Northern Ireland accordion festival draws over 200 entries to Carrickfergus

Elaine Brennan and Louise Boomer competed in the NI Accordion Championships in Carrickfergus. INCT 07-006-PSB
Elaine Brennan and Louise Boomer competed in the NI Accordion Championships in Carrickfergus. INCT 07-006-PSB

East Antrim musicians were among the prizes at the 22nd annual Northern Ireland Open Accordion Championships in Carrickfergus.

The largest accordion festival in the province was held at Belfast Loughshore Hotel and attracted over 200 entries.

Edward McKay, David Clarke, Sharon Winter and Neil Henry from the Pride of the Birches Accordion Band. INCT 07-004-PSB

Edward McKay, David Clarke, Sharon Winter and Neil Henry from the Pride of the Birches Accordion Band. INCT 07-004-PSB

The championships are recognised by the National Accordion Organisation of the United Kingdom as a qualifier for the UK event and organiser Clyde Johnston was delighted to welcome competitors from England, Scotland, Germany and the Republic of Ireland, in addition to the local participants.

The event got off to a great start with the Friday night concert featuring an array of talented accordionists.

At the competition on the Saturday, the adjudicators, Audrey Gillian, Noelle McCarthy and Sarah McEvoy, were greatly impressed by the high standard of playing.

Among the prize winners was Louise Boomer from Islandmagee who won the Senior Polka & Higher Intermediate Late Starters and teamed up with her teacher Clyde Johnston to win the Intermediate Duet, and Sonja Allen from Larne in the Late Starters Elementary Solo & Accordion plus Another Instrument when she played her Tyrolean harp.

Katie-Jane Cowley gets some practice at the festival. INCT 07-005-PSB

Katie-Jane Cowley gets some practice at the festival. INCT 07-005-PSB

Evelyn Moore from Templepatrick teamed up with her teacher Clyde Johnston to win the Higher Intermediate and Sacred Duets. They were also awarded gold in the Mozart Class with Evelyn going on to won her Senior Sacred Solo section.

In the graded group sections East Antrim Accordion Ensemble won the Intermediate Test & Own Choice sections. The East Antrim Sacred Ensemble won the Sacred and Sacred March Group sections

The Entertainment section had three entries this year and created great interest with all three ‘acts’ being awarded gold. First on was Harfenliesl alias Sonja Allen who appeared in national Tyrolean costume and played Tyrolean tunes on both her accordion and the Tyrolean harp, this was followed by the Eazy Skweezers who regaled the audience with a wonderful Carpenters medley and The Gael and finally Barry Smith from Birmingham and Mark Johnston (on percussion) from Larne rounded off the section with Barry marching on to the swirl of the bagpipes before finishing with The Dambusters on his accordion.

Once again the orchestral sections drew the largest audience of the day. The Sacred Orchestra section was won by East Antrim Seniors Accordion Orchestra who were also awarded gold for their Showband Entertainment programme as well as winning the Senior March and Club Band sections and taking second prize in the Orchestral Percussion.

Pia Gontalez and Marga de la Pisa at the NI Open Accordion Championships. INCT 07-001-PSB

Pia Gontalez and Marga de la Pisa at the NI Open Accordion Championships. INCT 07-001-PSB

The day’s music making was brought to a conclusion when the three marching bands, Brunswick, Lily of the Valley and Pride of the Birches, together with East Antrim Seniors, formed a massed accordion band with over 60 accordions.

Expressing appreciation to all who had made the event a success, Clyde added: “Special thanks are due to the management and staff of the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Carrickfergus for providing the excellent facilities and their professionalism and helpfulness throughout the day which contributed greatly to the smooth running of the festival; the souvenir programme advertisers for sponsoring the championships and to the stage managers, Ruth Campbell, Barbara Acheson, Evelyn Moore and Valerie Foster; competitions co-ordinator Mark Johnston; ballot organisers Tanya Steele and Karen Weiner as well as Ian Campbell, Bill McCartney and Gary Brennan who manned the information desk and photographer Andrew Montgomery of Churchfield Photography.”

Lauren Cassidy and Joanne Farrell from the Royal Music Accordion Orchestra. INCT 07-002-PSB

Lauren Cassidy and Joanne Farrell from the Royal Music Accordion Orchestra. INCT 07-002-PSB

Members of the K & S Accordian Band  at the event held in the Loughshore Hotel. INCT 07-003-PSB

Members of the K & S Accordian Band at the event held in the Loughshore Hotel. INCT 07-003-PSB