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Music, Emotion and Identity in Ulster Marching Bands

Flutes, Drums and Loyal Sons

Gordon Ramsey

Ulster’s marching bands form perhaps the most vibrant participatory folk music tradition in contemporary Europe, and are one of the most significant and visible elements of working-class loyalist culture in the divided society of Northern Ireland. Their significance springs largely from the central place they have assumed in the lives of their members.
This book presents an ethnography of three County Antrim flute bands from the very different genres of ‘part-music’, ‘melody’ and ‘blood and thunder’. The author explores the emotional rewards of communal music-making and the way that identities are formed through the acquisition of tastes, competences and skills within specific communal contexts, paying particular attention to the impact of class position. These issues are examined in the context of the competitions, concerts and street parades that are central to the social lives of thousands of band members and supporters in Northern Ireland.


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Chapter 3 - Traditional Roots: Parading in Ulster - 69


Chapter 3 Traditional Roots: Parading in Ulster Introduction Practice is an historical phenomenon: embodied identities are brought forth through practice and they have been shaped and reshaped by a previous history of practice. This chapter will examine the historical development of the field of parading traditions in Ulster. These include f lute-bands, other band genres including brass, accordion and pipe-bands, and musical or parading organisations, such as the Flute-Band League or the Orange Order, that have engaged with f lute-bands in musical practice by organis- ing or patronising musical events. I will describe the origins of the fife-and-drum tradition in eighteenth- century Ireland, the brief f lowering of the temperance band movement in the mid-nineteenth century, the replacement of the ‘drumming-party’ by the f lute-band and the appearance of other band genres associated with processes of urbanisation and industrialisation from the late nineteenth century, the evolution of ‘part-music’ bands and their adoption of silver f lutes in the twentieth century, and the appearance of the ‘blood-and- thunder’ genre, associated with processes of deindustrialisation and the outbreak of the ‘Troubles’ from the 1970s. The chapter will situate this narrative within the tensions and conf licts of class and ethnicity result- ing from Ireland’s history as a ‘semi-peripheral’ region within the British Empire’s mercantilist economy.1 1 O’Hearn (2001) presents a detailed economic study of Ireland’s situation as a ‘semi- peripheral’ region within the ‘Atlantic economy’ from the seventeenth to the late twentieth centuries. 70 Chapter 3 Development of Popular Parading Practices: Carnival...

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