From Front, left:
Susan Rigby, Andrew Douglas, David Mays, Victoria Gibson, Audrey Spratt, Victoria Watson, Laura McBride, Stephen Gibson, Taylor Ross, Johnathan Gourley, Matthew Gourley, John Dawson, Stephen Carse, Jim Gourley, John Douglas, Robert McMurray, Geoffrey Gourley, Mark Douglas, Brian Kerr, Darren Canmore

Our annual BBQ was held on Friday 10 June and a grand time was had by all. Visit our Members page or our Facebook for some photos

Annual General Meeting 2011

It's as you were after the AGM with Dougie Gourley continuing as Chairman, Victoria Gibson as Secretary and Robert McMurray as Treasurer.

The Flute Band Association's annual Own Choice Contest was held in The Island Civic Centre, Lisburn on Saturday 26 February 2011, and seven bands competed in the championship section. The adjudicator was John Bryce who was not a stranger to flute ensembles, and in his remarks he referred to the "absolute stunning and amazing" standard of the bands in the top section. He also picked out the arrangers of the music and commended their commitment. He advised percussion players not to forget that they had to complement the flute playing which demonstrated "loads" of cracking players, and he had a fun poke at the thankless task of conductors.
His adjudication produced a third place for Ballyclare, a close second for Ballylone, and he placed Ballygowan first. 
Ballylone won the percussion prize, Ballygowan's young Andrew Douglas won the piccolo prize, and the interpretation prize went to Ballygowan's conductor Windsor Hylands. Mr. Bryce's parting comment was that he had never heard a performance like that of the winning band.
The success meant that Ballygowan had earned a top-two finish in the Own Choice Contest for the eleventh straight year.

Congratulations to our solo G-treble player Richard Douglas who, for the third year in a row, led Ballymena Young Conquerors to first place in Grade 2.

The bands' test pieces were Capriccio Espagnol ( Korsakov), Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo (Copland), Sheherazade (Korsakov), Polovtsian Dances (Borodin), William Tell (Rossini), Capriccio Italien (Tchaikovsky), Morning, Noon and Night (Suppé).
Ballygowan played Capriccio Italien by Pyotr Ilvich Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky composed Capriccio Italien in 1880 after a visit to Rome. Apparently he was very taken with much of the music he heard there, especially the folk music, and the fanfare at the beginning reflected an army bugle call heard from his hotel. It is also said that he found inspiration in Glinka’s Spanish Pieces.

The work was initially well received, but the composer is reported to have later doubted if the work contained any musical merit. He subsequently arranged it for piano.

Conducting master class - you've gotta see this!!
(Acknowledgement to Choral Net)

On Saturday 11th December, the band led the praise for the carols at the Christmas Tree Party for the Community Association and more especially for the younger set.

On Friday evening 3rd December a large ensemble from the band played in First Comber Presbyterian Church to entertain visitors during their Flower Festival - the theme of the festival was "JOY" in keeping with Advent. First Comber Praise Band provided the music on Saturday evening, Comber Silver Band on Sunday afternoon, and The PSNI Women's Choir participated in a very enriching and enjoyable Sunday evening service.
In spite of the icy weather the project was a huge success for First Comber Presbyterian and they will be forwarding several thousand pounds to the World Development Appeal, which provides support to very poor people in far-off lands by helping them to help themselves.

We wish to express our thanks to Bandsman, Arranger & Composer Alex Abbott for his score of the sacred song "The stranger in Galilee". Our Vice-President Bob McMurray had asked him about it at an earlier date, and Alex brought it to the World Championship in Armagh (especially personalised). He also included another score for Ballygowan.Alex is well known throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland and USA for his arrangements and compositions for flute ensembles, and we simply wish to record our appreciation of his efforts past, present and future.

The 2010 World Championship has again come and gone. The music for the 2010 World Flute Band Championship section (arranged by David Heaney) is The Three-Cornered Hat by Manuel De Falla. It  includes The Neighbour's Dance (Seguidillas), The Miller's Dance (Farruca), Final Dance (Jota)
Manuel de Falla was born in 1876 in Cadiz in Spain and studied music in Madrid. He became very interested in native Spanish music, and the Three Cornered Hat started life as a ballet called The Magistrate & The Miller's Wife. Falla made a major contribution to his country's music and appeared for a number of years on a Spanish bank note.The Adjudicator Donald Finlayson, himself a flautist, commended the high standard of flute playing - indeed he added the words "ridiculously high". He said the flute students on the British mainland should be coming to this contest to hear for themselves what good flute playing is all about (he even suggested that the professionals should do likewise.
He also commented on the arranger (David Heaney) of Manuel De Falla's set of dances "The Three-Cornered Hat", saying how "it really worked" and how suitable it was for the occasion. He added that the piece demanded technical mastery and musicality, and while all the bands demonstrated one or the other, only a few achieved both. He then admitted to having to nit-pick and agonising before deciding between the two best performances. Kellswater Flute won the split decision over Ballygowan and our congratulations to them for their first win at this level. 
Congratulations are also due to our conductor Windsor Hylands (back from retirement) for winning the interpretation prize - yet again), and also to our solo G-Treble player Richard Douglas who guided The Young Conquerors Flute Band from Ballymena to their third successive victory in the Grade Two - they are now promoted to the championship section..While congratulations are flowing, spare a thought for Carolyn Watson who was the first female to conduct a winning performance in this World Championship contest (with Ballygowan in 1990, and with Ballyclare in 2004 & 2006), has now done it a fourth time - with Kellswater.

The only two people who at twelve years of age won the Flute Band Association's competition in Under-13, Under-16 and Open Solo in the same year - Sir James Galway (then of 39th Old Boys) and Andrew Douglas of the Ballygowan Flute Band. The photo was taken in September 2010 at Belfast's Ulster Hall.  The occasion was an honorary reception for Sir James and part of Belfast City Council's first ever Belfast Music Week. Sir James played the tin whistle, did a short talk and then mingled with the guests. 

Sunday 05 September was the 2010 final day of Band Concerts in Lord & Lady Dixon Park, Belfast. In earlier years the event would have been spoiled by the weather, because as Blaris Accordion were finishing their performance, the rain started. This year, however, the organisers had a lovely marquis for the bands and Ballygowan set up at the back leaving just about enough room for most of the listeners - those without brollies anyhow!The atmosphere inside the marquis was really special and the concert was a great success. Star of the show for the listeners was the youthful Andrew Douglas who wooed the audience with his piccolo performances in Bourée and Sousa's Stars & Stripes Forever)

The 2010 annual barbeque band photo (above) at Dougie's farm. A good time was had by all, and some money was raised for Band funds.

Scotland 2010

This year's away day was back to Troon for the S.A.F.B.A. 2010 Spring Contest. It was a good day for Carluke Primrose, who claimed the two first prizes and best overall. Ballygowan were second in both

.Standing (from left):

B. Kerr, M. Gourley, J. Gourley, J. Gourley, D. Canmore, L. Gourley, S. Carse, S. Rigby, R. McMurray, L. McBride, J. Gourley, A. Spratt, M. Douglas, S. Bass, V. Gibson, C. Kerr, D. Denvir, A. DouglasSeated (from left): S. Gibson, G. Gourley, T. Gourley, D. Gourley, M. Smith (Conductor), J. Douglas, J. Gourley, D. Mays, R. Douglas.

Seated (from left):.

S. Gibson, G. Gourley, T. Gourley, D. Gourley, M. Smith (Conductor), J. Douglas, J. Gourley, D. Mays, R. Douglas.

On 12 March 2010 the band played in a concert in Drumilly Church hall, Hamiltonsbawn, County Armagh. The Presbyterian Church there run a charity concert every year and we were delighted to accept the invitation to contribute. The concert also featured the local Silver Band.

The Civic Centre in Lisburn was the venue for the 50th Annual Own Choice Contest on Saturday 27 February 2010. For most flute band people this is the best day of the year, because of the variety of music on offer, but for some, nothing much changed other than the date, since last year's result was repeated exactly (Kellswater won it, Ballygowan were a close second and Hunter Moore finished third).

The adjudicator, Hughina Naylor was very well qualified for the job - being a flute player and flute teacher. It was also her fourth time to perform this function, and she stated how it was a privilege and that she was humbled by the standard of flute playing. She also referred to the brilliant arrangements of David Heaney (Ballclare) and Mark Douglas (Ballygowan) - they were responsible for no fewer than nine of the test pieces.

