‘Urban Hymns’ was a collaboration between the Oh Yeah Music Centre, May Street Church and the Ulster Bank Festival at Queens. Staged on October 25th last year, it combined The Inishowen Gospel Choir with the likes of Foy Vance, Bronagh Gallagher, Ciaran Gribben, Duke Special and Ken Haddock. The sold-out event featured original material, plus songs from the likes of Nick Cave, The Velvet Underground and Leonard Cohen.
Here – to celebrate its latest screening at the Oh Yeah Music Centre 15th-19th June – we bring you highlights from the classic concert. Starting with Ken Haddock..
Ken Haddock – The Air That I Breathe (The Hollies)
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The genius of Urban Hymns was to bring together an eclectic style of musicians from around Ireland and beyond to celebrate the common roots of so much contemporary music – gospel and soul. The idea was this – each artist was invited to sing one of their own songs, then a cover version that they thought ‘appropriate’ to the setting. Gabriel Makamanzi, from the band The Afresh, had just become a proud father to his second son that morning. He played a traditional Zimbabwean prayer, to call for protection from his ancestors. He admitted that he doesn’t usually do covers – but Oh Yeah head honcho Stuart Bailie kindly suggested this gem..
Gabriel Makamanzi – Redemption Song (Bob Marley)
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Paul Archer and Ian Archer make up Burning Codes. If their music sounds familiar, it might make sense to reveal they’ve written and performed with Snow Patrol. Paul spoke passionately about The Velvet Underground, performing a stripped down rendition of ‘I’m Set Free’, before setting the place alight with this wonderful track:
Burning Codes – Go
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Réa Curran was brought to the attention of the event organisers by Duke Special (who appeared as a non very secret guest at the end of the night – see below). Réa is an actor, a musician and a backing singer with the Special-one and his musical persona is the brilliantly named Delightful Mess. If you thought Nick Cave could do with a bit of sprucing up but were afraid to say so, check out this stunning rendition of ‘Into My Arms’ which starts out as a whisper and ascends to the gospel..
Réa Curran – Into My Arms (Nick Cave)
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Followers of Bandwidth will have seen this heart stopping performance before – and there’s no harm in showing again here in its entirety. Ciaran Gribben (aka Joe Echo)’s performance was highlighted here for our Christmas special podcast – it seemed so fitting to the season – fortunately it has lost none of its impact into the summer months. In fact it just gets better over time – the test of a truly classic event.
Joe Echo – Amazing Grace
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That, in case you didn’t notice, was sung to the tune of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ by The Animals. Each artist, as you remember, was asked to sing one of their own songs and a cover version. Ciaran contributed this one – a beautiful ballad to nostalgia and cheeky wee scamps (that’s children in nirish) everywhere.
Joe Echo – Tilly’s Cowboy
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The worst kept secret of the night was a guest performance from this man, Duke Special, for no other reason than “when there’s a good party, you want to be at it”. Especially when it’s the party of the year. Actually, another good reason is that Mr. Special first introduced The Inishowen Gospel Choir to Oh Yeah in May Street. He had met them in Donegal, played a few gigs with them, then brought the whole bunch to Belfast to play his album launch party. So it turned to the Duke to set up the pins..
Duke Special – Digging An Early Grave
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..and them knock them down with this simply stunning song, ‘Why Does Anybody Love?’. Watch the camera close-ups on the choirs eyes, and the tears welling up in some of them. As Bronagh Gallagher later pointed out – “They don’t call that boy Duke Special for nothing”.
Duke Special – Why Does Anybody Love?
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Everyone who was at this concert night remembers one performance over all the others. Not that it wasn’t an unforgettable night from everyone – but sometimes you need to have the roof raised, stack up the chairs, roll up the carpet – and just dance. This one literally got people up on their feet, hollering, clapping, you name it. You may remember Bronagh Gallagher as one of the Commitment-ettes. You may remember her classic soul album with Liaisons Dangereuses,Precious Soul – but you will definitely remember this.
Bronagh Gallagher – Higher & Higher (Jackie Wilson)
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To conclude the night came Foy Vance. The man needs no introduction. The shear range of his voice – from the falsetto of the introduction tot he this track, to the booming baritone of its conclusion that seemed, almost impossibly to fill every atom of that building. Asked later he admitted “This song spoke to me before I even knew what the words were.” Melding the sanctity of Jeff Buckley’s cover version, with the profanity of the original – this is in Bandwidth’s humble opinion the definitive cover version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.
Foy Vance – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
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And to conclude the night..
After so many wonderful moments of soul, rhythm and blues, gospel and rock, why not hand things over to the real stars of the night, The Inishowen Gospel Choir, and mix it all up in one big pot. Some of the lead acts from the night came down from the stalls, Ken Haddock, Réa Curran, Bronagh Gallagher and, fresh off the pulpit, Foy Vance – for this vibrant, improvised (and a little tongue in cheek) gospel jam.
The Inishowen Gospel Choir – This Little Light Of Mine (Concert Finale)
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You can see URBAN HYMNS: THE MOVIE in full at the OH YEAH MUSIC CENTRE on 15 Gordon Street, Belfast from 15th-26th June 2009 at 1.30pm. ADMISSION IS FREE
Director: Will McConnell
Camera: Will McConnell, Martin Bolton
Additional Sound: Steven Rainey, Amy McGarrigle
Recorded live at May Street Church, Belfast, 25th October 2008
2008 Bandwidth Films