Tuesday 2 May 2023

As The Sun Brightens, The Shadows Deepen: Neil Hannon's new work for the Ulster Orchestra is inspired by his late father's role in a 1963 film on the development of Derry~Londonderry

Image from Terence McDonald and John Hume's film A City Solitary
Image from Terence McDonald and John Hume's film A City Solitary

On Friday 5 May 2023, the Ulster Orchestra will be giving the premiere of a new piece by Neil Hannon (of The Divine Comedy), As The Sun Brightens, The Shadows Deepen, in a programme conducted by Matthew Owens and David Brophy at Ulster Hall, Belfast, called Dwellers in Time and Space, which features music by Khachaturian and Vaughan Williams alongside another work by Hannon.

The roots of Hannon's new piece lie in a short film by Terence McDonald and John Hume called A City Solitary, based on Hume’s research for his thesis on Derry~Londonderry and made in 1963. The film charts the development of the city and, perhaps unexpectedly, is narrated by Neil Hannon’s father, the late Bishop Brian Hannon, who was then a curate in the city. 

As the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is commemorated, this glimpse of Derry~Londonderry on the cusp of all that was to come is a fascinating moment in time, additionally made personal for Hannon by hearing the voice of his father as a young man. As The Sun Brightens grows from these roots into a meditation on history and place that ultimately has a message of hope for a shared future. The full film is viewable at https://digitalfilmarchive.net/media/a-city-solitary-2121

Neil Hannon comments: "Until quite recently I’d only been dimly aware of the film, A City Solitary, and my father’s role in it. Then, not long after his funeral, a particularly resourceful niece tracked it down on the internet. I was entranced. I love those little historical/societal documentaries of the 40s and 50s; here was one about the city of my birth, narrated by my Dad! And this just happened to coincide with the Ulster Orchestra asking me for a new piece about the north. It was all strangely perfect."

Full details from the Ulster Orchestra's website.

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