We would like to invest a few lines in appreciation of our Solo G-Treble player, Richard Douglas, who, for the third successive year, directed and conducted Ballymena Young Conquerors to first place in Grade 2. Also to Richard's partner on the first G-Treble, the youthful Victoria Watson, who directed and conducted Roses Lane Ends to a win in Grade 1.

Some examples of the music on offer: Sicilian vespers (Verde), The Accursed Huntsman (Franck), Fingals Cave (Mendelssohn), Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (Liszt), William Tell (Rossini), Rodeo (Copland), Slavonic Rhapsody (Friedman), Poet & Peasant, Light Cavalry (both by Suppe).
Ballygowan played Copland’s Rodeo.

On a snowy Friday evening of the 29th of January 2010, members and friends of the Ballygowan Flute Band met in La Mon House Hotel for a nice meal and an evening's fellowship, and in particular to say "thank you" for the contribution over 15 years of our recently retired Musical Director Dr. Windsor Hylands. During this period the band returned 33 wins in various competitions - something that the members would love to do again, but there are other excellent outfits out there who will have a say in that! His wife Isobel received a lovely bouquet and Windsor received a beautiful set of crystal decanter and glasses (presented resp. by Sarah Bass and President Sadie Strain). 

Lots of very nice things were said after the meal. Windsor talked about the enjoyment and pleasure of his time with the band and thanked everyone for their cooperation and friendship. He also reminded us that he would willing to step into the breach at any time in the future. He picked out James Gourley, Darren Canmore and Mark Douglas for their input in sectional rehearsals, and for Mark's contribution with his excellent arrangements. Band Chairman Dougie Gourley reflected on Windsor's legacy from 1994 to 2009 - 5 wins in the World Flute Band Championship, 10 first places in the Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest, 5 wins in the Scottish own Choice Contest and placed first in 9 Portrush Masters Entertainment Contest (no mention of a further 15 second place finishes in these contests nor of two firsts in the Isle of Man and two wins in March competitions). Dougie also highlighted the number of times when the Band was not placed first, that Windsor won the interpretation prize - as recently as the 2009 Own Choice Contest. Dougie added that these successes were achieved in an era when bands had become very professional due to the tuition available in our times, and to the ever increasing standard within the Flute Band movement. (More photos in our Photos & Trivia page)

Playing at the Ballygowan Association's Christmas Tree Party which started in 1983, and the band has played in every one since - this one being 2009. Unfortunately our conductor was adjudicating in Scotland and a number of our members also attended. Mark Douglas conducted and James Spratt (next to the Christmas tree) took the photo of the band.

World Flute Band Championship 2009 Winners

Ballygowan players and followers were delighted on Saturday 24th October evening to hear the adjudicator call our name as 2009 winners. The test piece was not a popular one, but none the less a good test. The top three bands made an excellent fist of it, but the proof of the pudding surely came within the adjudicator's remarks. Because the music was not at all well known - indeed it was composed by a pianist for pianists - he referred to having looked forward with interest to hear how the respective bands would "make music out of it".

The success was all the sweeter because it was our conductor, Windsor Hylands' last contest before he retired from active banding. Windsor worked very hand - not just in front of the band, but also at home - to make the most of this piece of music, and it capped a magnificent and memorable year for him. In the Flute Bands Association Own Choice Contest in February he won the interpretation prize for Dvorak's Carnival Overture. In the Scottish Own Choice Contest in May, Ballygowan were judged the best overall band, and he was awarded the interpretation prize for this year's World Championship. All-in-all it is a fitting tribute to one of our country's most respected musical directors. The number of first places that Dr. Hylands landed in his career may not be recorded, but it is probably more than 75! Enjoy your retirement Windsor, and accept your most sincere thanks for everything you did for us!

Theme and Variations (S. Taneyev)

The test piece for 2009 was Theme & Variations by Taneyev, a piano piece arranged for flute by P.Walton. The arranger actually composed the finale specifically for this contest.

Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev was born near Moscow in 1856. He began taking piano lessons at age five, and when he was nine entered the Moscow Conservatory - he was later to study under Tchaikovsky.

He graduated in 1875, the first student in the history of the Conservatory to win the gold medal for both composition and performing (piano). He was also the first person ever to be awarded the Conservatory's Great Gold Medal.

Taneyev was an accomplished performer and composer, and Tchaikovsky came to respect his professional opinion above most others (even though his frank opinions sometimes hurt the sensitive genius!) He was the soloist in the first Moscow performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, and he was to perform other Tchaikovsky works for piano and orchestra. His pupils included Rachmaninov.

Portrait of a Conductor


The Officers and members of the Ballygowan Flute Band are delighted and proud to have been chosen as part of an optional area of study for those sitting their GCSE Music in 2011. Students will be expected to develop their knowledge and runderstanding of the musical traditions in Ireland through a study of a number of pieces - in our case it is the march Le Reve Passe (The Soldier's Dream).
Click on the march title above for more information.

A Night at the Races in Comber Rec. on Friday 25 September 2009 was a successful fun night, even if there was room for more punters! This was the first stage in building funds to replace our marching uniform which has stood us in good stead for over 25 years. The race was won by Tom - he has a eye for a good horse (misspent youth?)

Last away day for the band was in early May 2009 when a fairly large group from the membership travelled to Troon to compete in the Annual Spring Contest organised by the Scottish Amateur Flute Band Association - the opportunity was not lost to have some fun along the way! 

Eight bands participated, each playing a march and a test piece, and there were prizes for the march, for the test piece and prizes for entertainment. At the end, all points gained by each band were added up and there was a best overall prize.

It was a good day for Ballygowan winning the march (with Bolts & Bars) and the test piece (Irish washerwoman, Champions Theme and Dvorak's Carnival Overture). We also collected the prize for the best piccolo performance as well as the entertainment prize - which also guaranteed that we were the best overall band on the day. 

Highlight for everyone in the hall including the adjudicator was our solo G Treble player Richard Douglas' performance of the Champions Theme. All-in-all a good day at the office!

Banding Friend

Congratulations to our senior percussionist John Presho who celebrated his golden wedding anniversary on 18 October 2011. He and Sylvia were treated to a surpize (call that shock) party in La Mon to which band members were invited) - an enjoyable evening was had by all.

A large ensemble from the Band played in Carrickfergus on 30 September at a Masonic dinner. We were very well received and the guests, who by their own admission, left with a new perception of Flute Bands.

The Band played in Botanic Gardens, Belfast on Sunday afternoon 18 September. We were the third of four bands to play at the annual end of season park engagements - coinciding this year with the Autumn Fair. Our appreciation and thanks go out to the Belfast Parks Team who organised the marquis for the bands - this makes for a great atmosphere for the players and especially for those who came along to listen to us. Just as last year’s event, the show was stolen by 15-year old Andrew Douglas with his two piccolo solos.
We sold a few CDs on the day, and one satisfied customer wrote to us saying: As a lover of flute bands. I had the pleasure of listening to Ballygowan FB on Sunday in Botanic Gardens. The music playing was the best I have heard in a long time. I was only sorry when it ended. I also bought your wonderful CD of favourite marches which I play constantly. Thank you all for such a musical day. Wishing the band every success in the future.
Thank you very much, James.

The Band gave a concert in Lord & Lady Dixon Park on Sunday 04 September. They say most things come in threes, and this was the third successive time at this venue that the weather was less than kind. Unfortunately there was no marquis on this occasion and rain stopped play. Our apologies to those who braved the weather, but our flutes are expensive and do not benefit from a good soaking!

On 17 June the band played a short concert in Saintfield High School. The concert also featured the Ravara Pipe Band and the School Choir. The event was organised to mark a staff retirement, and a voluntary contribution was requested from the attendees for school charities.

Our Night at the Races at Dougie’s Farm on Friday 2nd September turned out to be great evening’s craic, even if the attendance early on was a bit low (the Northern Ireland match was a distraction). Dougie himself bought the last horse, and no doubt the Band funds were boosted somewhat at the end of the night.

On Sunday 17 July the Band played in Lord & Lady Dixon Park to help celebrate the end of Rose Week. Unfortunately the weather was not good and attendance numbers were restricted to the dedicated - this did not prevent the members and conductor from putting on a very good show.

The Band had a great day in Comber at the 12th of July  celebrations. The weather was fantastic, the public were out in force, and the Band was playing exceptionally well - lots of photos in Facebook.

Band plays in Stormont
On 9th June a large ensemble from the Band played in The Great Hall in Parliament Buildings - the occasion was a visiting group of Americans under the Friends Forever Scheme. It was Senator George Mitchell who said:
No matter how brilliant a document we politicians produce as a framework for peace, it will not stand long unless it is embraced in the hearts of the people. That requires trust, and a belief that the 'other side' is willing to meet you halfway. And things like Friends Forever are how you get that done.

