World Premiere: As The Sun Brightens, The Shadows Deepen

Written by on May 1, 2023

World Premiere: As The Sun Brightens, The Shadows Deepen


Continuing in its commitment to collaborate with NI’s most creative musicians, the Ulster Orchestra has announced that Friday 5 May will see the World Premiere of As The Sun Brightens, The Shadows Deepen, a new work for orchestra by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy. The inspiration for the piece is both uniquely of Northern Ireland and powerfully personal to Neil himself. As The Sun Brightens is performed as part of the Ulster Orchestra’s concert, ‘Dwellers all in Time and Space’, in the Ulster Hall, Belfast and tickets are available by clicking this link.

The roots of the 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. Musically, Hannon draws inspiration from sources as disparate as Adams, Elgar, Copland and the light orchestral music of the 1950s.

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.”

Patrick McCarthy, Artistic Director and Deputy CEO of the Ulster Orchestra, reflects on the collaboration, saying:
“This is what true collaboration is all about; connecting the Orchestra with brilliant artists from here who have a story they want to tell, and putting all the possibilities and colours of a symphony orchestra at their disposal. The new piece is everything we hoped it would be and more; evocative, personal and with Neil’s distinctive style evident throughout.”

The Ulster Orchestra is grateful for the assistance of NI Screen for access to A City Solitary. Use of the film is courtesy of Peter McDonald and Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive; the film is preserved by the IFI Irish Film archive. You can watch the full film in the NI Screen Digital Film Archive by clicking here.

‘Dwellers All in Time And Space’ on Friday 5 May also features To Our Fathers In Distress, another of Neil’s works for orchestra, originally written to mark the restoration of the organ in London’s Royal Festival Hall and inspired by memories of a traditional Hannon family Sunday in the 1980s – joining the Ulster Orchestra to perform this will be the singers of the Ulster Consort, with Tristan Russcher at the console of the Ulster Hall’s majestic Mulholland Organ. The programme also includes two pieces chosen by Neil, with special personal significance. This unique collaboration between Northern Ireland’s only professional symphony orchestra and one of the country’s most innovative creators is not to be missed.

Get tickets and more information from the official site HERE.

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