BFQ: BELFAST BY MOONLIGHT

St George's Church Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

St George’s Church Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

Carlo Gébler Photo: © Michael Fisher

Carlo Gébler Photo: © Michael Fisher

No sign of the moon but plenty of atmosphere provided mainly by candlelight as Carlo Gébler’s new play Belfast by Moonlight was given its world premiere at St George’s by the locally based Kabosh theatre company. It’s the oldest Anglican church in the city in use and will soon celebrate its bicentenary, so it proved to be a very appropriate setting for a drama based around 400 years of Belfast since the granting of a Royal Charter in 1613.

In a recent interview with CultureNorthernIreland for What’s On, Gébler explained how the work evolved. He said artistic director Paula McFetridge briefed him not to write a dramatized history but to produce something personal, possibly involving music, that would work in St George’s Church, a play that would be true to that space. He has certainly fulfilled his brief admirably.

Belfast by Moonlight: Photo: Kabosh theatre company

Belfast by Moonlight: Photo: Kabosh

Attending a rehearsal of another piece that Kabosh had also commissioned, Gébler came up with the idea that the cast would all be female and would play the role of ghosts or spirits from the past. Each of the six was to have a significant event in their lives that had occurred in or around the Church. It was a concept that worked well.

The six 'spirits' from Kabosh (in middle) are applauded along with the Choir Photo: © Michael Fisher

The six ‘spirits’ from Kabosh (in middle) are applauded along with the Choir Photo: © Michael Fisher

Gébler says this is not a realistic play. But when the action reached the 20th Century period up to today, I found there were elements of social commentary that had also featured in Crimea Square, the community-led drama I had seen the previous night on the Shankill Road. That play had scenes including the glue sniffers and young people growing up in the era of rock n’ roll. Géblers ghostly spirits materialised at the start, resurrected from the grave to tell their stories in the chancel area of the church. They included a woman who had given up her two year-old son for adoption in the 1960’s and a young woman who was a drug addict.

The play certainly had an impact on the young drama students in the audience: fifteen from Banbridge Academy and another group from various schools in Gébler’s base in Enniskillen. One was particularly moved by the story of one of the spirits from the time of the Great Famine around 1845: Joanna I think she was named. The spirit represented a cottier from County Monaghan where she had lived in a mud cabin. Her husband had died from fever and she came to Belfast with her two young children looking for support but her story too ended in tragedy.

Choir: Belfast by Moonlight Photo: © Michael Fisher

Choir: Belfast by Moonlight Photo: © Michael Fisher

Around 40% of the play is sung by the main actors and the eight-strong female choir, with original music composed by cellist Neil Martin. The choir come from areas as far apart as Dungannon and Donegal. They were conducted by Nigel McClintock, Director of Music at St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast and have been rehearsing under Emma Gibbins, Director of Music at St George’s.

Kabosh: Belfast by Moonlight at St George's Church Photo: © Michael Fisher

Kabosh: Belfast by Moonlight at St George’s Church Photo: © Michael Fisher

The actors are Bernadette Brown, Maria Connolly, Roisin Gallagher, Laura Hughes, Carol Moore and Kerri Quinn.  As the full moon rises, the six spirits they portray congregate to offer a haunting lament for Béal Feirste and to explore the rich past of the city..

St George’s is on High Street, where the River Farset used to flow. In the play, the rivers of Belfast are a recurring theme presented in song by the choir and the actors. The small rivers flow into the big rivers and the big rivers flow into the sea. Gébler has produced a chorus from their names: “the River Knock, the Connswater, the Purdysburn, the Ligoniel, Derriaghy, Colin, Blackstaff, Forth, Milewater, Cregagh, Farset, Lagan Navigation, the Ravernet”. For vimeo footage by NvTv of the Kabosh production in rehearsal, see here.