Some members of the band played a short programme of music recently at a function in Ravara Orange Hall. We received a warm welcome and think our music was enjoyed by all. Many thanks to Ravara Pipe Band for the invitation.

The first day of the 2011 Northern Ireland Band Championships was held on Saturday 15 October , and it was a great day for Ballygowan with a clean sweep of all available prizes.

The adjudicator was, as last year, Donald Finlayson, a music graduate from the University of Glasgow and a flute player. He claimed he had an absolute ball of an afternoon, and added that the flute players of tomorrow want to come and hear the standard at this contest. He also commended Sir James Galway as a product of our system, who had listened widely to musicians across the world, and had transformed flute playing. The adjudicator went on to commend the arranger of the two pieces, John Bryce. He then said that he had been listening for the “Wow” factor, and that he had never heard as much double tonguing in a single day. In his closing comments he said the winning band had outclassed the rest – a professional performance in all sections.
Special congratulations to Andrew Douglas who won the piccolo prize (that’s a double as he also won it at the Own Choice Contest in February). We owe our thanks and congratulations to our musical director, Dr. Windsor Hylands, who won the interpretation prize - again! The percussion section was rated the best of the day, and the adjudicator named Ballygowan as the best of the whole day’s performances.

The music consisted of two pieces: Liebesverbot (The Love Ban – or The Novice of Palermo) by Richard Wagner, and Speedy Gonzales by Henry Mancini.
You can listen to the performance at (Mancini’s samba) & (Wagner’s overture)

Liebesverbot is a comic opera in two acts by Richard Wagner based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. It was set in Palermo in Sicily in the 16th Century, and is rarely played nowadays – indeed it had an ignominious start. Under-rehearsed, the first performance was a shambles and only a handful of people turned up for the second night. The story line is based on the banning of promiscuity during a carnival, and Claudio is sentenced to death when his beloved Julia falls pregnant. The people later freed Claudio, but these indiscretions of youth came to haunt Wagner and he later renounced such free love.

Richard Wagner was born in Brühl, near Leipzig in Germany on 22 May 1813. His father died of typhus when he was only six months old and his mother subsequently remarried and they moved to Dresden. Sadly, his step-father died when he was eight years old, and they moved back to Dresden where he received his first formal musical training. He later studied music at the University of Leipzig.  From an early age he had been hooked on theatre and he harboured a desire to follow this career path. It was probably not surprising however that he became an opera composer, known especially for his rich harmonies, and unusually for an opera composer, he was his own librettist. He is also credited with being the first to face the orchestra while conducting.
His best known works are The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, Der Ring des Nibelungen and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He also had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which has been a Mecca for opera lovers ever since.

In his personal life Wagner had his problems: his personality, money shortage, outspoken views on music, and his political views are well documented. He died on 13 February 1883, leaving the world, in musical terms, a much richer place.

Speedy Gonzales was an instrumental number in Henry Mancini’s 1961 album Mr. Lucky Goes Latin.

Henry Mancini was born on 16 April 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA to Italian parents. He received flute lessons from the age of eight and piano lessons from twelve, and at 19 joined the Juillard School of Music. His musical career had to take a break when he was drafted into the army and he joined the famous Glenn Millar Orchestra. He later went into films and wrote a great number of songs and scores including The Glenn Millar Story and The Benny Goodman Story, and songs for most of the American Artists of his time e.g. Connie Francis, Trini Lopez, Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka, Andy Williams and Matt Munro.

Mancini also performed in hundreds of symphony performances and conducted nearly all the leading symphony orchestras of the world.

He died on 14 June 1994 and left this world with a legacy of wonderful music. In his life time he received 4 Oscars, 20 Grammy Awards and 9 Academy Awards.

Below is a photo taken as Band and conductor take a bow after the performance.

Jimmy Greenaway passed away earlier this summer after a period of illness. Jimmy started his banding career with the 39th Old Boys but moved soon afterwards across the city of Belfast to The Ravenhill Temperance - he was also on the founding committee of the Gertrude Flute Band. In an earlier life Jimmy taught the beginners in Ballygowan, before a career move took him to South Africa. On return from the dark continent he rejoined the Ravens, but also guested from time to time with Ballygowan. Indeed, with Ravenhill not competing in the 2008 World Championship Contest, Jimmy played with us. He has played in Ballygowan colours on many occasions - indeed he was to guest with many bands throughout his life.

Jimmy is on the left with Mark Douglas, and the occasion was the 2006 Black Preceptory Parade in Scarva. He is being sorely missed. 

Impromptu rehearsal - this one goes back a bit!

The Band led the praise at the Annual Lisburn Area PSNI Carol Service on the evening of  06 December. This was a very successful and very well attended event, and we were indeed privileged to be asked to play. Also contributing were the Central Primary School Choir and the Choir of Christ Church, Lisburn.

Musical Director Dr. Windsor Hylands receives the trophy for Best Interpretation at the 2011 World Flute Band Championships. NIBA President Margaret Campbell made the presentation.

Andrew is Northern Ireland Young Musician of the year 2012

In the impressive surroundings of The Harty Room of Queens University Belfast on Saturday 3rd March, Andrew Douglas won the competition for the title of Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year 2012 - photo in our Young Generation page.

Ballygowan win the 2012 Flute Band Association’s Annual Own Choice Contest.

Entries for the day’s playing was the best for several years with 25 bands participating - including welcome newcomers and the return of a long-term absentee.

Seven bands competed for the Championship title, and Adjudicator Sandy Hay expressed his delight at the “fantastic day of music making”. He said that the standard of musicianship (in Northern Ireland) was second to none, and he was especially pleased with the differing styles of playing, which demonstrated how the bands here are prospering. He also commented on bands reaching such standards outside of formal musical training (of course this can only partially be applied as most bands do benefit from the musical education available to young people nowadays - certainly Ballygowan is committed to developing our youngsters). Mr. Hay then explained what he had been looking for in the performances; he referred to the quality of arrangements which give players a chance to shine. He wanted to hear the percussion sections complement the rest of the band; he also wanted musicality, good ensemble playing, tuning and intonation throughout performances. Before calling the results, he commented on the advent of the “big” flutes and how they have contributed to the quality of sound in flute bands.

Kellswater were placed third with their performance of Verdi’s Silician Vespers, Ballylone were second with Tchaikovsky’s Cappricio Italien (they also won the piccolo prize). Ballygowan won with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, and also won the percussion prize, and the interpretation prize with, in the adjudicator’s words, a “stunning interpretation”. The day was rounded off nicely for us by the presentation on behalf of Trevor James Flutes* of a £1,300 alto flute.

Once again our thanks and congratulations go our music maestro Dr. Windsor Hylands.

You can listen to the winning performance at


On Sunday 11th December a group of band members played at La Mon House hotel, entertaining families arriving for Christmas dinner with carols and festive music. Turned out to be a great afternoon!

On 07 December the Band filled a long-standing engagement for the Ballygowan Community Association - their Christmas Carols/Children’s Party. There was a different format this year, starting with a choir of young people from the area. Everyone enjoyed the singing very much, and it was of a very high standard with mostly new arrangements of well known carols.

The Band also went down very well, and one little boy, Samuel Walker, got a pleasant Christmas present. After requesting if he could have a go with the baton, he was chuffed to be allowed to conduct “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
Before the finale, the Mayor of Ards Councillor Mervyn Oswald spoke to the gathering. He thanked the Band members for their very enjoyable music and he congratulated the Band for their clean sweep at the recent World Championship. He also added that we would be invited to the Mayor’s Parlour for a reception at a suitable date in the near future. At the outset he did jokingly say that he was a tad disappointed not to have had the chance to conduct, and he had not quite made it to his seat when Conductor Mark Douglas handed him the baton. After a very brief lesson he made an excellent fist of conducting the famous Radetsky March .

Calling all flute players young & old, novice & professional, active or retired for THE BIG FLUTE CHALLENGE on 13 September 2014 in the Kings Hall Complex, Belfast. For charity, the plan is to set up a new world record for the largest flute ensemble ever assembled. Click here for more info. Also listen to this

The 2014 Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest was held in Lisburn on Saturday 01 March, and the audience were treated to a fine day of music. The adjudicator Dr. Windsor Hylands thanked the Association for the invitation, adding that the players and conductors deserved great credit. He said he had been looking for all aspects of musicianship including good percussion, tone production, tuning, intonation, balance and phrasing. He also wanted the bands to be operating as a team, playing with flair, interpreting the composers’ wishes, and making the hair stand on end.
Dr. Hylands reported three very good performances which were difficult to separate because they were not like for like in terms of the different choices of music. Having said all that, he announced Ballylone the winners with Ballygowan a close second and Kellswater a close third.

