Downshire Treading the Boards


On the morning of Wednesday 21st March, 5 members of Downshire Brass arrived at the MAC, Belfast to begin rehearsals for two performances of Gary Clarke’s award winning dance theatre show COAL which looks back at the realities of life at the coal face during the 1980s. 
The quintet shared the stage with professional dancers and four women from the local community - it was an opportunity to do something very different that none of the band members or women had experienced before. Rehearsals were intense and performances emotionally charged, receiving a standing ovation on Thursday.

All five members of Downshire thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would like to say a huge thank you to all the cast and crew of COAL for making them feel so welcome and especially to Steven Roberts, Musical Director for his guidance and encouragement over the two days. 
Wishing every success to Gary and the rest of the COAL team for their final performances in Brighton before heading oversees later in the year.

Cornet Opportunities

Downshire Brass is currently seeking to recruit TWO experienced cornet players to join our front row. Our friendly band offers a good mix of contest, concert, and recording work and welcomes players both young and old. We enjoy excellent attendance at rehearsals and have a steady schedule of events lined up over the next year.

The band rehearses on Mondays and Thursdays from 8.00pm - 10.00pm in Malone Presbyterian Church Halls, Lisburn Road, Belfast. If you are interested in joining this ambitious group or would like more information, then please contact Michael Alcorn (Musical Director) and Paul Kirk (Chairperson) via or Paul on 07380 485309.

Greetings from Australia! Liz Doyle remembers her time in Downshire Brass


Now back living in Australia, Liz recalls her year with the band:  

"My Northern Ireland adventures began in 2012 when I accepted a work contract and found myself getting off the ferry in sunny Larne.

Not knowing much at all about Northern Ireland, my first aim – after getting to Belfast - was to find the local brass band! After a short search I came across Downshire Brass and was welcomed heartily.

I fondly remember the weekly rehearsals sitting in the tuba section, and having the opportunity to attend some rather eclectic gigs at schools, fairs and contests, and I also tagged along and joined some of the band at a 12th July Orange march (and yes, I made it onto youtube).  

I was also fortunate to come across an unofficial mentor in the late Harry Dalzell who was able to explain the cultural nuances of Northern Ireland, and through him, encouragement and participation in the July parades. I appreciated his stories, his infinite knowledge of the brass band music repertoire as well as his cultural explanations and conversation. Harry, and the rest of the band, also supported a humble tenor horn player adjust to E flat tuba!

One of the highlights of my time with the band was to participate in the premiere of Phillip Hammond’s piece, Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic. This epic undertaking involved multiple choirs, ensembles, conductors and more than one sound/TV system, all set up in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast. I don’t think I realized at the time the magnificence of this piece until I had a chance to listen to the recording, which I still have to this day.

Through Downshire and other various bands in the UK, I forged many friendships which I continue to treasure. I regularly keep in touch with banding friends across the UK and will fondly remember many an enjoyable and rather interesting playout. I also enjoy discussing and comparing competition results and pieces with what’s happening in the Australian Brass banding scene. Joining the local brass band such as Downshire enabled me to visit many parts of Northern Ireland as well as a great social environment-crucial for the solo traveler. I thank the Downshire crew for their hospitality and adventure during my 12 months in Northern Ireland and will be sure to return for a play one day!

Thanks Liz Doyle Melbourne, Australia"

Where are they now? Catching up with Jérémie Wawszczyk

Catching up with some of our members from far away locations who joined the band during their time in Belfast. 


Jérémie Wawszczyk played with the band in 2012-13.  He recalls his time with the band as follows:  

"Back in 2012, my Erasmus exchange brought me to Belfast, where I had heard that brass bands like the one in the movie "Brassed Off" played. So I decided to take less stuff with me in my luggage so I could put my cornet in my suitcase!

Two days after my arrival in early September, I had found a room, which is a pretty easy thing to do in that city. I then started to look for a band. Downshire Brass was rehearsing on that night, so I called to know if I could join. That was a "yes". By the end of the evening I had my picture taken and a form sign to be recorded as a member of the North of Ireland Band Association. My first gig was on the next Sunday. It seemed like we spent most of the whole year working on tricky test pieces for the 5 contests that occurred that year. I remember especially two of these. One was an entertainment contest the venue for which was the Whitla Hall, and during which Michael had me playing the violin …!  I remember also the piece Richard Evans had us working on, and of course, the Irish National Championship that we won playing those two wonderful pieces, "Between the Two Rivers" and "Tallis Overture" !

I had a memorable time in Downshire and enjoyed being taught about the so called “Irish Craic”, and some of the experiences I have shared with the band I will share with my grandchildren sometime! I now live in Paris where I work as an architect and where I have joined the world of the “Fanfare Beaux Arts” which is less accurate on musical theory and more focused on funny costumes. I follow what Downshire is doing from the distance but I am sure I will have some occasion to play with them again."


