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Fivemiletown brass band hope to be pitch perfect at European Championships

By Julian Fowler

image copyrightMurley Silver Band
image captionMurley has competed in Europe twice before but no band from Northern Ireland has won the competition.

A group of musicians from County Tyrone are hoping to hit the right notes at the European Brass Band Association Championships in France.

Murley Silver Band, from Fivemiletown, is representing Northern Ireland in the competition in Lille on Saturday.

The band, which was formed in 1924, is made up of 30 amateur musicians.

Members are from all walks of life and range in age from their teens to their 70s.

Stephen Bloomfield, the band's chairman, is a bank manager who has played in the band for 44 years.

"We are a country band. We're a family-based band from this community and for us to go and represent the band in Lille at the European brass championships is just an amazing honour," he said.

image captionMurley Silver Band was formed in 1924

"We want to give our best and we're rehearsing very hard for that but we also want to go there and enjoy the experience of being part of the European Brass Band Championships - that's just something quite special."

His niece Katie Bloomfield is a GCSE student who plays trombone and percussion. Her mother and father also play in the band.

She said: "The band is made up of many different families. I just think it just feels really like you're at home in the band room and you're with family and friends all the time, so it's really important to keep that going.

"I just enjoy being able to have friendships with people of all different ages and I really, really enjoy the music.

"It's sometimes challenging but it's really rewarding when you can play it and it sounds good," she added.

image captionMembers are aged from their teens to their 70s and are from all walks of life.

Some people who have moved away from the area return twice a week for rehearsals and to take part in concerts and competitions.

Boris Pinto, a doctor now living in Belfast, said he feels part of something special: "My drive is about three hours round trip.

"In the deep dark of winter if you're diverted off the motorway, you can wonder why on earth am I doing all of this?"

He says it is for "wonderful music, great people, and keeping the tradition going".

image captionMurley Silver Band practice twice a week

Murley has competed in Europe twice before but no band from Northern Ireland has won the competition.

Conductor William Hill is hoping that will change this year.

"I always go with the attitude 'we go there and we go to win' and we want to put on a really good performance and represent Northern Ireland as best we possibly can," he said.