The greatest occupation
Lou Reed memorably said that rock ‘n’ roll was the great occupation which could really change the world.
I’m with him in that but we have to add chorister to the callings which can really transform lives and lift up communities.
I once asked my pal Paul Carlin what were the criteria for membership of the Cavehill Community Choir he established in North Belfast to unite nationalist and unionist. “None,” he replied. “Not even an ability to sing?” I asked. “No,” he riposted, “that’s a help but since it’s not about the music, that not’s essential either.”
None of which is to imply that any of the three wonderful choirs I heard this week weren’t outstanding and pitch-perfect performers!
Indeed, I give full marks for quality to both Glenveagh Special School — where students thrilled teachers and parents with fun-filled and rollicking renditions of festive favorites in their Christmas show — and to the Queen’s University Staff Choir which raised the rafters at this week’s memorial service for the late Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s Paddy Johnston.
But my own favourite is the newly-minted Ormeau Community Choir which had a street rehearsal in sub-zero temperatures this week before premiering at Ballynafeigh Methodist Church during service today.
When I arrived, the cross-community choir was belting out a full-throated rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Happy Christmas (War Is Over)’ — which, sadly, is just as timely today as when first released in 1972. Under the direction of conductor Úna and with the urging of Minister Maureen, the choristers beautifully complemented a series of Advent reflections.
It also gave me an excuse to see inside the magnificent Ballynafeigh Methodistchurch for the first time — another architectural gem with a beating heart of community and church activity at its core. I have walked past the church many times but it was a choir which gave me an excuse to cross its portals.
Of course, Ballynafeigh Methodist sits at the crossroads of a hotspot of community activity. Its neighbours include Rosario Youth Club and its sister soccer teams which celebrated their centenary last month, the Bengal Brasserie whose Bangladeshi owners are putting on a Christmas Day spread for the lonely, Ormeau Boxing club which has been a knockout success for its work with working class youngsters, Nordic café sensation Kaffe-O, and latterly Root & Branch roasters, a coffee shop which has just launched its Bushmills-infused coffee into the US market. Not bad for 200 sq yards on a South Belfast street!