NIBA Contest 2017

On Saturday 14th October 2017, the members of Downshire Brass made their annual trip to Armagh for the NIBA Championship of Ireland Band Contest.  This year marked the 100th contest for the NIBA which made the event extra special.  Before the senior band took to the stage in the early evening, the youth band performed Malcolm Arnold’s ‘Little Suite for Brass’ just after lunch– and what a great job they made of a tricky piece! They were later announced as runners-up in the section following a splendid performance by the 1st Old Boys Youth Band.  Thank you to all the youth band parents for your support.

IMG_2679 (1).jpg

After cheering on MD Michael Alcorn with Lourdes Brass Band and associate conductor Wesley Thompson with Comber Silver Band in the Second Grade Brass section, it was the turn of Downshire’s senior band who performed the set work ‘Salamander’ by John McCabe.   The band had been drawn to play first in the section and some members enjoyed a well-earned rest following the performance while others took the opportunity to listen to the other performances in the section.  Downshire was delighted to come away with 2nd place finish and most of the band headed back to Belfast for some light refreshments!

Many congratulations to all of the prize winners with a special mention to the 1st Old Boys Silver Band who will be representing Northern Ireland at the European Brass Band Championships in Montreux, Switzerland in 2019. 

As always, Downshire Brass would like to thank Michael for all of the work that went into preparing both bands for the contest; our guest players for the time and commitment they gave in the weeks leading up to the performance and to the NIBA Executive for another great contest day.  Finally, well done to all the bands participating in the contest this year, as mentioned on the day, it is great that we are celebrating 100 years of NIBA contesting!

Downshire has a busy few months ahead preparing for the Festival of Brass contest in November and lots of events over the Festive season.  Keep up-to-date with forthcoming events via the website or Facebook page!     


100th NIBA Championship of Ireland Band Contest Results

Fifth Grade / Unaffiliated
Stedfast Shoes Brass 168 points

Fourth Grade Brass
Poyntzpass Silver 171 points

Third Grade Brass
1-Wellington Memorial Silver 179 points
2-Dynamic Brass 177 points
3-Navan Silver 176 points
4-Dungannon Silver 174 points

Youth Brass Band
1-1st Old Boys Silver Junior Band 180 points
2-Downshire Youth Band 178 points

Second Grade Brass
1-Drogheda Brass 185 points (also Best Basses and Best Cornets)
2-Roughan Silver 183 points
3-Lourdes Brass Band 182 points
4-Comber Silver 181 points
5-CWA Brass 180 points

Championship Brass
1-1st Old Boys Silver Band 193 points (also Best Instrumentalist- Alan Haworth, euphonium)
2-Downshire Brass 190 points
3-Third Carrickfergus 187 points
4-Laganvale Metal Technology 186 points
5-Three Rivers Brass 184 points
6-Murley Silver Band 183 points


New School Year & new opportunities at Downshire Brass!

Downshire Youth and Junior Bands have a number of spaces available from September 2017 for aspiring young brass players!  We have opportunities in our junior band for young players of grade 1 standard or above and in our youth band for players of grade 3 standard and above.  There will also be a beginners class starting in late September for those starting out to learn a brass instrument.  This will lead directly into the Junior Band.  

Downshire is able to provide instruments to new members and can arrange tuition to anyone who is interested in one-to-one classes.  

Both bands meet from 6.30pm - 7.45pm on Monday evenings at Malone Presbyterian Church.  There are currently more than 40 young people involved in our Youth Programme and opportunities for youth and junior band players to progress through to our senior band, Downshire Brass. 


Please get in touch via this link if you want to find out more about participating in any of these youth groups. 

Downshire in Donegal - this weekend

Just a few days until our concert on the beautiful Fanad pennisula in Donegal.   
Tickets are still available via Eventbrite for this event on 5th August 2017 which is a fundraiser for Clondevaddock Parish Church.

The concert includes works from stage and screen, as well as classical transcriptions, jazz standards, and popular music.   The event will take place in Rossnakill Tourism & Activity Centre, Rossnakill, within easy reach of places such as Portsalon, Rathmullan, Carrigart and all areas close to Fanad Head.

available from Valerie Gallagher (tel 0749159287/0879588122), on the door or electronically via Eventbrite.  

Downshire Brass BBQ

Sunday 25th June saw our third annual summer BBQ. Senior, youth and junior band members got together with their families at Ardnavally Scout Centre for some food, fun and friendship on Sunday afternoon. Thankfully the weather held up and the ever popular Slip 'n' Slide made an appearance following a delicious BBQ. Who knew a garden hose, a tarpaulin sheet and a container of washing-up liquid could provide so much fun?! All the kids (and some big kids too!) appeared to enjoy every minute and the parents had difficulty persuading them it was time to go home! 

A huge thank you to Alan and Gary for cooking and to Paul, Chris and Reggie for their preparations in the kitchen.   A good time had by all!

End of Year Concert 2017

A massed band of over 60 players from the junior, youth and senior bands gathered for Downshire's end-of-year concert. This event, which marks the end of the academic year and the beginning of a summer break, featured music which the bands had been working on during the last year.

