Belfast On Song
Riverdance, in Belfast this week for a sold-out seven-show run, is so much more than a musical phenomenon.
Born in 1994, the year our peace took root, Riverdance opened up a new era of cultural renaissance and pride in Ireland — and sparked a global fascination with all things Irish.
That the public’s love affair with the thrilling exuberance of Riverdance continues 20 years later is a credit to the power of Irish music and dance to liberate, heal and unite.
I was delighted when cast and crew of the show (and it’s coming to a town near you, one million tickets will go on sale this year) called into the mayoral parlour to celebrate their return to Belfast, second stop on a year-long European tour.
They also tried to teach me a few steps but, as my Twitter followers know, that was one river they couldn’t cross.
Music continued to light up Belfast on Burns Night when the Ulster-Scots Agency hosted a triumphant concert with the reinvigorated Ulster Orchestra and famed Scottish chanteuse Eddi Reader in our glorious Waterfront Hall.
The recital of Ode To A Haggis — by the indomitable Rev Jack Lamb of Townsend Presbyterian Church in West Belfast — alone was worth the admission fee.
As at the Burns birthday bash the previous evening with Philip Orr and Mike Gaston — part of the churches’ Four Corners Festival which bonds the city — the Waterfront Hall concert climaxed with Poet Burns’ most famous work, Auld Lang Syne.
In a show of unity between Planter and Gael, between our rich Ulster Scots and Gaelic heritages — often divided, as the song tells, because “seas between us broad has roared” — the audience rose and shared hands.
“And there’s a hand my trusty fire! and tie’s a hand o’ thine! We’ll talk a right guide-willy waught, for auld lang syne.”
“And there’s a hand my trusty friend
And give us a hand of thine.
And we’ll take a right goodwill draught
For old long since.”
See: The mayoral year captured by lensman Donal McCann
Below: Watch our two-moment report on Belfast’s first-ever Civic Forum on Poverty