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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 6 - Party Tunes: Flow, Boundary Creation and Boundary Transcendence at a Scottish Orange Parade - 155


Chapter 6 Party Tunes: Flow, Boundary Creation and Boundary Transcendence at a Scottish Orange Parade Introduction During the first weekend of July, SGWM makes an annual journey to the Ayrshire village of New Cumnock in the western lowlands of Scotland, to take part in the annual Boyne celebrations of the Ayrshire Orange Institution.1 For many members this visit is the highlight of the band’s year, and the weekend of intensive musical practice in which singing on the bus, and dancing at the Orange Social Club are as significant as parading, has a powerful bonding ef fect, both within the band and between band members and their Scottish hosts. During performances in Scotland, the band focuses upon B&T tunes, rather than on the marches which usually predominate in their repertoire. Stephen explained that ‘The Scots love the blood-and-thunder: it’s what they’re brought up on’. In preparing for the trip to Scotland, the band tailored its performance to the community to which it would be accountable. That community included band members themselves and was forged largely through musical practice. This chapter will explore the way that communal bonds are built and communal identities negotiated through practice, both within the band and in relationship to others, during this short, but emotionally intense period of musicking. It will consider the complexity of the identities that are enacted and embodied in experiences of ‘shared f low’, or ‘communitas’ 1 This account is compiled from experiences in three successive years to create a single coherent...

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