2013 World Championship Adjudicator’s Remarks are now on the Members page.

We’ve been asked to advise a change at the Scottish Amateur Flute Band Association. Sadie Houston has stepped down as Secretary; the new secretary is Yvonne Allan who can be contacted at Sadie continues as Registration Secretary.

On Friday 10th & Monday 13th January  an ensemble from the Band played at Masonic dinners in Comber & Killyleagh resp. Both concerts went down very well.

On Sunday 29 December we played carols for the Rotary Club of Comber’s annual Christmas Tree service., and the Reverend Lesley-Ann Wilson of First Comber Presbyterian Church officiated. The service was not well attended, but was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, and we received many compliments for our playing.

On Monday 09 December we played for the Ballygowan Community Association at their children’s Christmas party. It was a very well attended and lively evening, and the kids particularly enjoyed themselves with some raucous singing.

Next engagement before Christmas is on Sunday 29 December from 2:45PM in St. Mary’s Church in Comber Square. We are responding to a request from Comber Rotary Club to play at their annual Christmas Tree Thanksgiving Service (everyone welcome) .

Message to our former musical director, Colin Fleming, via our website:
“I never miss tuning in to Strike up the Band. I want you to know that last Tuesday night was the best programme ever. Huge congratulations to you and The Band, Colin. Beautiful expressive playing, lovely soloists, a great overall tone and what a well chosen repertoire with great arrangements. Also, Colin, they do not take their eyes off the conductor for a nano second. (Just as well!) Many thanks to you and The Band, Colin for a great broadcast. I loved every minute, especially Pavane in Blue and Cavatina. So Colin, be sure extend my well wishes to The Band.”

On Sunday afternoon Sunday 27 October we joined up with Ballylone and Cahard for a Massed Flute Band Concert in Saintfield’s Harvest Music Festival. The concert was in Second Saintfield Presbyterian Church, and was enjoyed by a good sized audience.The varied programme included readings by Edward Craig and Phillip Poots. Edward conducted the Grosvenor Chorale who also lead the harvest hymns. Richard Douglas accompanied the singers on the concert flute in a special arrangement of “Last of the summer wine”, and Richard conducted the massed bands - the seven pieces included solos by Gillian Burrows of Ballylone, and Andrew Douglas of Ballygowan.

Our Night at the Races on Saturday 26 October - Gourley’s, Ballygowan was a great night’s craic.

The Band won the World Flute Band Championship in Armagh on Saturday 12th October 2013, and in so doing completed our first ever hat trick of wins in this competition.
The adjudicator was Richard Evans who was making a return to these Band Championships after almost 30 years. Born in Aldershot, he is one of the best known and most respected of Bandsmen, and he has played, conducted and adjudicated all over the world.

Richard opened by hoping that the audience had been in the hall to hear all the bands. He said he was knocked out by the winning performance – referring to the Band as “worthy World Champions”.
He then chose to read out each Band’s remarks and scores; Hunter Moore were third 191 points, Ballylone were second with 194 points, and Ballygowan finished with 197 points.
Ballygowan also took a clean sweep on all available prizes – winning Band, Conductor’s interpretation, best piccolo player, best percussion and the City of Dublin International Festival Trophy for the best overall performance of the day.

We wish to express our sincerest thanks to Steven Cairns who stepped in as Conductor for this contest. It has been a privilege and pleasure to work under Stephen’s baton.

The test piece was Berlioz’ Roman Carnival, and is one of several of his works chosen as test pieces in past years – including Benvenuto Cellini, Le Corsaire and Les Francs Juges (the latter was a failed opera of which little other than the overture survives). He based Le Carnaval Romain on his opera Benvenuto Cellini, and it includes music from the carnival scene. Written as a stand-alone piece, it was premiered in Paris in 1844.

Hector Berlioz was born on 11 December 1803 near Grenoble in France. His father was a doctor and had a family of six, three of which sadly did not reach adulthood.
Unlike many of the great composers, he had not been a child prodigy, and had not shown much interest in music until he was twelve. He was not formally trained in his early years, and learned music from books; he played guitar and flute and flageolet but not piano.
He was once blown away at a performance of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, but in his own turn he was to make a massive contribution to the classical scene, influencing people like Wagner, Lizst, Mahler, Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov. He also worked towards a bigger sound and often conducted 1,000 strong orchestras.

Initially he started to study medicine but had no interest in anything other than music. He regularly read through scores in the Conservatoire, and by twenty years of age, was a keen writer and composer. In spite of his father’s advice, he abandoned medical studies and studied music privately under Lesueur. In 1826 he started attending the Conservatoire. Here he won the Prix de Rome at his fourth attempt; this gave him much needed income, with a commitment to study in Rome – something he did not particularly enjoy.

He was to become a well respected and well travelled conductor although, strangely, he never held a permanent post. He was also a successful writer and critic - while he enjoyed this work, he would rather have been composing, but it was a welcome source of income.

His best known work was his Symphonie Fantastique which he finished in 1830 – believed by many to be the best first symphony of all time, it is apparently autobiographical. Franz Lizst later transcribed it for piano so more people could hear it.
Generally, in his own country he found success and recognition hard to come by; indeed, in his life time, he received much more criticism than praise from French commentators. No doubt this caused him to say on his deathbed “At last, they are going to play my music”. He died on 08 March 1869.

We are delighted to have secured the services of Steven Cairns as conductor for the approaching N.I.B.A. World Flute Band Championship. Stephen is well known and highly regarded in banding circles, and we are already enjoying working under his baton.

On Sunday 01 September, the Band gave a concert in  Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park, Belfast. The park is a great favourite with walkers, flower and dog lovers, and a nice crowd gathered to listen to a wide range of music. All efforts now will be applied to this year’s world championship test piece (more detail down this page.)

We had a great day in Banbridge on Saturday 31 August. The occasion was “Black Saturday” and the streets of the town were well lined with people. The weather was great and the music went down well.

We have received a plea from a band enthusiast in Germany (Scottish born, former British Army bandsman)

His set of old system flutes were accidentally dumped and lost forever, and he is keen to buy (or have donated) any flute(s) currently surplus to requirements. e.g.

Boosey & Co... F flute & F Piccolo. (Also Bb bass with curved head)

Henry Potters... F & Eb Piccolos. (Also Bb Bass flute curved head)

Rudall Carte... F flute, Eb flute & Eb & F piccolos. (Also Bb Bass curved head)

Hawkes Crown AZ... Bb Bass flute (curved head), Eb Bass flute & Eb Piccolo.

Even broken bits can be utilised

Any band or individual wishing to help, please contact us at or use the contact us link on our home page.

The Band gave a concert for Ards Borough Council on 18 August in Comber Square. This was one of six summer band concerts organised by the Borough Council. A large crowd gathered on a fine Sunday afternoon, and the music was very well received. - Summer Band Concerts (more on our members page). Our next engagement is “Black Saturday” in Banbridge on August 31, followed the next day by a concert in Lord & Lady Dixon Park (playing from 3:00-4:00PM).

We are currently on the look out for a musical director or guest conductor, after Colin Fleming informed us that he did not wish to continue in the role. There was general agreement in the ranks that Colin’s commitment to improving flute playing could not be understated, and we regret losing his services.

On Thursday 21 June the Band honoured a commitment to play at the Drumbo Ulster Scots Champions concert. It was a very enjoyable evening, and we trust the remainder of the concert and the barbeque went well.

The Park season is upon us again, and the Band played in Lord & Lady Dixon Park on Sunday 12 May. Congratulations and thanks to those members of the public who braved the weather -they didn’t get wet, but they weren’t to know that when they left home!
We also enjoyed a couple of social evenings in Ballygowan recently, recently won medals were presented, the annual BBQwas held at Dougie’s  farm on 14 June.

Flute Band Association Solo & Small Ensemble Contest 2013
Well done to all our members who took part in the Solo and Small Ensemble Competition in Newtownards on 27 April:
Benjamin Gourley (3rd in U13 Concert), Andrew Douglas & Tori Watson (2nd in U21 Duet), Andrew Douglas (1st in the Own Choice Open Solo), Drew Vincent (1st in the Open Solo Side Drum), Andrew Douglas, Laura McBride, Tori Watson, James Gourley & Mark Douglas (1st in the Senior Trio-Octet), and a special mention goes to Tori Watson who won the Novice Side Drum could make it into the percussion section yet!
Thanks to all the competitors for your hard work and also to the Flute Band Association for organising another great event.
Check out some of the perfomances on YouTube...

