Emotional concert closes Battle of Somme exhibition in Cookstown’s Burnavon theatre

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A real roller coaster of emotions were laid bare at the Burnavon Arts Theatre last Saturday night, as the Tyrone Somme Memorial Association month long series of events to mark the Battle of the Somme came to a fitting finale.

All week the Somme Exhibition had been well attended and this reached a crescendo in the hours leading up to the concert with an estimated 200 people viewing the artefacts, uniforms and posters.

The concert itself was opened by TSMA member Councillor Kim Ashton who paid tribute to the Association membership and started proceeding by reading the Tyrone Somme prayer, with Chairman Michael Wilson reading the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ .

First act on stage was the band of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, superbly turned out in WWI period uniform and the Omagh melody band played a superb series of WWI and WW2 tunes.

The talent certainly didn’t drop with Field Marshall Montgomery’s world champion drummer Aaron McLean and piper Ross Hume, mesmerising and enchanting the audience with a mix of solo and paired pieces. Another poem about WWI, ‘It’s in our Blood’ was read by Michael before he introduced local band, Tamlaghtmore Silver. Their ensemble of marches, hymns and war tunes quickly had the crowd clapping along in time and their 20 minute slot ended with warm applause from the assembled patrons.

To end the first half of the concert, Keady crooner Paul Elliott had the emotions of the crowd in turmoil with tear jerking, ‘Doon the line’, ‘The Green Fields of France’ and Anzac tribute ‘The Band played Waltzing Matilda’.

After a well earned break, the youthful Schomberg Ulster Scots Dancers took to the stage and the exhausted youngsters from Kilkeel, who had earlier taken part in a competition in Bangor, quickly captured the heart of all present with their traditional Jigs and Reels, earning smiles and raucous applause. To end the musical selection, Inniskilling Fusiliers put on a brilliant performance of great military and film tunes like Aces High, Dambusters and Dads’s Army, a fitting way to close their act and greatly appreciated by the grateful audience.

Michael’s last poem, ‘That July Morn’ again stirred the emotions of those present before the haunting voice of Paul Elliott broke through the tear barriers with his cappella version of ‘ John Condon’.

To close proceeding a solemn act of remembrance took place with local soldiers like the Cumberland Brothers, William Dickson, John Park and John Jordan being honoured for their supreme sacrifice, with young TSMA member Calum Crooks laying a wreath, Ross Hume piping a lament and Chris Donnelly playing the last post.