Grand Opera House Belfast
Monday 30th March and Wednesday 1st April 2015
Prayer is a mighty thing. The three Priests were in Washington on Sunday and they’d just completed something like 12 concerts in 14 days. They were pushed for time, but it was important to get to the Grand Opera House before curtain up at 8 p.m. on Monday 30th March. All was going to plan, on the plane, ready to take off but then something happened, the plane didn’t take off! What were they going to do? They prayed. Another flight was found, it took off for Dublin, arrived Monday mid-morning, they jumped in to a waiting car and arrived in Belfast just after lunch. A quick rehearsal with the choir Cappella Caeciliana and the orchestra, probably a cup of tea and a wee sit down and then it was time to charm the packed house and bring their special brand of music to our ears. It was touch and go but they were as professional as usual and we had no idea of the drama until they told us their time clocks were well out of kilter!
What a night, especially important and enchanting as this is Holy Week and they had picked a programme of appropriate songs and hymns.
The setting is simple, tall straight leafless trees strategically placed on the stage, each lit with coloured spots that shoot up into the roof of the Opera House and out into the auditorium. The orchestra are on each side of the stage and the choir comes and goes either to join the Priests or to perform their own numbers.
Ave Maria (Schubert) came first and it was awesome. The music and voices soared and the image on a huge screen at the back of the stage showed the Virgin Mary in vibrant colours just like a stained glass window. The image changes to suit the music and it added to the reverence where necessary. Although there was much sacred music, there were also popular numbers like Amazing Grace and You Raise Me Up. My favourites were How Great Thou Art and the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah.
Sometimes I felt there was too much music! The choir, the orchestra and the Priests all at one time usually worked well but I would have preferred a little more acapella from the three men with the wonderful gift of superb voice. When the choir sang unaccompanied it was stunning.
But that’s splitting hairs. It was a great night, warm and friendly, positive in every way and never have I heard the Opera House pulsating so effectively from curtain up to curtain down including the interval when we were treated to St. Dominics choir singing from the balcony on the second floor so their music rose up and spilled down to the members of the audience in the cafe area.
A chance to see the Priests on Wednesday – if you can get a ticket.
By Anne Hailes