At our 2013 AGM, Stephen Carse was re-elcted as Chair, Victoria Gibson moved from Secretary to Treasurer, and Laura McBride took over as Secretary.
Two good friends of the Band were elected as honorary members. Further down this page you can read about the Band having played in the world première of the march “Flags and Emblems” at the Belfast Festival at Queens in October 2012 - subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The pianist Matthew Schellhorn and the composer Ian Wilson were duly elected as honorary members to demonstrate the members’ appreciation of the respect they conferred on and the faith they showed in Ballygowan Concert Flute Band.

The 2013 Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest took place in Lisburn on 23 February. Bandsman, flute player, tutor conductor and adjudicator Drew Rowan was in the box for the Championship section, and he opened with his thanks to the Association for asking him back. He said he was thrilled with the wide range of music and terrific playing.
What, by personal choice, he said he was looking for was a good overall balanced sound with a good bass end, good intonation and tuning - especially in the soft passages (which he put down to practice, and scale work, adding that these were the art of flute playing). He also wanted to hear good articulation and good attention to dynamics. He paid tribute to the three arrangers of the main test pieces (Mark Douglas, David Heaney and Brian Berry), and he also praised the work of conductors who have to get the band on their side, and work with the players available. Drew then went on to refer to wanting to hear very good percussion balance, and good communication of the music to the audience. He finished by saying that the day’s playing was the best he had ever heard! When the dust settled, the awards were as follows:
Ballylone won, Ballygowan were second and Ballymena were third. Ballylone lifted all the available prizes - interpretation, percussion, piccolo, best of the day.
The test pieces were Slavonic Dances (Dvorak), Morning, Noon & Night (Suppé), The Sorcer’s Apprentice (Dukas), Ballet Music from Zemirz et Azor (Gretry), Night on the Bare Mountain (Mussorgsky) and Dvorak’s Carnival Overture.
For Ballygowan, this was the thirteenth successive year of top-two finishes.
Andante Festivo (Sibelius):
Carnival Overture (Dvorak):

On Monday 11 February, an ensemble from the Band played at a Masonic function in Killyleagh.

In October 2012, the Band played in the Belfast Festival at Queens with the Ulster Orchestra. This was a world premiere of the march “Flags & Emblems” by Belfast Composer Ian Wilson, and was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Tuesday afternoon 22nd January.

An ensemble played in Crawfordsburn on Saturday  12 at a masonic dinner. We were made very welcome, and the music was very well received (some photos in our Photos & Trivia page).

The Band fulfilled a long standing engagement for the Ballygowan Community Association on Wednesday 05 December by playing carols and other items after the kids had their party and had seen Santa.

On Wednesday evening 28 November, the Band played carols for the Castlereagh Borough Council at the switch on of their Christmas Tree lights. Very enjoyable (the Australians have warmer evenings in late November!!)

The 2012 NIBA Dinner and prize giving took place in Tullyglass House Hotel, Ballymena on Saturday evening 10 November. Ballygowan were there to collect the Championship Section winners trophy, the Best of the Day Trophy and the Interpretation Trophy. The Band was well represented and a number of ballot prizes  also made there way back to Ballygowan.
As usual, the adjudicator’s remarks were available on the night, and to Ballygowan eyes, they made good reading - including the summary “very, very, classy performance”. The full set of remarks for the Championship Section is on our Member page, and there a few photos on our Photos & Trivia page.

Some of our members joined other bands-people and flute players to play in a charity concert to raise money for an MRI scanner for the children’s hospital. The concert was in the Waterfront, Belfast on 15 November. We played two pieces - Selection from the musical Oliver, and Klesmer Carnival. The ensemble was organised and conducted by Richard Douglas, and the music was very well received by a large and appreciative audience.

World Champions again:
In the Market Theatre in Armagh on Saturday 20 October 2012, Ballygowan retained the N.I.B.A. World Flute Band Championship playing Brahm’s Academic Festival Overture.
The adjudicator was Sandy Hay, a flute player himself who had officiated twice before. As expected he talked about having a fantastic day, he enjoyed himself very much and enjoyed the fantastic music making, He also added that flute playing is very vibrant in this country. Mr. Hay complimented the arrangement which exposed every section of the bands, and he was especially looking for how the players coped with the dynamics - particularly the quiet passages. In addition he wanted the legatos well handled, and he was listening for an orchestral sound (which, in his words, not every band delivered)
Ballygowan were placed first with Ballylone second, and Ballymena Young Conquerors third. Ballylone took the percussion and piccolo prizes, and Ballygowan were awarded the interpretation and best of the day.

Our congratulations and thanks go to our new director of Music, Colin Fleming, who worked tirelessly since his arrival in the Bandroom. You can listen to this Utube video

The Band plays with the Ulster Orchestra as part of the Belfast Festival - click here for details

Our bandroom has recently benefited from an insulation grant from the Big Lottery -  click here for details

However we are deeply shocked and hurt at the wanton vandalism on one of our new doors. We appeal to all our friends and neighbours to please be vigilant, and have no hesitation in calling the PSNI if you see or hear anything suspicious.

We were saddened to hear recently of the passing of Fergie Cobain. Fergie was a life-long member of the Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band, and a former conductor of Ballygowan. He was well liked and very much respected in banding circles, and he made a tremendous contribution as player, conductor, arranger and adjudicator. It was very fitting that Ballyclare should play only his arrangements at his funeral service. Fergie was truly one of the good guys, and he will certainly be missed.

The Championship test piece this year was the Academic Festival Overture by Johannes Brahms, arranged for flutes by Philip Walton. We are delighted to have the services of Colin Fleming as conductor.

Brahms composed the overture as a means of thanking the University of Breslau for awarding him an Honorary Doctorate. Apparently he had planned to write a note of thanks, but was advised that protocol demanded much more.
Brahms conducted the premier himself in January 1881, and the piece has been a regular concert favourite ever since. The composer was well known for his sense of humour and he included a number of student drinking songs – which didn’t go down well with some of the “stiffer” academics present in the audience.

Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg in 1833 as the second of three children. His father was a double bass player, and Johannes was introduced to the piano at the age of seven. In a very short time it was realised that here was a child with a musical gift.

As a young lad he played for pocket money in Hamburg bars – an unpleasant experience considering the typical clientele in the pubs of such a large port. By the age of seventeen he was already an accomplished musician, and while still twenty he visited and played for the composers Robert and Clara Schumann. This was the beginning of a great friendship which was tragically affected by the loss of Robert Schumann’s mental health and his premature death.
In 1857 he was appointed Director of Music to a princely court near Hanover, and in his time there he composed his first piano concerto. By the time he was thirty he was living in Vienna, and his music was selling well (no small thanks to Clara Schumann who played his piano pieces). Brahms completed his first symphony in 1876, and his 40s and 50s were recognised as his golden period.

Johannes himself was a shy person and led a simple life; he rarely expressed his inner feelings except in letters to close friends and through his music. He died of cancer in April 1897.

Disappointment in Troon:
A party of over thirty made the trip to Troon for the Scottish Amateur Flute Band Association Spring Contest on 12 May 2012. The Band played the march Eagle Squadron, and the test pieces Irish Washerwoman, Aranjeuz mon Amour (Rodrigo) and the William Tell Overture (Rossini). The general reception in the hall was that the performance was the best of the day, but as all bands people know, there is only one opinion that matters - that of the adjudicator.
No prizes on this occasion in spite of the many compliments - we’ll keep rehearsing!
Our congratulations go to our solo “G” player Richard Douglas, who scored his first win as a conductor of a senior band. Ballymena Young Conquerors under his baton won the march, the best Band and the interpretation prize.

If you’d like an impression of how good the others must have been, just tune into the following:

Irish Washerwoman
Aranjeuz mon Amour (Rodrigo)
William Tell Overture (Rossini)

Ballygowan quintet won the Trio to Octet section of the 2012 Flute Band Association’s Annual Solo & Small Contest.
From the left: Mark, James, Tori, Laura & Andrew. Tori and Andrew won the Duet and Andrew won the Open Solo (he first won it as a promising 12-year old. Sadly the entries this year were very low.

