‘An anthem to end wars’: music and poetry to commemorate GFA
by Laura RODRIGUEZ-DAVIS
20 April 2023
A one-night musical event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, Ellipses — An Anthem to End Wars invited music-lovers to an intimate evening of poetry and original composition. Located at St Joseph’s Church in Sailortown, the hour-long performance was part of the Belfast International Arts Festival spring programme. Ellipses was sponsored by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the DFA Reconciliation Fund with the support of the British Council NI.
The event featured the poetry of the same title by Maria McManus and original composition by Keith Acheson. The musicians, also directed by Acheson, included the ARCO String Quartet; Soprano Sheelagh Greer; Sarah Murphy (flute); Anne Harper (clarinet); Paul McCrisken (oboe); and Colin Loughead (bassoon). McManus’s poetry was printed in the programme for audiences to follow along with the music.
Once the music commenced, patrons were immediately pulled into the swell of strings and the melody of wind instruments. The score varied from light staccato plucking to meditative, fluid trances to sure-footed, driving arrangements. Moments of building tension were contrasted with welcome release, creating an ebb and flow. A glimpse around the room made it clear the audience was captured.
The performance, combined with the accompanying poetry, explored themes of wonder, discovery, and awe, inspiring contemplation and curiosity. In the main hall of the St Joseph’s Church, complete with stained-glass windows and strategic light changes, the completed effect was haunting yet welcoming, a kind of warm somberness.
The musicians were met with a standing ovation at the hour’s conclusion. In a season filled with many commemorative events for the Agreement’s 25th anniversary, Ellipses stands out as a revelatory musical and poetic celebration of the end to violence and the start of hope. If peace had a soundtrack, it might sound like Ellipses.
An additional performance of Ellipses will be at Seamus Heaney HomePlace on 5 May 2023.
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