days in Northern Ireland are long. You need only look at a map of Europe to see how far
west and north we are. That means lovely light evenings - and Ulster people make the most
There's always a fishing festival or an agricultural show, a steam train rally, a
regatta or a rose show going on somewhere. There are sheepdog trials, terrier races and
gun dog scurries, road bowls contests around Armagh, pageants at Carrickfergus Castle and
at Scarva Demesne (the 'Sham Fight'). You can be sure to catch a balloon race, an air
show, a feis or a fleadh (traditional Irish music and dancing), or a band
playing in the park.
Pipe bands, flute bands, silver bands, accordion bands, brass bands--if they are not
striking up on the bandstand or concert platform, the sound of their practising floats on
The tootling and piping goes on all summer as an array of parades and bands mark
various anniversaries. To hear the 'blattering' of the Lambeg drums it's best-to go to a
country demonstration. These giant hand-made drums, with elaborately lettered goatskins
and hoops handpainted in brilliant colours, are monstrously heavy, weighing over 30 lb.
The noise they make is enormous.
Every kind of popular music, including jazz and gospel, flourishes in Ulster. The Harp
is in demand at weddings and reunions though it is now more of a concert instrument.
'No harp,' said Francis Bacon, 'hath the sound so long and so melting as the Irish
harp.' They are still made in two or three places in Northern Ireland.
Ulster's best known arts festival, the Belfast Festival at Queen's in November, is one
of the largest in the British Isles and covers the whole spectrum of the arts. Other
cultural festivals, such as those in Londonderry, Armagh, Enniskillen, Omagh and Newry
have good chamber music and theatre, with ballad singers and musicians from all over
Ireland coming to reinforce the local talent.
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