UK City of Culture 2013 Songs of Praise


UK City of Culture 2013

Eamonn Holmes is in Londonderry for the world's largest gathering of Irish culture, as the All Ireland Fleadh fills the city's streets with music and song.


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TRADITIONAL IRISH MUSIC

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Hello, there. Welcome to Londonderry for a Songs of Praise

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full of music, singing and story telling.

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This week, the streets are awash with Irish traditional music

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and dancing, as the world's largest gathering of Irish culture,

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otherwise known as the All-Ireland Fleadh,

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comes to the UK City of Culture.

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This week, a cathedral prepares for the Columba Canticles,

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music from one of the City of Culture's ambassadors, Margaret Keys,

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and from our Junior School Choir of The Year,

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and the wonderful hymns of praise from the city's Guildhall.

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I am delighted to announce that the winner of the competition

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to become the third UK capital of culture is Derry-Londonderry.

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The news was met with huge celebrations

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at the city's Guildhall.

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That was back in 2010 and three years on,

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the excitement has become a reality.

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# All kinds of everything...#

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The former military barracks at Ebrington Square

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has been transformed into one of the city's most exciting venues.

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Churches, cathedrals and the City Council's Guildhall

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have all opened their doors to a variety of cultural events.

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And with the number of visitors on the up,

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there is real hope of a lasting legacy.

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And it's in the historic Guildhall building behind me,

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where our choirs and congregation from the Derry-Londonderry area

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have come together to sing our first hymn.

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# Your people shall be my people

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# And your God shall be my God...#

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Street theatre and performance

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have been a huge part of the City of Culture celebrations

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and one of the largest events this year welcomed the return

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of the city's founder saint, Columba,

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or Colm Cille, as he is also known.

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Back in the year 563, Colm Cille left these shores

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for Iona in Scotland,

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after taking part in a disastrous battle where many died.

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But he is still remembered in Derry as a poet,

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an artist and as the patron saint of this city.

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The writer Frank Cottrell Boyce,

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who helped shape the remarkable opening ceremony

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for the Olympic Games last summer,

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jumped at the chance to help create a spectacular performance

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for the City of Culture, based on their famous son.

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I just love Derry and also, it's got this great story

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that it was founded by this great St Columba, or Colm Cille,

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who had this huge influence all over the world.

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He's part of the tradition that created the Book of Kells,

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which is one of the most beautiful things ever.

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He is the kind of light that lit up the end of the Dark Ages

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and turned it into an age of light.

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A currach travelled from Iona in Scotland, mirroring the journey

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that Colm Cille and his supporters made almost 1,500 years ago.

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The monks brought with them a gift for the people of Derry.

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When the mysterious crate was opened,

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it revealed a map for a new city that would be called Colmville.

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We had this huge thurible with incense

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swinging in the Guildhall Square.

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And those smells have such powerful resonance for anyone

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who's grown up like that, you know?

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We've put different performances, short performances all over the city.

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The attractive thing to me about the whole thing

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was the participation of local people.

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I'm sort of a catalyst, but this is Derry speaking for Derry.

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In a city that has been quite divided,

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what is good about Colm Cille is that he predates that trouble,

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so he belongs firmly to both traditions,

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and there's some common ground there that we can celebrate.

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What makes Colm Cille really remarkable

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is that he's this terribly flawed individual.

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In anger, he created this terrible battle where loads of people died.

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He was nearly excommunicated and he went off into exile

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to try and make it good.

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And that idea that you can do something beautiful and brilliant

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after you have made a terrible mess,

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is such a hopeful message and such a human message as well.

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The climax of the weekend was a monstrous showdown

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with the battle between good and evil.

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Legend has it that St Colm Cille

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confronted an angry and menacing Loch Ness monster

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whilst crossing the River Ness in Scotland.

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Calm as summer, he did nothing but make the sign of the cross.

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He made the sign of our saviour there in the air.

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The monster despaired.

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It sank back into the waters.

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It slunk away off to the loch.

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It hid itself away in the deep.

