The 21st Northern Ireland Open Accordion Championships were held in the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Carrickfergus on Saturday.
Organised by Larne man Clyde Johnston, the largest accordion festival in the province again attracted a good entry with competitors from England, Scotland and the Irish Republic joining the local contingent.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the event, an informal celebration concert was held on Friday. Helen Rich from Greater Manchester opened the show followed by former UK 15 & Under Champion Roy Hendrie from Troon. There was a duet by Nigel Pasby and Helen Newton from Berkshire followed by local lad Nigel Black and his wife Elaine, on the penny whistle, from Ballymena. After the break Sean O’Neill and Anne-Marie Devine from Strabane got things going again followed by Barry Smith from Birmingham accompanied by Mark Johnston on drums. Keith Dickson and Gordon Shand from the Scottish Borders then took to the stage with Malachi Cairns from Coventry bringing the evening to an end.
At the competition on the Saturday the adjudicators, Audrey Gillian, Philip Hammond and Sarah McEvoy were greatly impressed by the high standard of playing.
Among the multiple prize winners was Louise Boomer from Islandmagee who won the Senior Frosini & Sacred Solos as well as the Late Starters Higher Intermediate and teamed up with her teacher Clyde Johnston to win the Intermediate Duet.
Double prize winners included Jayden Elliott, Larne, Preliminary Solo and Sacred Solo 12 Years & Under and Margaret McLaughlin, Glynn, Late Starters Preliminary Solo & Sacred Sections.
There was also success for Larne youngsters Brody Elliott in the 7 & Under Championship Solo and Lucy McNeilly in the 9 & Under Musette Solo.
Evelyn Moore and Clyde Johnston teamed up to win the Higher Intermediate and Sacred Duets and were also awarded Gold in the Mozart. In the Graded Group Sections, The Eazy Skweezers won the Irish Traditional and Sacred Group Sections. East Antrim Sacred Ensemble won the Sacred March section. 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 first prize in the Orchestral Percussion.
Other highlights of the festival included Brunswick, Lily of the Valley and Pride of the Birches together with East Antrim Seniors forming a massed accordion band with over 60 accordions and a special guest appearance by Brandon McPhee who is starring in The Jimmy Shand Story at Belfast’s Grand Opera House on Wednesday 7 March.
The prizes were jointly distributed by Brandon and the Mayor of Mid & East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, who also presented Clyde with the council’s coat of arms in recognition of the anniversary and invited the committee to the Mayor’s Parlour for a reception. Clyde thanked all who had made the event a success.