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THE MAKING OF TWO CD'S
IN the days before musical downloads when people used to visit record shops to buy their favourite recording artist on CD, along came Galgorm Parks Fife and Drum Group, who produced not one but two CD's of Fifing and Lambeg Drum Music Albums.

This is the remarkable story of how a group of Drumming enthusiast's in Ballymena came together to record "Distant Drums" in 2001 and as a follow up "Party at the Parks" in 2004.

To say all this was planned would be very far off the mark, more a case of arriving on the traditional music scene by sheer accident. Around the turn of the century Galgorm Parks Loyal Orange Lodge was exploring the possibility of creating their own Lodge website with the Lodge Secretary Jim Bolon carrying out research.

Orange websites at this time were rare and often complex in design and kicking on from website 1990's style usually had marching band music backgrounds. One of the first objectives for Galgorm Parks as they gathered material for their new website was to do a sound recording of the Lambeg Drums together with the Fife for the website.

An outdoor recording of the Drums and the Fife was made at the Glebe Orange Hall outside Ahoghill because Galgorm Parks Hall was at this time undergoing extensive renovations. Only after the recording of two tunes namely (The Parks and Kellswater) the idea was floated to releasing these tracks as a CD single as a fund raiser for Galgorm Parks Hall fund.

500 copies were produced launching a new traditional music artist "Galgorm Parks Fife and Drum Group" which featured Alan Ashcroft, Hall Booth, and Jimmy Wright on Drums and Arnold Kenny on Fife. The CD single proved such a success when it was released on 25 June 2001 that almost immediately thoughts turned to producing a full Album of Fife and Drumming tunes.

As for the website, it was put onto hold for next four years in which time two CD's were successfully recorded creating a lot of interest both locally and further afield.

"Distant Drums" was the brainchild of Hugh Wilkinson who was to play a very significant role as both Producer of the New Album and later as a Drummer and Producer on the Group's follow up CD "Party at the Parks" in 2004.

Hugh's technical know-how and his experience with various artists and bands not to mention his ability to get the best out of musicians was the making of both Albums. Another person to have a major influence on the drum settings for Distant Drums was the late Harry Perry who had a tape recording of legionary drummers Willie Lorimer, Bob Cameron recorded back in the 1960's.

"A wee Problem" a puzzled Hugh Wilkinson, centre of picture, taking advice from Stephen McWhirter, looking on is Ryan Canning, Mark Ramsey, and Hall Booth at the recording of Distant Drums

Distant Drums was recorded in the middle of a field beside Galgorm Parks Hall on 22 September 2001.

A specially constructed marquee with a sound tunnel was set up to enhance the acoustics of the recordings using a series of microphones and hundreds of feet of cable linking the recording area to the control unit at the front of the field.

The producer Hugh Wilkinson often refers to the recording of Distant Drums as been the "Eighth wonder of the World" because of the complexity of the recording.

The Album was launched on Saturday 17 November 2001, in Ballymena Town Hall in the presents of Councillor Tommy Nicholl the then Mayor of Ballymena. Amazingly during the month of December, Distant Drums became a top ten selling CD in one of Ballymena's leading Record Stores, outselling many of the big names of Rock and Pop.

The most bizarre recording studio ever, Distant Drums was recorded in the middle of a field

While Distant Drums was mostly Lambeg Drum orientated (the drums was used in every track) "Party at the Parks" the Groups follow up CD in 2004 was heavily Fife influenced. Again masterfully produced by Hugh Wilkinson the major contributors on this Album was Elaine Allen (a product of Galgorm Parks Fifing and Drumming School), and Jack McDonald a veteran Fifer who had a superb range of reels and hornpipe tunes to call upon.

"This is how it's done" producer Hugh Wilkinson keeping everybody amused at the Recording Studio in Coleraine

The major difference in both Albums was the first as mentioned earlier was recorded outdoor whereas "Party at the Parks" was almost exclusively studio recorded.

The exception to this was three tracks by guesting band Cullybackey Pipe Band was recorded in Cullybackey High School.

Also guest artist to appear on the "Party CD" included Alvin Mullan (flute & timpani drum), Timothy Connor (violin), Richard Topping (accordion) and adding a bit of variety to the album was Margaret Beggs (vocals) and Rae Shiels and Stanley Swann (keyboards).

Whether or not mixing the Album with session musicians was the best approach by Galgorm Parks or to concentrate with the fife and lambeg drum as in "Distant Drums" was the biggest question to come out of this Album?

Two of the biggest stars of "Party at the Parks" Album Stanley Swann and Elaine Allen

The studio technics used in this Album greatly reduced the volume level of sound from the lambeg drums in order to bring out the best in the fifes. Each instrument was recorded separately and then layered together to form the finished track.

Various difficulties presented themselves to the drummers in studio not least getting these large drums into a small recording area, and using headphones of pre-recorded fife music as to the norm of accompanying the fife when outdoors.

However all these problems were overcome and perhaps the biggest star to emerge from "Party at the Parks" was Elaine Allen who launched a very successful solo career playing the tin whistle. Elaine went on to make two outstanding Albums of her own "Twistin Tin" and "Swingin Tin".

Party at the Parks was launched in July 2004 to coincide with the Lodge hosting the Twelfth Demonstration in Ballymena that year, with tracks from the Album featuring many times on local and national radio stations.