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They say that hellish thing,

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it could not breathe the air he blessed.

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Even our beloved Derry of the oak groves,

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which is white with angels, will stand with you.

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Derry will stand all round you, Colm Cille.

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Derry will be your shield.

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For me, the legacy of this will be

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all the new friendships that have been formed.

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And the other legacy I would really love is that people

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recover their pride in Colm Cille and realise what a gigantic figure he is.

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He's hugely celebrated here but not celebrated enough, you know.

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One of the musical highlights this year was the Music City event,

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which brought musicians, singers and songwriters onto the streets

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and into the air, for a one-day celebration of music.

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ALL SING DANNY BOY

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They also marked the 100th anniversary of Danny Boy,

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a song so strongly associated with the city.

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# Oh, Danny boy...#

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But Derry's historical connections to music

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and songwriting go back even further than that.

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The writer of our next hymn lived here back in 1867

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with her husband, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry.

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Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander penned over 400 hymns

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and wrote the much-loved All Things Bright And Beautiful.

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She did it to help children understand the opening lines

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of the Apostles Creed:

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"I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

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"creator of heaven and earth."

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Now, the really exciting thing about the City of Culture is that

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people from all parts of the city have had an opportunity to be

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involved one way or the other. Now, have a look at this.

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What you are looking at there is a massive quilt.

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This was knitted and crocheted by hundreds of women

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and children from various groups and backgrounds.

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What it does is,

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it records their memories of living in this very city.

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Further along the street in the Cathedral Quarter,

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as it is known, is the London Street Gallery.

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As part of the City of Culture programme, they have

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commissioned a unique icon, as part of its current exhibition.

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The Fount of Life is almost exclusive in that it is an icon which is

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about a statement of theology, so that it doesn't have a set location.

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The whole thing is suggesting and implying Derry,

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but not trying to look like Derry.

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So what is iconography?

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Iconography is a very specific thing.

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And it is now generally taken to mean an image painted on a wooden board

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using gold leaf and egg tempera.

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And it is exclusively images from the Christian church.

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One of the reasons I would have taken to iconography

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was because it comes right from the second century of the Church.

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It is before the split between the East and West,

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and before the Reformation.

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So everything in it is the common heritage of all Christians.

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Oh Lord our God, send down the grace of your holy spirit from these icons.

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Bless them and make them holy...

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The popularity of iconography is growing,

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and Dick runs regular classes

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where artists can learn to paint their own icon.

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You paint, you use egg yolk mixed with vinegar,

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so you have the symbol of the resurrection, the new life

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that is given to Christ at the tomb,

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and we mix it with pure pigment.

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You have the linen of the shroud, you have the alabaster of the tomb,

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so all the time, you're bringing it back to its religious meaning.

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And it can either be a pivotal moment in Christ's life,

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or it can be a saint,

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but it must be something that is rooted in tradition.

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And it must be based on a pre-existing icon.

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Because iconographers, we believe that the very first icon was painted

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by St Luke and it was of the mother of God and the Christ child.

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So they believe that there is an actual image

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which would approximate to how the person would have looked.

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How do you feel when you see a finished article

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and you realise, that's it, it's done?

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The icon in the exhibition, I was working on until half an hour

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before it had to go to the framers, and I was never sure it was right.

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I had to let it be, I had to let it go.

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And then I saw it framed and I was completely delighted.

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And you have to be willing to do that.

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You must leave room for the Holy Spirit and for God to intervene

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and to add to the work.

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# My life goes on in endless song

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# Above Earth's lamentations

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# I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn

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# That hails a new creation

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# Thro' all the tumult and the strife

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# I hear its music ringing

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# It sounds an echo in my soul

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# How can I keep from singing?

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# When tyrants tremble in their fear

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# And hear that death bell ringing

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# When friends rejoice, both far and near

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# How can I keep from singing?

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# In prison cell and dungeon vile

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# Our thoughts to them are winging

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# When friends by shame are undefiled

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# How can I keep from singing?

