The previous night people had gathered in the Oh Yeah Music Centre in the Cathedral Quarter to hear songs of the ceasefire, expressing some of the hopes and frustrations of the years since Troubles… then on Saturday a larger group gathered in that quarter’s eponymous Cathedral, St Anne’s for a different set of songs “Hear Us Now! – A Festival of Choirs…” compered by UTV’s Jude Hill.
Some of those there had moved not from the Oh Yeah Music Centre, round the corner, but the other cathedral in this divided city, St. Peter’s off the Falls Road, sharing in a tour of the two cathedrals and a walk between them, taking in the St Peter’s Immaculata Youth Centre en route, and at the end of the festival of choirs the Schola Cantorum from St. Peter’s brought things to a close leading a sung Compline.
But before that the audience enjoyed 5 other choirs performing a wide range of music and reflecting both the diversity of our city and the unifying, healing power of music… ParSonik, a singing group set up to support those living with Parkinson’s Disease, Feile Women’s Singing Group, made up of women from across Belfast and beyond; Hill Croft Senior School and Makaton Choirs, Harmony North, an inter-denominational choir of post-primary school students and Sing For Life, a choir set up in partnership by Cancer Focus and the Crescent Arts Centre for those affected by cancer presented a programme of 26 pieces drawn from folk, pop, musical theatre, gospel, and classical sources, starting, on a cold winter’s night, with the ParSonik Choir singing “Bring me Sunshine” by Sylvia Dee and Arthur Kent, made famous by Morecambe & Wise, putting a smile on the face of all there. And that smile remained firmly in place throughout the evening, even when a number of songs prompted a tear or two.
Hope and Joy were recurrent themes throughout the evening with ParSonik’s version of Ode to Joy, the Feile Women’s assertion that they “Still have Joy… Hope… and Peace”, Sing for Life’s version of Labi Siffre’s “Something inside so Strong” and Harmony North’s “The Storm is Passing Over” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Perhaps some of that hope and joy simply comes through the solidarity that such choirs engender…
The very existence of the Harmony North Choir speaks of that, embodying a unity of purpose despite coming from a highly divided corner of our city and what many argue is not only a divided but a divisive education system. In the repertoire of the other choirs were other echoes of solidarity, with ParSonik affirming in the words of Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” “I’m on your side”, and finishing with Abba’s “The Way Old Friends Do”, the Feile Women singing the Liverpool FC favourite “You’lll Never Walk Alone” in a powerful performance, and Hill Croft’s Makaton Choir signing to Bruno Mars “Count on Me”.
So this was not just an exercise in musical excellence or entertainment, but a glimpse of what this city might be when it comes together in a common cause.
Or in the word of “One Voice” by the Wailin’ Jennys as sung by the Feile Women:
This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of usThis is the sound of one voice
One people, one voice
A song for every one of us
This was originally posted on David Campton’s blog Virtual Methodist and can be found here