There is a stained glass window behind the main altar of the church with the Bible verses “O Death Where is Thy Sting/O Grave Where is Thy Victory”. Very appropriate for the six spirits performing in the Belfast moonlight.

The six 'spirits' from Kabosh come to the end of their story by moonlight Photo: © Michael Fisher

The six ‘spirits’ from Kabosh come to the end of their story by moonlight Photo: © Michael Fisher

Festival Guest Blogger  Michael Fisher

@fishbelfast

GÉBLER’S BELFAST BY MOONLIGHT

St George's Church Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

St George’s Church Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

St George’s Parish Church in Belfast is the oldest Anglican church in the city in use and was a very appropriate setting for Carlo Gébler’s new play, looking back over 400 years of the city.

Carlo Gébler Photo: © Michael Fisher

Carlo Gébler Photo: © Michael Fisher

It’s called Belfast by Moonlight but tonight unfortunately there was no sign of the moon. However the lighting effects (including candles) inside the church provided a suitable atmosphere for the dialogue and the accompanying music, provided by an eight-strong female choir who come from areas as far apart as Dungannon and Donegal. They were conducted by Nigel McClintock, Director of Music at St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast and have been rehearsing under Emma Gibbins, Director of Music at St George’s.

Kabosh: Belfast by Moonlight at St George's Church Photo: © Michael Fisher

Kabosh: Belfast by Moonlight at St George’s Church Photo: © Michael Fisher

The play began with six spirits (all female) appearing out of the darkness, as if resurrected from the tomb. Each was from a different period, starting from 1613 when Belfast received its Royal Charter from King James I granting it the right to form a Corporation and extending up to the present day. The six are Bernadette Brown, Maria Connolly, Roisin Gallagher, Laura Hughes, Carol Moore and Kerri Quinn, all members of the Kabosh theatre company under the artistic direction of Paula McFetridge. Each spirit is connected in some way to St George’s: one got married there; the spirit from the 1960s has a two year-old son who was given away for adoption at an office said to be in the church.

Around 40% of the play is sung by the main actors and the choir, with original music composed by cellist Neil Martin. Where the River Farset joins the mouth of the Lagan rests the chapel of the sandy ford; an inhospitable place for a city. As the full moon rises, the six spirits congregate to offer a haunting lament for Béal Feirste and explore the rich past of the city.

The six 'spirits' from Kabosh (in middle) are applauded along with the Choir Photo: © Michael Fisher

The six ‘spirits’ from Kabosh (in middle) are applauded along with the Choir Photo: © Michael Fisher

St George’s is on High Street, where the River Farset used to flow. In the play, the rivers of Belfast are a recurring theme presented in song by the choir and the actors. The small rivers flow into the big rivers and the big rivers flow into the sea. Gébler has produced a chorus from their names: “the River Knock, the Connswater, the Purdysburn, the Ligoniel, Derriaghy, Colin, Blackstaff, Forth, Milewater, Cregagh, Farset, Lagan Navigation, the Ravernet”. For vimeo footage by NvTv of the Kabosh production at the rehearsal stage, see here. There is a great picture of the stained glass window behind the main altar of the church, which contains the Bible verses from 1Corinthians 15:55-56 : “O Death Where is Thy Sting/O Grave Where is Thy Victory”. Again, very appropriate when the six spirits are gathered at the altar steps.

There will be post-show talks on 23rd and 26th October with matinee performances on Saturday 26th and Wednesday 30th October at 3pm. There are no Sunday performances. This event runs after the Festival until All Hallows’ Eve on Thursday 31st October (Halloween). Tickets are £14 (concession £10) and can be booked hereBelfastFestival_2012Logo-thumb-540x560-98241

BELFAST BY MOONLIGHT

Belfast by Moonlight

Belfast by Moonlight

Belfast by Moonlight is a new play by Carlo Gébler with original music composed by cellist Neil Martin. Where the River Farset joins the mouth of the Lagan rests the chapel of the sandy ford; an inhospitable place for a city. Yet in 1613 a town charter is granted. 400 years on as the full moon rises, six spirits congregate to offer a haunting lament for Béal Feirste.