Roger Doherty led the junior band through four pieces including Amarillo and I'll Tell Me Ma, with the audience providing lively clapping accompaniments in both pieces.   The youth band, conducted by Michael Alcorn, played a range of pieces including Mr Jums, The Muppet Show theme music and two movements from Little Suite for Brass by Malcolm Arnold.  The youth band programme also included a contemporary piece for snare drum solo, entitled Kim, by Askell Másson, performed skilfully by Cathryn Lynch. 

The senior band opened and closed the concert with pieces from their 2017 summer programme, including Village People Medley and Minnie the Moocher with solos from Chris Reid and Leah Forsythe.  Alas, this concert was also the last appearance for Leah on flugel before she moves to England to continue her academic studies.  The concert also marked the first performance by Ellen Mullen as the newest member of Downshire Brass.

 Cathryn Lynch & Michael Alcorn

Cathryn Lynch & Michael Alcorn

Two awards were made at the end of the evening, marking outstanding contributions by one member from each of the junior and youth bands.   All of the young players in both bands could have been worthy winners of these awards, so inevitably it was challenging to select a recipient.   In the end the Samuel Doherty Cup was won by Susan Lowther and the Doreen Alcorn Cup for Outstanding Musical Contribution was awarded to Cathryn Lynch.

The evening concluded with a massed band performance of the Best of Bond.  What a sound!  

Strike up the Band - new series

Downshire Brass' performance for Strike up the Band will be broadcast on 16th July at 6.30pm and repeated on Tuesday 18 July 2017 at 7.30pm.  

Details of the full series are shown below:

Programme 1                                                                                                
BROADCAST           Sunday 18 June 2017 at 1830                                  
REPEAT                     Tuesday 20 June 2017 at 1930

Joe McKee returns with a new series of music for concert bands.  Featured guests today are the members of the 1st Old Boys Association Silver Band conducted by Stephen Cairns.

Programme 2                                                                                                            
BROADCAST           Sunday 25 June 2017 at 1830                                                                     
REPEAT                     Tuesday 27 June 2017 at 1930

Joe McKee introduces Ballylone Concert Flute Band, from the Ballynahinch area, conducted by Philip Walton.

Programme 3                                                            
BROADCAST         Sunday 2 July 2017 at 1830                                                                   
REPEAT                     Tuesday 4 July 2017 at 1930

Joe McKee’s guests are the members of the Laganavale (Metal Technology) Silver Band
from Belfast, conducted by Stephen Crooks.


Programme 4                                                                                                            
BROADCAST           Sunday 9 July 2017 at 1830                                                                       
REPEAT                     Tuesday 11 July 2017 at 1930

Joe McKee presents the Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band from mid Antrim, with their conductor Alan Beattie.

Programme 5                                                                                                            
BROADCAST           Sunday 16 July 2017 at 1830                                                                     
REPEAT                     Tuesday 18 July 2017 at 1930

Joe McKee introduces the Downshire Brass Band from Belfast and their conductor Professor Michael Alcorn.

Programme 6                                                                                                            
BROADCAST           Sunday 23 July 2017 at 1830                                                                    
REPEAT                     Tuesday 25 July 2017  at 1930

Joe McKee presents the Ballygowan Flute Band from County Down with their conductor, Stephen Cairns.

Strike up the Band Recording

Some photographs from Monday's recording session with Joe McKee and Karl Walker for the 2017 BBC Radio Ulster series, "Strike Up the Band".  The show will be broadcast in June and will feature pieces from our recent contest and concert programmes.  Thanks as always to Joe and Karl for being so easy to work with and to our guests who helped on the night.  Thanks also to Ashley Elliott for the photographs.  



The band were delighted to be invited to compete in the Senior Trophy at the Spring Festival at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on the 13th May.  This new adventure for the band and its supporters began on Friday morning with a ferry journey over to Cairnryan under the excellent steerage of Jeremy at Millennium Travel. An early night saw an early rehearsal on the Saturday morning with the band drawn seventh in the morning draw.  The intense preparation of Gilbert Vinter’s ‘Salute to Youth’ under our Musical Director Prof. Michael Alcorn paid off with the band achieving a creditable thirteenth out of the nineteen bands competing.  With the last five bands being relegated, this assures the band of a place at next year’s competition. 


A huge achievement for a first outing. Congratulations to our soloists, particularly  Hannah Copes and Neil Stephenson.  Huge congratulations to Dalmellington and Richard Evans on their first place and Laganvale on their eighth place.  It was great to be in the same hotel as Laganvale and it certainly added to the vibe!

For some of the band, the celebrations continued well into the night (and morning!!) sampling the delights of Blackpool and amazing the crowds with unique Karaoke performances with accompanying dancers! But by Sunday morning many took to the Tower, were tempted by the Ballroom or enjoyed a stroll along the beach.  The journey home was a little quieter!

As always, thanks to Michael for his encouragement, meticulous preparation and energy.  Thanks also to Gary Proctor and Wesley Thompson for guesting with the band.  Taking the band to Blackpool involved huge efforts by all the members and supporters of the band in terms of commitment, rehearsals, sectionals, organisation and fund-raising. The band thanks everyone.

Now the band moves on to prepare for a busy Summer of engagements.

Photographs from Blackpool 2017