Schools are in close harmony in exciting new vocal initiative

Poet Michael Longley and pianist Barry Douglas backed the choral initiative Poet Michael Longley and pianist Barry Douglas backed the choral initiative
Belfast poet Michael Longley and  Barry Douglas with a singed copy of  newly commissioned Harmony North Anthem, ÔDusty BluebellsÕ at City Hall Belfast poet Michael Longley and Barry Douglas with a singed copy of newly commissioned Harmony North Anthem, ÔDusty BluebellsÕ at City Hall
Belfast poet Michael Longley and  Barry Douglas with a singed copy of  newly commissioned Harmony North Anthem, ÔDusty BluebellsÕ at City Hall Belfast poet Michael Longley and Barry Douglas with a singed copy of newly commissioned Harmony North Anthem, ÔDusty BluebellsÕ at City Hall
By David Whelan

A trailblazing interdenominational choir made up of 190 young people from nine post-primary schools in North Belfast have wowed an audience at Belfast City Hall.

Harmony North were taking on the latest stage of their incredible journey which coincided with the official launch of their newly commissioned anthem Dusty Bluebells, written by well-known Belfast poet Michael Longley.

The project, which will encompass over 10,000 young people, was first proposed by Hazelwood College as a legacy project in its 30th anniversary year and is the first project of its kind aiming to increase cultural understanding and mutual respect through music.

It is hoped that through a new dimension of learning the project can raise the aspirations, self-esteem and cultural awareness of young people in North Belfast, while projecting a positive image of the area.

Under the guidance of world-renowned musician Barry Douglas and the esteemed orchestra Camerata Ireland, a representative group of 20 students recently performed a number of pieces including Amazing Grace and She Moved Through the Fair, receiving a standing ovation from esteemed guests.

The newly commissioned Harmony North anthem, Dusty Bluebells, was read by Michael Longley himself and guests were also treated to a performance by acclaimed pianist Barry Douglas, who helped initiate the project alongside Hazelwood College.

“Obviously, going forward, the project will require substantial funding to sustain the success of this pilot year and to ensure that Harmony North continues to bring a positive message which promotes unity and is something every community can be proud of,” said Bronagh McLaughlin of Hazelwood Integrated College.

“In an area of huge social deprivation, a poverty of aspiration and lower than average levels of academic achievement, Harmony North has the potential to change these statistics and be a benchmark project for other areas to follow. It will provide a ‘new song’ for North Belfast and by supporting this unique project, our politicians have the opportunity to support positive change from the ground up.”

Attending the event, which took place on the same day as the killings in Belgium, Councillor Nicola Mallon said: “With the tragic events unfolding in Brussels this morning I began today with such a heavy heart but it has ended with hope for the future thanks to Harmony North.”
Next on the Harmony North agenda is a massive event for all of the students involved – and for North Belfast as a whole.

The full choir are set to perform in Girdwood Community Hub, the newly built shared space in the heart of North Belfast. The performance will include the debut of the newly commissioned anthem Dusty Bluebells and for this performance the choir will be joined by the chamber choir Codetta and chamber orchestra Camerata Ireland.

The culmination of this first year for Harmony North comes in May this year when 50 of the choir will travel to Washington DC again to perform with Codetta and Camerata Ireland at the Kennedy Centre.

Schools represented in the project include Belfast Boys’ Model School, Belfast Model School for Girls, Belfast Royal Academy, Edmund Rice College, Hazelwood Integrated College, Little Flower Girls’ School, Mercy College, St Malachy’s College and St Patrick’s College.

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