The Barber of Seville (Rossini)

The adjudicator’s remarks for the 2012 Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest were released at the Annual Dinner on 31 March. From a Ballygowan perspective, these made excellent reading. Mr. Sandy Hay used terms like very moving, very, very stylish, a huge palette of colours that you exploit, impeccable and effortless, your playing is so enjoyable that I find myself forgetting to write, your band can articulate as a unit like no flute band I have heard before, a dynamic and stunning performance. He also found space to record that we have an astounding conductor.  There are a couple of photos in our Photos & Trivia page.

On 21 March 2012 members of the Band gave a concert in the Village Hall for the Ballygowan Community Association. The idea was to help raise funds for the Fun Day in June. Acoustics are very good in the hall and the concert went down very well with those present, and there was a special reception for Northern Ireland’s Young Musician  2012 when he played the solo in Sousa’s Stars & Stripes Forever, and the piccolo solo Bourré.

Band invited to a reception in The Mayor’s Parlour

On Tuesday 06 March 2012, members of the Band with Musical Director Dr. Windsor Hylands and his wife Isobel - also Libby Douglas (Young Musician’s Mum) were invited to a reception by Newtownards Borough Council. The Mayor of Ards Councillor Mervyn Oswald showed a remarkable knowledge of the Band’s history and successes and wished everyone continued success. He then presented Andrew Douglas with a plaque to acknowledge his winning of the 2012 Northern Ireland Young Musician Competition,. He also presented the Band with a plaque in recognition of the credit brought to the Borough by winning the Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest in successive years and the North of Ireland Band Association World Championship in October 2011.

Pictured in the Band (including those hiding!) are (from left):
John Douglas, Brian Kerr, Dougie Gourley, Windsor Hylands (Musical Director), Alan Robinson, David Mays, Mark Douglas, Benjamin Gourley, Audrey Spratt, Robert McMurray, Stephen Carse (Chairman), James Gourley, Sarah Bass, Jim Gourley, Johnathan Gourley, Mayor Mervyn Oswald, Geoffery Gourley, Andrew Douglas, Tom Gourley, James Douglas, John Dawson, Stephen Gibson, Councillor Robert Gibson

On 17 April 2014, the Band was invited to a reception in the Mayor’s Parlour to celebrate our success in retaining the World Championship for a third successive year. In the process the Mayor, Councillor Stephen McIlveen presented Chairman Stephen Carse with a plaque and a recently published book on Newtownards.
Band photo on our Photos & Trivia page

On Sunday evening 08 June we fulfilled a long standing engagement in First Comber Presbyterian Church. It was a praise service requested by Reverend Gordon. The service was reasonably well attended, included an interview with our Chairman Stephen, and the Band’s music was very well received.

On Sunday afternoon 01 June 2014, we laid the praise at an open air service to commemorate the start of the first world war. It was organised by the Ballygowan District Community Association, held at Ballygowan Square, and was well attended by service personell past and present, the Girl’s Brigade, dignitaries and the general public. Constable Robert Rea gave a brief summary of how the war began, and this was further developed by the Rev. Norman McDowell, Chaplain to Her Majesty’s Forces, in his address. There was also a wreath laying ceremony, and a collection in aid of the Help for Heroes charity.

A large party from the Band, including supporters, travelled to Scotland for the Spring Contest held by the Scottish Amateur Flute Band Association - the contest itself was held in Troon Concert Hall on Saturday 17 May 2014. Two trophies were brought back to Ballygowan; third place for the test pieces and first place for the march.The adjudicator was Christina Thomson-Jones from Yorkshire, and she claimed to have had a most fantastic day of musical entertainment of the very highest standard. Adding that she had a most memorable day, she then laid out what she had been looking for; technical perfection, musical expression, colours, textures, good articulation, attention to dynamics (especially in soft passages) spine-tingling ensemble, exciting music, audience participation, and something different, and stated that she said she had heard some fantastic music.
Ballygowan played the march Hoch Heidecksburg followed by Danse Macabre (Saint-Saens), Pavanne in Blue (Huggens) and the Roman Carnival by Berlioz. The winning performance was Night on a Bare Mountain by Mussorgsky. Our conductor for the occasion was Stephen Cairns. We are very grateful for his services, and for agreeing to prepare us for our forthcoming radio recording.

On Saturday 30 August 2014 we fulfilled an annual engagement for RBP 213. The parade was in the hill town of Rathfriland; the playing wa great and the craic was mighty - pity the weather didn’t match up!

The 2014 Twelfth was an emotional one for the band with the passing of our former member, loyal friend and vice-president Mr Robert McMurray. Bob’s funeral service was held in Ballygowan Presbyterian Church on July 13, and it was a great privilege for the band to lead the praise and provide our own musical tribute to him. Our deepest and heartfelt sympathies are extended to Sadie, Barbara, Robert and the entire family circle. Bob was a constant companion, he never missed a contest or concert. He was well known in Banding circles including Scotland as his lovely manner made him friends everywhere he went. Life will never be the same!
There are a few 12th photos on our members page.

Summer Band Concerts (Ards Borough Council)
A good crowd gathered in Conway Square, Newtownards on Sunday 31 August 2014 for this concert, and our musical propgramme was well appreciated by all.

The Big Flute Challenge was held in The Kings Hall on 13 September 2014, and the Band members played a large role - more in our Photos & Trivia page


Well, the 12th has come and gone once more, and what a great day it was. Just one photo on our Photos & Trivia page.

The test piece for the 2017 World Flute Band Championship is now known; we will be playing the overture to Wagner’s Tannhauser. This will bring back many happy memories, because we won our first world championship in 1990 with this very piece!

Richard Wagner was born in Brühl, near Leipzig in Germany on 22 May 1813. His father died of typhus when he was only six months old and his mother subsequently remarried and they moved to Dresden. Sadly, his step-father died when he was eight years old, and they moved back to Dresden where he received his first formal musical training. He later studied music at the University of Leipzig.  From an early age he had been hooked on theatre and he harboured a desire to follow this career path. It was probably not surprising therefore that he became an opera composer, known especially for his rich harmonies, and unusually for an opera composer, he was his own librettist. He is also credited with being the first to face the orchestra while conducting.
His best known works are The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, Der Ring des Nibelungen and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He also (with financial support from King Ludwig II) had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which has been a Mecca for opera lovers ever since.

In his personal life Wagner had his problems: his personality, money shortage, outspoken views on music, while political views almost cost him his life. He died on 13 February 1883, leaving the world, in musical terms, a much richer place.


In the opera Tannhäuser, he (Tannhäuser) has sold his soul to live in sin with the goddess of love, but his conscience is troubling him. Venus tries to talk him out of going back to the mortal side, but eventually she gives up and tells him to sling his hook. Tannhäuser is well received by his contemporaries (and especially by his first love, Elizabeth) until he lets slip where he has been. As far as their beliefs are concerned, he is doomed to the devil’s flames. Tannhäuser however holds on his own belief that eternal salvation is there for all who genuinely repent. He was on the verge of returning to the goddess and accepting eternal damnation, when Elizabeth’s prayers for his soul were answered.


Ballygowan Concert Flute Band had an excellent day out in Newtownards on Saturday 03 June at the FBA’s Entertainment Competition, winning Best March, Best Soloist, Best Interpretation and Best Performance.

This was a new venture for the Flute Band Association and it was held in the Queens Hall. With a good entry, a large audience, and a fabulous afternoon of music, it is fairly well guaranteed to become an annual event.

The adjudicators were Billy Hill for Performance, and Deirdre Harshaw for Entertainment.
Deirdre began her remarks by stating what a lovely way to have spent her Saturday afternoon. She had a few questions prepared for herself - would I want to know more about this music genre, would I want to come back, would I want to bring family and friends? She answered “yes” to her own questions. She was most impressed with the range of music on show, which she described as up to date, exciting and fun.
Billy said that he had a very enjoyable afternoon, and that he had had a very difficult job. He said he had been looking for correct notes, timing, balance, phrasing, starting together and breathing together, and added that all the soloists were really good. He went on to compliment the arrangers, saying that brass bands could simply go out and buy their music, but flute bands had to arrange their own – he singled out Ballygowan’s Mark Douglas and wondered if he did anything else in life except arranging! He also said that he was impressed with the age range in the bands, and that Northern Ireland had a unique heritage in its band world. Billy also had a good word on the conductors and what they were expected to add to the notes!
Prizes and certificates were awarded as follows:
Ballylone won the Entertainment prize with a delightful programme, and they won Best Percussion as well. They also won the New Arrangement prize with their “All about the Bass”.
Ballygowan won Best March, Best Soloist (Darren Canmore), Best Interpretation (Stephen Cairns) and Best Performance.
Newtownards CLB were placed third with Ballylone finishing second.

