Paul Johnson is a musician in the Band of the Irish Guards based at Wellington Barracks in central London. The Irish Guards band is one of the five foot guards bands that make up the Household Division.
Tuesday 25 September
A day earlier than planned the Band, after much disbelief at the size of a tiny van to get 10 days’ worth of military kit, instruments and personal kit packed inside (yet still managed it… just), finally set off on the 16-hour coach and ferry journey from London to Northern Ireland.
Wednesday 26 September
Today the Band arrived at Kinnegar Barracks at 7am with everyone glad to have arrived and with no one being seasick (although many very close to it). Once we had arrived and had a quick breakfast, we were back on a coach to a rehearsal for the Drumhead service for the disbandment of 19 Light Brigade.
After a long 24 hours the warm coach journey back to barracks after a rather cold rehearsal, was too much for some with many of the Band having a competition as to who could curl themselves up into a ball the fastest, and snore the loudest!
Thursday 27 September
The first music event since the Band arrived in Northern Ireland. After yesterday’s rehearsal not going quite to plan due to doziness from travelling, everyone was slightly on edge as to whether or not it would all slot into place. Luckily with a goodnight sleep the Band managed to step up a gear and produce the goods required!
As you can gather so far since the start of this tour, nothing seemed to be going our way. The parade was due to finish at 4:30pm in time for us to head over to our concert in the evening. However at 5:20pm we were still on parade! At 5:30pm the Band quickly got changed and jumped on the bus to head to our first concert in Belfast.
Friday 28 September
Friday morning was the first time the Band had some downtime since the start of the Tour. For most of the Band this involved sleeping. Friday evening the Band headed to Westbourne church, Belfast. Finding the venue was easier said than done, and after arriving at 2 different churches, the 3rd attempt was slightly more successful.
As with all our concerts out in Northern Ireland, each programme of music included something new, something old, something borrowed and something green! Tonight’s performance included Musician Peter Batai playing a fantastic solo on the oboe called The Watermill and Lance-Sergeant Richard Lorimer playing Lord of the Dance on a penny whistle.
Saturday 29 September
After a hectic start to the tour the Band was looking forward to a more relaxing day, with a Band workshop being held on the camp with potential musicians. Many talented young musicians turned up and rehearsed music for a performance for the families in the afternoon.
Sunday 30 September
During the morning the Band had an impromptu visit to the Titanic Experience Centre in Belfast to celebrate the centenary of the sinking of this legendary ship. The Band had a chance to have pictures taken on the ‘mock up’ of the Grand Staircase, and to play in the foyer to visitors. In evening the Band performed the first of two concerts at the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn. This again was another fantastic concert for the Band.
Monday 1 October
We headed off to take part in two school concerts in the town of Ballymena. The school children enjoyed the Regimental Mascot Conmael, and the Marching Band (with their funny hats), however one unsuspecting pupil had the shock of her life, when a member of the trombone section dragged her on stage to serenade her.
The Evening Concert included the Royal Irish TA Band’s folk ensemble.
Tuesday 2 October
Tuesday Morning saw another well deserved morning off, as now halfway through the tour (and with the Director of Music’s jokes not getting any better!) the Band were starting to get Tour fatigue.
The concert in the evening was at Elim Church, Bangor. This concert was with the Bangor Ladies Choir, and had the theme of “Best of British” and “Last Night of the Proms”. With Union flags being waved to Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule Britannia.
Wednesday 3 October
Today the Band took part in a Disbandment Parade at Palace Barracks. Although up the road, with a rehearsal at 7am the Band was not quite so eager about leaving at 6:45am. So with many a sleepy eye and all wrapped up warm, the Band, all dressed up in Barrack dress and combat jackets (and numerous thermal layers underneath) formed up to march the Battalion on parade for the last time.
With the evening’s concert at Enniskillen, the Band had to be on the road early afternoon to arrive there to set up and rehearse. Upon arrival the Band set up in what can only be described as a meeting place for the Women’s Institute back in the 1970’s. However, like everywhere else we have performed so far on this tour, the place was packed out to the rafters.
Thursday 4 October
On this day a medal parade for 38 Engineer Regiment, who had just arrived back from Afghanistan (to be greeted by cold, wet and foggy British weather).
In the evening the Band went back to the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn for their second concert at the venue (as the first was a complete sell out). With it being the last concert of the tour the Band was looking to be on form and focused to make this the best concert yet.The Band certainly delivered.
Friday 5 October
Today is a sad day for the Band as they head down to Dublin, to say goodbye to the Regimental Mascot, as he retires from duty. Part of the retirement included a marching display, as well as the handover of duties from the old dog to the new 3-month-old puppy.
In the evening the Band headed off for their final event of the tour, at the K Club Golf Resort in Dublin. The Band took part in a Beating Retreat Ceremony, on the freshly watered grass. This made the marching element of the Beating Retreat an interesting experience, trying to get grip on the boggy grass.
Saturday 6 October
At 2am the band boarded the coach for the last time, and headed back to the mainland (and all things familiar!). Another interesting and successful tour completed.