brass workshops. Led by Brendan Breslin, the celebrated Irish composer and musician, over 140 students benefited from excellent tuition and hands-on experience with some of the leading musicians in their field.

In the afternoon, Radio Foyle and BBC Newsline descended onto Strabane and the Alley to promote this wonderful community festival. “The Mark Patterson Show” held an outside broadcast in the Alley’s Jenca Cafe, interviewing various participants in the festival, musicians, local business and political leaders, while Keiron Tourish, BBC Newsline North West correspondant filmed workshops in action and a performance by the Swedish National Youth Band and St Joseph’s Brass Band at the world famous “Tinnies” statues.

The Dublin Concert Brass Band and Brendan Breslin thrilled a packed audience on April 3rd with their performance of “Music from the Mills”, a collection of big band, swing, brass music, which simply pulsed with energy and rhythm.

On Saturday, April 4th over 20 brass bands from across Northern Ireland fought it out in the Alley auditorium to be crowned champions, with Strabane’s St Joseph’s Brass Band once again winning their section and Strabane Concert Brass coming a very respectable 3rd in their section. The competition started at 10 a.m and did not finish until 6 p.m, with packed audiences throughout the day enjoying some of the very best in brass band music in the UK on show.

The grand finale of the festival was the Swedish National Youth Brass Band and Steve Sykes, who gave a gripping performance of music around the world. “The Swedish group had a fantastic time in Strabane and musical friendships have been built for years to come with the exciting visit by our European partners” commented John Kerr, Alley Theatre Manager. “The North West Music Festival has been an amazing success and we look forward to welcoming the North West Festival Committee back again next year”.

Tommy Barr, North West Music Festival Director and member of St Joseph’s Brass Band commented “The festival has been a fantastic experience for everyone involved and I would like to sincerely thank all the sponsors, including Strabane District Council, The Connect Project, MK Audio and other local businesses for their support, without which this whole event would not be possible. We have now demonstrated to the musical world what talent Strabane and the North West has and we look forward to next year!”.

Source: The Alley Theatre

Busy Weekend!!!

This weekend sees St. Joseph’s Brass Band, Strabane; host another weekend full of entertainment. After the initial idea from band chairman, Thomas Barr, the weekend promises to be action-packed with plenty of variety for anyone with a musical interest. The initial plan was for the Band to offer the venue for the years Brass Band League (BBL) Spring Festival. This is Northern Ireland’s only “sole brass” contest which sees the band fight it out for the best in section title. Not wanting to simply put on the competition the band decided to go one further and implement a “Music Festival” whereby the competition would simply be an element in the weekend.

The result of all of this has seen the band play at the Stormont Assembly building in Belfast to launch the official “North West Music Festival.” This saw the band play in front of invited guests and some of the Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland. Included in this festival are workshops, master classes, acoustic music night, and a battle of the bands competition and even a few concerts, not to mention the BBL Spring League competition. Musical workshops will be run by professional players from England, as well as some of Irelands finest. Conducting classes, music technology classes and even composing classes.

Thursday sees the workshops come down to school level whereby the musicians will visit local schools and give them an insight as to what music is all about, with a particular emphasis on brass. On the Thursday night there is a “Battle of the Bands” competition, which is open to anyone aged 12-18. These bands will have to showcase their talents and try to impress the judges on the night.

Friday sees some of the older pupils from Secondary school visit the Alley Theatre and workshops by members of the Swedish National Youth Brass Band will host these classes. The Friday night sees local man and nationally acclaimed musician, Brendan Breslin, host a night of big band music for all to enjoy. Brendan and his band have been around Ireland many times and it is a highly anticipated event entitled “Music from the Mills.”

Saturday will be, for many, the big day as The BBL brings the competition to Strabane. The BBL itself was formed in 1942 as a sister organisation of the North of Ireland Bands Association (the governing body for bands in Northern Ireland since 1907). The Spring Festival is Northern Ireland’s own competition set aside solely for the Brass Bands of the Country. Unlike its NIBA equivalent, which has been traditionally held in Belfast’s Ulster Hall for the past 80 years, the SF is classified as an ‘own choice’ contest. The contest will see 18 of Ireland’s bands travel to compete in their respective sections and adjudicator for the contest is Mr. Alan Fernie.
Saturday night will then see the Swedish National Youth Brass Band (SNYBB) take to the stage of the Alley to play a concert featuring guest soloists. This is a highly anticipated event that should finalise a very successful week for the Strabane area and moreover, St. Joseph’s Brass Band. The band people in Strabane have always had to travel to attend contests so on this one occasion the members of St. Joseph’s Brass Band and Strabane Concert Brass can enjoy the benefits of Strabane being the focal point in the BBL Spring Festival.

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