So, it turns out that military bands are like buses. You wait for one to come along and then you get four all at once!
This was the rare treat that met the folk of the historic town of Carrickfergus as they turned up in their droves on Saturday night to witness a once in a lifetimes event.
As the sun set on the historic Norman era battlements of Carrickfergus Castle the massed Bands of the Army's four Irish Regiments performed together in Northern Ireland for the first time in 35 years.
The evening featured displays from the bands of the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment, alongside the pipes and drums of the Royal Dragoon Guards, the Queen's Royal Hussars, the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment.
Around 250 musicians including students from Campbell College Army Cadet Force (ACF) performed a wide selection of musical pieces from old favourites such as ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, ‘Killaloo’ and ‘Highland Cathedral’ as well as more contemporary compositions the such as reel section from ‘Riverdance’.
There were also special performances from a choir of Fijian soldiers who serve in Irish regiments and performances of traditional Scottish dancing from Michelle Johnston school of Scottish dance and a dynamic display of Irish dancing from dance troupe ‘Tara’.
Due to Covid restrictions and the need for social distancing, this unique event was watched by an eager audience of 1250 that included veterans, members of the public and the Colonels of the regiments that include the Chief of the General Staff Mark Carlton Smith who is the colonel of the Irish Guards; Colonel of the Royal Dragoon Guards Major General Tim Hyams, Colonel of the Queen’s Royal Hussars Sir Tom Beckett and Colonel of the Royal Irish Regiment Major General Colin Weir.
Major General Weir described the event as a once ‘generation opportunity’.
He said: ‘All of this music that we play marks out various points in our history right through to the modern day. As the nature of warfare changes, the various aspects of what we wear and how we behave the traditions that we carry as individual regiments; but perhaps the most powerful of all of those is the music that we play’.
Also present at the event was the Her Majesty’s representative for Antrim Lord Lieutenant Mr David McCorkell as well as the Fijian High Commissioner to the UK Vinaka Saka Vakalevu who described the night ‘as spectacular’.
He said: This is my fifth visit to Northern Ireland and tonight was extraordinary, it couldn’t have been better’
The demand for tickets was such that the organisers and Mid-East Antrim Borough Council could have easily exceeded the allocation. However, the occasion was live streamed by the council which enabled people from all over the UK and from around the world to enjoy this fantastic and unique occasion.