Our thanks again go to our Conductor Stephen Cairns for his expertise and diligence in preparing us for this competition.

Band members, families and friends travelled to Troon on the weekend of May 12-14. The Band was placed second in both March and Performance in the Scottish Amateur Flute Bands Association’s Spring Contest. A good time was had by all - see our Young Generation and Photos & Trivia pages for photos.

The programme must include a March, which is judged separately, and one or more test pieces. Ballygowan played the Florentine March by Fucik, Autumn Leaves and Night on a Bare Mountain by Mussorsky. A thirty-strong Band put on a great show, which was very well received by the audience.
The adjudicator was Gareth McLearnon, an experienced and renowned flute player, adjudicating his first flute band contest. He explained his scoring technique which was based on eight categories including the various flute types from piccolo to contra bass, ensemble playing, tuning and intonation, dynamics and percussion. He advised players to work on quiet and loud playing; also to work hard on slow music, while maintaining rhythm and clarity.
The outcome for Ballygowan was second place in both competitions, and our congratulations go to Carluke Primrose

Congratulations to Harry Douglas for winning the Under-13 G Treble Solo at the 2017 Flute Band Association Solos & Small Ensemble Competition .He also finished runner up in the Under-13 Concert Solo - repeating last year’s result, and he finished second in the Under-16 Concert section. Proud of you, Harry! Go to our Young Generation page for a photo.

The Band enjoyed a fine win on Saturday in the Championship section of the Flute Band Association’s Annual Own Choice Contest in the Island Centre, Lisburn.
The adjudicator was Brian Agus. It was his first time adjudicating at this contest, but he is no stranger to many musicians and singers across the province as he spent 25 years on the General Musicianship Staff at the City of Belfast School of Music, before becoming Director of Musical Services at the South-Eastern Education Board where he served eleven years.

 A large and appreciative audience enjoyed listening to the adjudicator’s comments, because he went into much more detail than any before him. His opening remark was “What a wonderful concert, Wow!” He complimented the very sophisticated arrangements, and congratulated all the players, conductors and arrangers. “I salute you all wherever you are” were his exact words.

He then outlined what he had been looking for – good solo playing (which he said was, at times, breath-taking), good ensemble playing, good dynamics, mood/atmosphere/drama, and assured confident virtuoso playing. He recommended good choice of test pieces, which will demonstrate lots of technical ability, tuning, legato versus staccato, phrasing, percussion, good control of tempo changes and internal balance between melody, bass and harmonies. He really gave the audience an appreciation of what a top performance had to have. He even added his scoring system: a performance with 90 points or more had for him the “wow factor”.

Ballyclare Victoria were awarded third place with 88 points and Best Piccolo; Ballylone finished second with 90 points and Best Percussion; Ballygowan won the contest with 92 points and Best Interpretation. Our sincere thanks go once again to our Musical Director Stephen Cairns for his expertise and diligence.

Test pieces included Mussorsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain and Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave (Ballygowan), Tchaikovsky’s Capricio Italien (Ballylone), Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers (Ballyclare), Smetena’s Vltava (Newtownards CLB) and Dvorak’s In a Nature’s Realm (Hamilton).

Can we appeal to any Band who have any  traditional band bags which they no longer need to get in touch with us via our CONTACT US page.

John Dawson picking up second prize at the annual dinner in the Dunsilly Hotel for our recent performance in the senior flute section at the NIBA championships. The evening was made all the more enjoyable with the company of the four representatives from the Ardee Concert Band.

The 2016 NIBA World Flute Band Championship was held in The Market Place Theatre, Armagh on 15 October, and Ballygowan was pipped at the post for the second year running. Adjudicator Steve Sykes thanked all the players and conductors for a great day. He said the overture was a virtuoso piece in every sense of the word, and it was a difficult test. He especially complimented two bands for their real virtuoso performances The top prize and our congratulations went to Ballylone, and we thank Stephen Cairns for preparing us so well for what was a very difficult overture.

Next year’s concert will strike a chord - it will be the 100th!

The concert in Comber Square, which was rained off in June, was re-arranged for Sunday 21 August, and was well received by a good number of people.

The test piece for the 2016 Championship has been released, and it’s the overture to Benvenuto Cellini, which is an opera in two acts with music by Hector Berlioz. It was the first of Berlioz's operas, premiered in 1838. Although largely fictional, the story was inspired by the memoirs of the Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. While the opera is rarely performed nowadays, the overture is often played by symphony orchestras – and indeed it was chosen as the Championship Flute test piece in the 1970s (the 2013 Championship Flute test piece Roman Carnival was also composed from material in the opera.)

Hector Berlioz was born on 11 December 1803 near Grenoble in France. His father was a doctor and had a family of six, three of which sadly did not reach adulthood.
Unlike many of the great composers, he had not been a child prodigy, and had not shown much interest in music until he was twelve. He was not formally trained in his early years, and learned music from books; he played guitar and flute and flageolet but not piano.
He was once blown away at a performance of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, but in his own turn he was to make a massive contribution to the classical scene, influencing people like Wagner, Lizst, Mahler, Richard Strauss and Rimsky-Korsakov. He also worked towards a bigger sound and often conducted 1,000 strong orchestras.

Initially he started to study medicine but had no interest in anything other than music. He regularly read through scores in the Conservatoire, and by twenty years of age, was a keen writer and composer. In spite of his father’s advice, he abandoned medical studies and studied music privately under Lesueur. In 1826 he started attending the Conservatoire. Here he won the Prix de Rome at his fourth attempt; this gave him much needed income, with a commitment to study in Rome – something he did not particularly enjoy.

He was to become a well respected and well travelled conductor although, strangely, he never held a permanent post. He was also a successful writer and critic - while he enjoyed this work, he would rather have been composing, but it was a welcome source of income.

His best known work was his Symphonie Fantastique which he finished in 1830 – believed by many to be the best first symphony of all time, it is apparently autobiographical. Franz Lizst later transcribed it for piano so more people could hear it.
Generally, in his own country he found success and recognition hard to come by; indeed, in his life time, he received much more criticism than praise from French commentators. No doubt this caused him to say on his deathbed “At last, they are going to play my music”. He died on 08 March 1869.

The 12th 2016 was a good day enjoyed by everyone. Congratulations to the Comber lodges for arranging a great parade; thanks also to Translink who overcame a bus issue & got us home. Photos on our Photos & Trivia page.

Congratulations to Andy, Harry  and Rebecca for their performances at the Solos & Quartets - more on our Young Generations page.

On Friday 15 April, the Band played at the Lindsay Chorale’s 20th Annual Concert in Second Saintfield Presbyterian Church Hall. The Chorale opened the concert with several songs followed by a number of pieces by the Band, after which both  combinations performed again. It was very enjoyable music which was well received by a capacity crowd.

Report on 2016 Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest
The 2016 Flute Band Association annual Own Choice Contest took place in the Island Centre, Lisburn on Saturday 27 February. The Adjudicator was Donald Finlayson, a music graduate from Scotland, and a flute and piccolo specialist. In his remarks, he commented about the incredible day he had just had, and that he would love flute students at Glasgow Conservatory to come to Northern Ireland to hear the standard of flute playing here. He used the term mind-blowing several times and encouraged the Bands to continue participating in events and contests.

He had a good word to say about each of the Championship Bands; he complimented the Solo G-Treble player of Newtownards CLB, awarding them Best Piccolo, Best Percussion and third place. The adjudicator then made a plea to the Association to present trophies for the Alto and Bass players. In the case of the two top Bands, he said he constantly had to pinch himself that he was not listening to a professional orchestra! He then awarded Ballylone second place, and first prize went to Ballygowan – whose conductor Chris Attrill won the interpretation Prize - we wish to express our gratitude to Chris for preparing us for the winning performance. Ballygowan were also presented with a Trevor James concert flute. - Richard Douglas receives it from John Seabrook (Photos & Trivia page)
He closed by thanking the Band players and Organisation for a fantastic day. Test pieces on the day included Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers, Glinka’s Rusland and Ludmilla, Kosma’s Autumn Leaves, Rossini’s Soirees Musicales, Dukas’ Sorcerers Apprentice, Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien and a selection from Beethoven symphonies.
Adjudicator’s remarks
Click to listen to the performance (also, there are some photos on our Facebook page)

The Band completed in the World Flute Band Championship on 24 October in Armagh and finished second with an excellent musical performance. Congratulations to Ballylone for winning the day, and to Hunter Moore for finishing third.  Also a big thank you to Stephen Cairns for his hard work at rehearsals and for conducting us.
Marche Militaire Francaise:

Some of our members participated in the Big Flute Challenge in the Whitla Hall, Belfast on 26 September. This was the second year of the event which raises money for Marie Curie and the Children's Hospice charities. Special guests this year were Sir James and Lady Galway. It's fair to say that the day was enjoyed by everyone with good music and craic - click here for photos

The Band had a very good turn-out at the Royal Black Preceptory Parade on Saturday 29 August in Kilkeel - including the walking wounded (which demonstrated commitment!) It was a long day from an early breakfast to the dismissal command, but the guys & gals kept playing to a very high standard.
No rest for the wicked, though, as we were back in action the next day giving a concert in Conway Square, Newtownards. The event was well attended and the music was very well received (hopefully photos will follow soon).

