Belfast Festival is here again and as usual I have booked far too much and spent a fortune. The festival opened on Friday and our first event was Fifty Fanfares at Victoria Square. The trumpet, cornet and trombone players were strategically located at the various levels of Victoria Square and played a newly composed piece of music by Michael Alcorn. To be honest this should have been right up my street. As a brass band lover and an ex horn player I loved the idea behind this. However it just didn't work. It didn't start on time, it wasn't well rehearsed, there were hardly any fanfares and it was far too 'modern' for my parents who I had brought with me. Because it didn't start at the time advertised we missed the end to get to our dinner reservation, so maybe it got better. We were all really disappointed.
Planetary Motions this was something I'd been looking forward to for a while. The programme began with John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine which was stunning. It's a piece I've always loved and the Ulster Orchestra played it beautifully. Joann Falletta is a mesmerizing Maestro, perfectly turned out and clearly enjoying her control of the music. Next up was Michael McHale playing Gershwin's Piano Concerto. I'm not a fan of Gershwin or the piano, but this local boy sure does know how to play. On that note, this story is the reason I hate pianos: Sparky and the Magic Piano
After the interval it was time for Holst's The Planets Suite, one of my favourite pieces of classical music and this was the first time I heard it live. The visuals by D-Fuse were nice but I think the lights should have been dimmed a little more to give the full effect. I enjoyed the concert a lot and I'll definitely be back for some non-piano based music :-)
On Saturday we decided to find free stuff to do, so we downloaded the Take Back Belfast app and set off to see what there was to see. We popped into the Naughton Gallery at Queen's to have a look at Tom Binns Design. His work is beautiful with some really amazing necklaces, though they look too heavy to actually wear. Dylan was delighted with the shark teeth necklace and also by one made of weapons. While looking at the necklaces an artist from the Magpie Collective asked us to come in to see what they were putting together. They were making a blanket of flowers out of plastic bottles and asked us to help. I am so looking forward to seeing the installation when it's complete on Thursday.
For Take Back Belfast we have to complete various challenges. So we were on the lookout for the Belfast Festival Anthology red plaques. Dylan wanted to find all 50 but we do have 2 weeks to complete it. We had a quick look into the White Room but the next show wasn't for a while so we moved on to the Crescent Arts Centre for a coffee and to have a look at the Nina Panagopoulou exhibition. We also swapped a book at the Pass it On bookshelf.
After lunch our next stop was The First Presbyterian Church on Rosemary street were Néle Azevedo had a single ice sculpture set up in front of the pulpit. This was stunning. As the ice melted from the man, the puddle below him grew. The puddle was microphoned so every drip echoed around the church. It's possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. And also very sad to see and hear the man crying real tears as he disappeared. Dylan was allowed to help to put a new sculpture up when he finally melted completely. I love the shape of this church and the windows are stunning. Many important Belfast families worshipped here and it's great to see walking tours being brought inside. It was lovely to meet local Belfast historian Raymond O'Regan and chat about the church's beautiful stained glass windows.
Huzzies by Tinderbox. The show is about a girl from Belfast who wants to escape from her dysfunctional family and forms a band. There were some really beautiful moments in it, and Katie's (of Katie and the Carnival) songs were fab though I think there could have been more. We finished off the night with a few glasses (bottles...) of wine at the MAC and then the Duke of York.
Our First Festival weekend continued on Sunday, though slowly, due to a pounding headache. We decided to take it easy, and headed down to Custom House Square for the highlight of Néle Azevedo's installation. She asked volunteers to place 1517 ice sculptures on the steps of the Custom House, each commemorating each life lost in the Titanic disaster. We placed a few sculptures then stood back to watch them melt. Knowing that each one of these crying melting disappearing figures represented a life lost, added an extra dimension to the solitary figure from the day before.
After coffee Dylan and I took my parents to the MAC to have a look at the exhibitions as they hadn't been before. My Dad loved the Red Cross exhibition and I the Roxy Walsh one. Everyone had a go in the 15 second film Festival booth and then we went upstairs for a look at Joanna Billing's installations. On the way home we stopped at the Old Museum building to take a photo of the red plaque for our Take Back Belfast challenge.
Over the next couple of days, I'm seeing Fishamble's production of Silent in the Waterfront Hall, Elephant Angel in the Grand Opera House, The Falling Song at the MAC and Macbeth at the Lyric.