Thursday, July 15, 2010

'Tis you must go, and I must bide..'

Congratulations to Derry/Londonderry/Stroke City or whatever you might call it, for being chosen today as Britain's inaugural "City of Culture".

Here's the announcement (and the BBC style guide clearly favours the 'London' prefix, whereas, unsurprisingly, RTE doesn't..). Culture minister Ed Vaizey rode the fence.

This is a big deal for Ulster's second city, and as well as the financial and infrastructure boost in preparing for the events of 2013, there are sure to be some very cool festivals and concerts that might make it well worth planning a trip to the North-West of Ireland, especially with Derry's close proximity to the beautiful coastline of Donegal.

And the timing is historically significant too. We're currently in the midst of the 400th anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster, which forever altered the nature of what it meant to be "Irish", and the building of the walled City of Derry - and 2013 marks the changing of the name of the city by the Livery Companies of London.

But, musically, there is one reason above all others - yes, even above the best pop song ever written - why this city's cultural heritage deserves to be celebrated; and that is the 'Londonderry Air' or, in its best-known lyric form, "Danny Boy"; simply one of the most beautiful and stirring pieces of music ever composed.

Like all the best musical stories, there's some dispute over its parentage, but the traditional melody had quite likely already been adapted in various forms by the time the building that would become the city’s first major concert venue, the Exchange on Diamond Square, opened in 1692.

We're all here for such a short time, whatever we call the city we live in, whatever language we choose, or whichever government we pledge allegiance to.

But truly perfect music lasts forever.


  1. I was in Derry last month and this post brought back lovely memories of the place, the hands, the murals and meeting Seamus Heaney.

    "Danny Boy" has been performed by so many artists. Everything is nice but what I did not know was the connection of Derry and the song.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Joy always,

  2. Thanks for reading, Susan;
    It's a lovely city, and Seamus Heaney is of course a wonderful talent, of whom we're all very proud.