Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Maiden City becomes Music City on unforgettable summer solstice day

Hot air balloons in the sky
Hot air balloons in the sky
Hot air balloons in the sky
Hot air balloons in the sky
Hot air balloons in the sky

The summer solstice was welcomed by ethereal music as seven hot air balloons rose over Londonderry and gently swept over the city to mark the beginning of Music City.

This was the day when Derry was transformed by hundreds of events which literally filled the air with music, beginning with the airborne orchestra.

The Sky Orchestra, the brainchild of artist Luke Jerram, began proceedings at 6.30am, when each balloon with its own sound system created a unique soundscape for residents below.

The seven majestic and colourful creations drifted gently 500 feet above the city, and despite the early hour, a surprisingly large number of people lined the bridges and their route waving furiously as the balloons passed by.

The music was formed by award-winning composer Dan Jones, working in consultation with sleep psychologists.

Each balloon emitted a different element of a musical score, creating a giant surround sound experience which made for a vast spectacular as well as an intimate, personal experience delivered to homes of the residents rising to greet the longest day of the year.

Jerram explained: "Through the use of surround sound, Sky Orchestra aims to deliver a sculptural experience to a just-waking public, by lifting them into the creative space on the edge of sleep and then acoustically seeding their imaginations.

"It's fantastic to celebrate 10 years of international performances by bringing Sky Orchestra to Derry."

The performance was one of the most ambitious projects of the City of Culture celebrations and was another triumph for organisers. Thousands of people poured onto the streets for the wide range of festivals, gigs and performances held on both sides of the River Foyle.

A haunting rendition of Danny Boy filled the Guildhall Square as more than the expected 400 people joined in the song which has become an anthem for Derry.

Back on solid ground, Ebrington Square was the location of an international battle of the bands when 'Sounds Of Cities On The Edge' took on 'Sounds From This City'.

The city hosted bands from Tblisi, Havana, Lisbon, Moscow, Beirut, Rijeka (Croatia) and Manchester, who laid down a challenge on the stage at Ebrington Square, going toe-to-toe with the best local bands playing on another stage.

The Sounds From This City stage included bands which have been making a name for themselves during the City of Culture year, including Little Bear, Best Boy Grip, and Paddy Nash And The Happy Enchiladas.

The BBC broadcasted all-day from Derry and among the much anticipated programmes were Arts Extra with Marie Louise Muir, and the Electric Mainline Special which broadcast live from the Glassworks from 9-11pm. Among the artists featured were And So I Watch You From Afar, Little Bear, Sea Pinks, September Girls, Ryan Vai, Ruth McGinley and Teknopeasant.

Bringing this magical, musical day to a conclusion, The Venue at Ebrington Square was the location for the Buena Vista Social Club, brought to wider knowledge by American guitarist Ry Cooder.

Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club took the world of music by storm in 1996.

Since then they have taken their unique blend of Cuban jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms, soaring vocal melodies and brash big-band sounds around the globe.

As dusk fell, the enthusiasm of the people of Derry ensured every last bit of enjoyment was squeezed out of every last second of the summer solstice.

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