Concert band goes solo after cutting link with fire service
The concert band which has played to every member of the royal family and represented the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service for almost a century is going solo.
The newly named NI Concert Band, which is setting up a new base in Garnerville, east Belfast, played its last note as fire service representatives to Prince Edward at the annual Garden Party in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle last week.
As of next week the 46-member band will no longer represent the fire service which cut ties with the band because it was no longer "manageable".
The band had previously been made up of operating and retired service staff but had always been open to non-service staff, given its size.
Band member and retired firefighter Harry Dawson said it had been a great disappointment to hear that the fire service would be cutting their links with the band but that all members were positive about taking the band forward.
"When the band was first established we had eight people turn up for the first session, since then we have represented most of the major charities across Northern Ireland and played to every member of the royal family," he said.
"We've thoroughly enjoyed representing the fire service as I'm sure they've enjoyed having us represent them and were disappointed to hear that they would be cutting those ties.
"On hearing the news every member of the band agreed and came on board with the transition that we would continue as an individual band."
The band will now begin practising in the parochial house of Garnerville Presbyterian Church in return for offering their services to the community over the festive periods.
"We want to thank the Garnerville community for accommodating us and we hope to have our first practice of what we are calling 'the new horizon' next week," said Mr Dawson.
"As a thank you and as a way of highlighting our community role we hope to hold a family and friends open night some time in November and welcome people to attend," he added.