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Belfast schoolboys hope to drum up support on St Patrick's Day again

By Brett Campbell

A group of north Belfast schoolboys who have been marching to the beat of their own drum are all set for their performance in the city's St Patrick's Day concert on Friday.

The Belfast Boys' Model School Drummers was founded 10 years ago, when the City of Belfast School of Music was invited into the classroom by music teacher, Sharon Baird.

"We had to look at the interests of our boys to see where they were coming from. Some of them are in flute bands outside of school and some of those bands are competition bands, so there is a high level of skill involved," she explained.

"We wanted to harness that interest and build on it as a way of expanding their musical skills."

The group proved to be an instant hit with the pupils and the newly-formed band quickly took on a life of its own.

It evolved into a performance art collective and invites started pouring in.

The drummers have accepted invitations to entertain distinguished politicians, including the Irish President. They have also performed for the Lord Mayor at Belfast City Hall and impressed crowds in various venues around the city.

Their next gig will see them return to the main stage in Custom House Square as part of tomorrow's free St Patrick's Day concert. Ms Baird, who has been the School's head of music for 16 years, admitted being slightly apprehensive about the first invite last year.

"I wouldn't say it was as strong as a fear, but in a way there was a worry as to whether we would be accepted, but it went really well and we got great feedback.

"It was a privilege to be asked to be part of it and to be asked back is certainly a positive step forward," she said.

It was uncharted waters for the ten-member group which consists of flute players, snare drummers and someone with a strong back on the Lambeg.

Year 11 pupil, Aaron Nutt (15), who joined the group in year eight, is excited about a repeat performance on Friday.

"Last year went really well. It was really good fun. It was good to be part of an event that both sides of the community could enjoy," he said.

"It was absolutely mind blowing to perform in front of more than 3,500 people. I can't wait to do it again."

The 15 year-old, who lives in north Belfast, insisted that he isn't nervous.

The music pieces chosen for the performance include It's A Long Way To Tipperary, I'll tell Me Ma and Ireland's Call.

The boys have been flat out rehearsing for the past two months and even attended rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday, when the rest of the school were off.

The boys' music teacher said they are "buzzing" to be a part of the show again this year.

"We are delighted to be invited back. We obviously did a good enough job last year and the boys are really excited to be back on the stage," said Ms Baird.

They are also excited about exploiting their backstage access to mingle with the other acts which include London girl group Stooshe and former X-Factor star Fleur East.

What’s happening around country

Here is your St Patrick’s Day 2017 guide to all the musical, theatrical and cultural events to get your feet tapping tomorrow.

Belfast City Hall: The main parade will depart from outside City Hall and make its way along Donegall Place, Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, Bridge Street and High Street before arriving at Custom House Square where the annual free concert, headlined by X Factor’s Fleur East, begins at 12.45pm. Alongside Fleur, former X Factor R&B duo Reggie ‘n’ Bollie, London girl group Stooshe, the talented Belfast Boys’ Model Drummers and up tempo, traditional band The Rare Aul Stuff are all set to perform.  There will also be a range of street performers and face painters to keep even the youngest revellers entertained.

Cool FM is the council’s media partner and their breakfast team Pete Snodden, Rebecca McKinney and Paulo Ross will compere the concert.

Entry to the concert is on a first come, first served basis. Alcohol is strictly forbidden and other terms and conditions apply.

St Patrick’s Day Spring Carnival — Londonderry: A feast of great events featuring music, dance, food, folklore and more.

St Patrick’s Day Parades from 2pm to 3pm. Community, arts and performance groups from across the council area and beyond take to the streets in vibrant celebration.

LegenDerry Food Festival, March 17-19, 12pm to 6pm. The award winning festival is back showcasing the talents of local chefs and producers. Live cooking demos, artisan foods, street theatre, music, children’s workshops and activities.

The Ubuntu Global Festival, March 18, 12pm to 4.30pm. Experience a multi-cultural celebration of music, performance, arts and craft at the Craft Village; Urban Villages, Bishop Street and GSCA Communities.

Downpatrick, Home of Saint Patrick Festival 2017: The Home of St Patrick Festival 2017, which runs until March 19, is inspired by the life and work of St Patrick and held in the landscape of his home, in Counties Armagh and Down.

This year’s festival promises to have something for everyone and will be narrated through walks, talks, bells, drums, processions, music, art and exclusive concerts set in breath-taking locations. Many Irish and international artists will come together for this year’s programme to include world-renowned writers such as Elif Shafak and one-time punk royalty, Viv Albertine, and visitors from as far as Australia will arrive to celebrate the life of the spiritual father of our island.

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra: A truly traditional St Patrick’s Day with this unique festival of music, seasonal foods and crafts.

Come and enjoy the beauty of the Folk Museum at Cultra as you stroll around the grounds. Celebrate St Patrick’s Day and be transported back to traditional celebrations from over 100 years ago.

Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes to join in and learn traditional set dancing to live music.

A visit to the stunning ‘Step in Time: A Story of Irish Dance’ exhibition in the Folk Galleries has never been more fitting on this day.

Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh: Come along to the Ulster American Folk Park this St Patrick’s Day and attend the ‘American Wake’. Thousands of people left Ireland in the 18th and 19th Centuries. For many, the hours before departure became known as the ‘American or Living Wake’. Watch this dramatic re-enactment complete with music and song. The performances begin at 12pm and 2pm. Normal admission rates apply.

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