Carlo Gébler Photo: © Michael Fisher

Carlo Gébler Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cast: Bernadette Brown, Maria Connolly, Roisin Gallagher, Laura Hughes, Carol Moore and Kerri Quinn. There will be post-show talks on 23rd and 26th October with matinee performances on Saturday 26th and Wednesday 30th October at 3pm. There are no performances on a Sunday as the venue is St George’s Anglican church in High Street.

This event runs after the Festival until All Hallows’ Eve on Thursday 31st October (Halloween). Tickets are £14 (concession £10) and can be booked here.

WILLIAM CARLETON SUMMER SCHOOL

Barry Devlin

Horslips founder member Barry Devlin from Ardboe makes a return visit to County Tyrone next month to participate in the 21st William Carleton summer school.  It takes place once again at Corick House hotel in Clogher. The 17th Century country house used to be the home of the local landlord Squire Story, mentioned in Carleton’s writings. The summer school will be officially opened at 10:30am on Monday 6th August by the Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone, Cllr Phelim Gildernew. The invited guests include the two Bishops of Clogher, Most Reverend Dr Liam MacDaid and Right Reverend John McDowell.

Bishops MacDaid & McDowell

The keynote address on “Carleton and famine’s darkest secret” will be given by Professor  Cormac Ó Gráda of UCD. Dr Melissa Fegan from Chester will give a lecture about Carleton and famine. The summer school director former RTÉ News reporter Michael Fisher will talk about DJ O’Donoghue, Carleton’s biographer. Barry Devlin fresh from a Horslips reunion gig in Castlebar will then talk about his career at 4:30pm. On Tuesday 7th there will be a talk by Frank McHugh about Carleton’s Australian relatives, and a contribution from Josephine Treanor from Clogher about one of her relatives, Anne Duffy, the miller’s daughter, who was a contemporary of Carleton and mentioned by him.

Mary Guckian

Mary Guckian

A literary symposium will be held including Leitrim poet Mary Guckian, Monaghan writer  and poet Mary O’Donnell and Carlo Gébler from Enniskillen. There will also be a one-man show on Charles Dickens by actor Laurence Foster from Dublin and a reading by poet John F. Deane. On Wednesday 8th there will be contributions by Dr Sophia Hillan on Jane Austen’s Irish Nieces, on Carleton on the stage by Christopher Fitz-Simon  and a concluding address by Professor Owen Dudley Edwards, honorary director of the summer school. Liam Foley from Augher has adapted Carleton’s humorous story “Phil Purcel the Pig Driver” for a reading by the Carleton Players.

Carlo Gébler

Carlo Gébler

Evening entertainment has been arranged for each night. Traditional music with the Maguire family from County Fermanagh features on Monday evening at the Rathmore bar, along with a return visit by poet PJ Kennedy, a farmer from Belturbet. On Tuesday evening there will be a walk in the scenic Fardross area with the Clogher Valley ramblers followed by a reception at Clogher Valley country park. Young musicians from Tydavnet in Co. Monaghan “The Mountain Lark” will entertain the guests. There will be a concert of sacred and secular music at St Patrick’s church in Clogher on Wednesday 8th at 8pm with the Fermanagh choral society, directed by Don Swain. All evening events are £5 or €5.

Fermanagh Choral Society

On Thursday 9th August the annual tour in the Clogher Valley area will be led by Jack Johnston, focusing on Carleton and his contemporaries, including Archbishop Hughes of New York. His original family homestead near the border is now in place at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, which will be visited. Cost £25 including lunch and afternoon tea. The four-day programme in detail can be found at: www.williamcarletonsummerschool.org. Contact: Michael Fisher, Summer School Director e: wcarletonsociety@gmail.com