East Antrim successes at accordion festival

East Antrim Juniors Hannah and Lauren Blackburn pictured with Abigail Park who were taking part in the Accordion Band Championships in Carrickfergus. INCT 09-414-RM
East Antrim Juniors Hannah and Lauren Blackburn pictured with Abigail Park who were taking part in the Accordion Band Championships in Carrickfergus. INCT 09-414-RM

East Antrim musicians tasted success at the 17th Northern Ireland Open Accordion Championships at Carrick’s Clarion Hotel on Saturday.

East Antrim musicians tasted success at the 17th Northern Ireland Open Accordion Championships at Carrick’s Clarion Hotel on Saturday.

Organised by Clyde Johnston, the accordion festival, which attracted a record 215 entries, is recognised by the National Accordion Organisation of the United Kingdom as a qualifier for the UK Championships. Competitors were drawn from Meath, Dublin, Southern England and Glasgow in addition to the local participants.

Adjudicators Ivan Black, Audrey Gillian and Sarah McEvoy were greatly impressed by the high standard of playing and the smooth manner in which the event was run. Star performers were Castletown Advanced Ensemble under the direction of John Chilton from County Cavan along with Niamh Murray and Jonathan Callaghan from County Meath. The ensemble so impressed the adjudicators with their performance of Micro Suite in the Advanced Group section that they awarded them the prize for Best Overall Performance of the Day and Niamh’s performance in the Senior Recital got her second place in the Best Overall category with Jonathan’s performances in winning the Musette Solo 17 & Under, the Advanced Solo Own Choice and the Open Solo sections earning him third prize in the Best Overall category.

Larne man Robert McGregor also had another memorable day picking up five first prizes in the Late Starters Elementary, Polka, Scottish, Musette & Gospel sections as well as taking second place in the Irish. A four times winner was Evelyn Moore from Templepatrick in the Late Starters Higher Intermediate Solo, Senior Sacred Solo, Higher Intermediate Duet & Sacred Duet whilst triple prize winners were Louise Heaney from County Meath who won the Championship Solo 17 & Under, the Junior Recital and Advanced Solo Test Piece and Sophia Miller from England who won the Higher Preparatory Test Piece section and the 12 & Under Polka Solo before teaming up with big sister Imogen to won the Higher Elementary Duet Section.

Double prize winners were the Doherty sisters Nicole and Madison from County Meath with Nicole winning the Championship Solo 15 & Under and the Higher Intermediate Own Choice sections whilst Madison won the Elementary Solo Test Piece and Polka Sol 10 & Under. Other double prize winners were; Rachael Fitzpatrick (County Meath) in the Championship Solo 11 & the Higher Elementary Own Choice as well as combining with Madison in The Mozart section for a Silver Award; Jonathan Wilson (Larne) in the Polka Solo 16 & Under and the Higher Elementary Duet Own Choice Solo with Emma Dunlop from Carrickfergus. Emma also did the double in the Higher Elementary Solo Own Choice and the 14 & Under Polka Solo; Louise Boomer (Newtownabbey) in the Late Starters Higher Elementary Solo and Duet Sections; Molly McKenna (County Meath) in the Preparatory Solo Own Choice & the 9 & Under Musette Solo; Michael McKeon-Boyle (County Cavan) in the 13 & Under Championship Solo & the 12 & Under Irish Traditional Solo; Amanda Robinson (Larne) in the Senior Scottish & Senior Irish Traditional Solos and Susanna Coon (Larne) in the Preparatory Solo Test Piece as well as teaming up with her sister Joanna to win the Preparatory Duet section.

Other competitors from the Republic of Ireland who won their solo sections were, David Connolly, Senior Polka; Ciara Beirne, Senior Musette; Siobhan Nelligan, Senior Frosini; Grace McGarvey, Higher Preparatory Solo Own Choice; Ciara Masterson,15 & Under Musette; Oisin Carolan,13 & Under Musette; Jordan Curtis,11 & Under Musette; Fiachra Smith, Preliminary Solo; Eabha Carolan, Introductory Solo; Evan Eiffe, 12 & Under Scottish Traditional Solo; Aodhamair Reilly, Irish Traditional Solo 13-15yrs;Sam Fitzpatrick 9 & Under Championship Solo; Sinead Collier, Intermediate Solo; Juliann Callaghan, Late Starters Irish Traditional Solo; Michael Daly, Late Starters Higher Preparatory Solo and Charlotte MeKenna in the Elementary Solo Own Choice, whilst Matt Murdoch from Glasgow won the Senior Jazz Solo.

On the local front there was also success for Shannon Brown from Larne who won the Scottish Tradition 13-15 years Solo section and came third in the Polka Solo 16 & Under whilst Abigail Park from Ballynure won the Junior Sacred Solo as well as being placed third in the Elementary Solo sections. Chelsea Morrow from Kilwaughter won the First Time Solo 14 & Under section and Ballycarry girl Katie Bell got two seconds in the 14 & Under Polka Solo and the 13 & Under Musette whilst three Larne girls were also among the prizes. Chole Davison 3rd in the 14 & Under Polka and the 15 & Under Musette; Hannah Blackburn 2nd in the Elementary Solo Test Piece section and sister Lauren 4th in the Elementary Solo.

In the other Group sections Andante (Co Meath) won the Intermediate Test Piece Section with East Antrim Juniors winning the Own Choice and Entertainment sections. The Muff Crew from County Cavan won the Elementary Group.

In the graded orchestral sections the Castletown Accordion Orchestras from County Cavan did a clean sweep winning the Preliminary, Elementary, Advanced and Art Level sections. They also were awarded second prize in the Orchestral Percussion with Killyglen Accordion Orchestra from Larne taking third prize in the Percussion as well as second prize in the Advanced section.

East Antrim Seniors Accordion Orchestra earned the highest Orchestral mark of the day with their rendition of Hallelujah in the Orchestral Sacred section, they also won the Orchestral Club Band section and the Intermediate Orchestral March sections in addition to being awarded gold for their Entertainment programme as well as winning the Best Overall Orchestral Percussion prize. Second place in the Orchestra Sacred section when to the Laharna Accordion Group from Larne who were also awarded Silver in the Entertainment and second in the Junior Orchestral March section. This was won by Lily of the Valley Accordion Band from Comber who also competed in the Marching Band sections winning Intermediate Test Piece and Sacred sections as well as taking second prizes in the Intermediate Own Choice and Drum Corp sections. These were won by Aughafatten Accordion Band from Broughshane making their debut at the championships with another debut band Crimson Star Accordion Band from Desertmartin, County Londonderry, winning the 1st Grade Junior section and being awarded second in the Sacred category.

Prizes were presented by the Mayor of Carrickfergus, Alderman Billy Ashe, at a gala dance. Clyde added: “Special thanks are due to the management and staff of the Clarion Hotel for providing the excellent facilities and their professionalism and helpfulness throughout the day which contributed greatly to the smooth running of the festival; Carrickfergus Borough Council and the souvenir programme advertisers for sponsoring the championships and to the stage managers, Ruth Campbell, Jack Gowdy, Elaine Brennan, Russell Ramage and Alan Scott; competitions co-ordinator Mark Johnston, as well as Ian Campbell, Bill McCartney and Gary Brennan who manned the information desk.