Now it’s noses to the music stands to rehearse for this year’s World Championship. The test pieces this year are both by Saint-Saens, and both arranged by David Heaney - Marche Militaire Française and Bacchanale.

Marche Militaire Française is the 4th and final movement of Saint-Saens’ Algerian Suite, which he entitled "Picturesque Impressions of a Voyage to Algeria." The third movement is about an impressive military fortress near Algiers, so a march must have seemed a natural conclusion to the suite - which was premiered in December 1880.

Bacchanale, loosely translated as a wild party, is from Saint-Saens’ opera “Samson and Delilah”. In Scene One Samson had given in to his temptress and let slip that his hair was the key to his strength. In Scene Two, the singing of the priests and priestesses broke into a wild bacchanal. While Samson, blind and shackled, was being taunted by the Philistines, he asked the boy to lead him to the two main pillars of the temple, which he pulled down, killing all present.

Camille Saint-Saens was born in Paris on 09 October 1835 and enjoyed a long life. He was a musical prodigy and made his concert debut at the age of ten. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire before spending 20 years as a church organist. He then became a much sought after pianist, organist and composer, and travelled widely. He also spent 5 years in a teaching post and had Fauré and Ravel as students. He was a prolific composer, including opera, but is probably best known for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre and his Organ Synphony.

The 2015 Big Flute Challenge takes place in The Whitla Hall, Belfast on 26 September 2015. Please support this charity event, but also please note that prior registration is essential. Sir James Galway will be there and he will lead a workshop - read all about it at

A large contingent of players and supporters travelled to Troon at the weekend of 15-17 May to compete in Annual Spring Contest of the Scottish Amateur Flute Association, and enjoyed a fabulous concert including music by Verdi, Saen-Seans, Bernstein, Mascagni, Rossini, Sousa, Von Suppé, Elgar, Shostakovich, Strauss and Thaikovsky.
The adjudicator, John Grant, started his musical life in a flute band in Scotland before studying for his RSAM. He played for the Halle Orchestra and was principal flute with the Scottish National Orchestra. He proved to be a man of few words stating that his approach to flute playing was to listen to the musicianship. He also said that every instrument has its limitations, and the best musicians forget these limitations.
Glasgow Amateurs were placed third in both the Open March and the Graded Section. Their musical director was Ballygowan Piccolo player Andrew Douglas, who is studying music at Glasgow Conservatory. Carluke Primrose were placed second in both March and Performance. Ballygowan won both sections and also the trophy for the highest aggregate score and Andrew Douglas won the piccolo prize.
Band Chairman Stephen Carse collected the four trophies, which added to those won in the World Flute Band Championship in October, and the NI Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest in February.
Once again we are indebted to Stephen Cairns for preparing us for this contest.
Congratulations to Sarah Bass who was unable to travel with the Band due to the imminent birth of her little girl - 6lb 6oz (Sunday)

Congratulions to 9-year old Harry Douglas on winning the Under-10 section of the Flute Band Association’s Solos & Small Ensemble Contest. Harry joins an illustrious group of Ballygowan flute players past and present, who won this trophy in the past; he also finished third in the Under-13 section (photo on our Young Generation page).

Ballygowan won a thrilling Flute Band Association Own Choice Contest in The Island Civic Centre, Lisburn on Saturday 28 February 2015. After the excellent playing of Marche Slave (Thaikovsky) and I Vespre Siciliani (Verdi), Ballylone apparently gave the adjudicator a headache with their equally excellent performance of Fire in the Blood (Lovatt-Cooper). Ballygowan’s latest success continued an amazing sequence in this competition, which they have now either won or finished runner up 16 years in a row.
Other test pieces for the entertainment of those present were Rodeo (Copland), Night on a Bare Mountain (Mussorgsky), Festival Overture (Shostakovich), Norwegian Rhapsody (Svendsen), Der Freischutz (von Weber), Poet & Peasant (Suppé), Puszta (Van der Roost), English Folk Songs Suite (Vaughan-Williams).
Ballygowan won with 99 points, Ballylone had 98 and third placed Ballyclare had 97.

Ballygowan also won the Band of the Day, and a solid silver head joint for a concert flute presented by Gareth McLearnon on behalf of the American flute company Haynes.
The adjudicator was Sandy Hay who is Head of Woodwind at Birmingham Music Service. He has a long association with flute groups, and is no stranger to Northern Ireland Banding – having adjudicated here on three previous occasions. His opening remarks were that his task this time was by far the most difficult, because he had to take into consideration the own choice aspect and the relative difficulties associated with each test piece. He also challenged the bands to be daring in their choice of music.
Once again we are indebted to our guest conductor Stephen Cairns for musical know-how and his commitment and diligence.

Adjudicator’s remarks on our Members page

A good sized ensemble played in Comber Rifle Club for the local Masons on Friday 09 January, and the wide variety of music was well appreciated.

December was busier than most end of years with concerts for the Ballygowan Community Association, Comber Horticultural Society, busking in Victoria Square (Belfast - some photos in our photos page), and a Candle-lit service in Ballygowan Presbyterian Church. Also our second 2014 radio recording was broadcast in mid-December.

Ballygowan retained the World Flute Band title in The Market Theatre, Armagh on Saturday 11 October 2014, and in so doing, became the first band in 30 years to win for four successive years. A new trophy was presented to the Association by Alex Abbot (the arranger of the test pieces) for Solo Alto. Alex is well known in the flute world and, in awarding the trophy, he said that the development of bass flutes had brought this instrument’s part into the limelight. Ballygowan won this inaugural cup along with Best Piccolo, Best Percussion and Best Interpretation. The winning margin for the title itself was five points, and we’d like to express out thanks and appreciation to our guest conductor Stephen Cairns for his services and attention to detail in the weeks leading up to the contest. We are also delighted for him that he retained his Interpretation prize.  Ballylone finished runners up, and Ballymena Young Conquerors were third. (Photos on our Photos & Trivia page)

There were three test pieces for the 2014 NIBA World Flute Band Championship – two selected from Beethoven’s seventh symphony, plus Verdi’s overture “Un Giorno di Regno”.
The adjudicator Mike Smith began his comments by thanking the bands, stating how much he had enjoyed the performances. He said that the Beethoven pieces were taxing and the overture was challenging. He did find a lack of perfection in all the bands, but concluded that Ballygowan’s was a very polished performance.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany and had a tough enough upbringing since his father, rather too fond of his drink, often pushed the boy harder than would put many a child off music. In spite of this, the young Beethoven was to become one of the greatest classical composers the world has ever known. It is said that no composer before or since has exerted more influence, and no composer’s output has contained such a high percentage of established masterpieces.
His Seventh Symphony was premiered in Vienna
on 08 December 1813 in a concert to benefit the soldiers wounded a few months earlier in the battle of Hanau (between Austro-Bavarian forces and Napoleon’s retreating army).

Giuseppi Verdi was born in October 1813 in Roncole between Piacenza and Parma in Northern Italy. He started music lessons at a young age, and, when he was twenty, moved to Milan to further his studies including attending concerts and opera. The Milan Conservatory bears his name today (almost certainly because he had been turned down there as a student.)
He was to become, and to this day is still, one of the world’s most respected composers of opera. His successes include Nabucco, Rigoletto, Il Travatori, La Traviata, Aida, and some of his tunes are as popular today as they ever were.

“Un Giorno di Regno” (“A One-Day Reign” - often translated as “King for a Day”) was his second opera and its failure in 1840 came close to causing Verdi to compose no more music for opera – he had been working on the comedy at a time when his two children and his wife had died.

A large ensemble of Band members played at the Gala Ball of Rotary Ireland’s Annual Conference in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast on Saturday 27 September 2014 (more photos).