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# How can I keep from singing? #

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A recent addition to the city is the new Peace Bridge which now joins

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Protestant and Catholic communities

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living on the east and west banks of the River Foyle.

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Just a short stroll across the Peace Bridge from the Guildhall

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is this place, Ebrington Square,

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which has hosted some of the landmark events

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that have taken place during the City of Culture celebrations.

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Today, if you've got your dancing shoes on like me,

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it's playing host to an unusual world record attempt.

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Richard Moore, the founder of Children In Crossfire,

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set up the charity after losing his sight

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when he was shot with a plastic bullet in the city 40 years ago.

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We support projects in Tanzania, Ethiopia and the Gambia,

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affecting children under eight years of age.

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And today, I am joining fundraisers to help set a new world record

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for the largest line of Irish dancers.

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And what's the magic number, what is the figure you have to break?

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As long as we get over 1693, I'll be happy.

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And with unofficial figures totting up over 2,500 dancers,

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it looks like this could be a new world record

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for the City Of Culture.

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This is the Promise Chalice.

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It was gifted to the people of Derry 400 years ago

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from the Honourable The Irish Society in London.

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They pledged they would build a cathedral for the new city.

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And if you look at the Latin inscription, it translates as,

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"To the Church of God in the city of Derry, the gift of the Londoners."

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St Columb's Cathedral was indeed built and 400 years later,

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it is busy playing a part in the City of Culture.

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Practically all the churches here in the city

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have been involved in hosting events

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in connection with the Year of Culture.

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And I think in doing all of this,

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the churches have helped to make them think about God

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and the creative power of God and all that is going on.

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It does help in the faith process.

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As part of the celebrations,

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St Columb's Cathedral has commissioned

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an oratorio called the Columba Canticles, which incorporates

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the poems of a local writer, along with specially composed music.

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I think this one is quite unique

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in that it does span a wide net of involvement.

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We've got representation from England, obviously,

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with the Southbank Sinfonia,

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a wonderful Scottish contingent with the Aberdeen Choir.

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Our own University of Ulster choir

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is brought from all four corners of the island of Ireland.

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The mix is really vibrant and wonderful, so it is really a thrill

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to see all of this come together for this wonderful performance.

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I've used some Gregorian chanting

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and I've used four Irish traditional folk melodies and some fiddle tunes.

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There are two slip jigs in it, so I've tried to combine

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elements of traditional music, Irish traditional music,

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with ecclesiastical music, with contemporary music and these poems.

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And I hope what we've ended up with is an interesting,

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exciting new piece.

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Until I was 15...

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It was the first time that the writer of the poem

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heard the completed piece.

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..Together with relations and neighbours.

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It was a little piece of magic.

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The words that had been there on a page

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suddenly came alive and I am so appreciative

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of all the people that really put a lot of work into it.

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Just like the Scottish connections

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that St Columba made all those years ago,

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events like this strengthen the links between Derry and Scotland.

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We really blend really well.

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I feel like we've known each other for so long

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and it's only been since Friday we met.

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It's been really nice to come across from outside Ireland

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and to see what is going on in Derry with the City of Culture.

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I've got on so well with the Aberdeen ones who have come here.

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They are actually such an inspiration.

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I really hope the two choirs do get together again.

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I hope this is a link which will continue to go on.

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I hope it is not the last time I see them.

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# Amen. #

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You may remember the fabulous performance

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of Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho

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that our next guests gave us earlier this year,

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when they became Songs Of Praise Junior Choir Of The Year.

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We are delighted to say

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we are going to hear them sing for us again,

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this time in their home city.

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This is St Patrick's Primary School Choir, and the City Of God.

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# Awake from your slumber

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# Arise from your sleep

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# A new day is dawning

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# For all those who weep

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# The people in darkness

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# Have seen a great light

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# The Lord of all longing

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# Has conquered the night

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# Let us build the city of God

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# May our tears be turned into dancing

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# For the Lord our light and our love

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# Has turned the night into day

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# We are sons of the morning

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# We are daughters of day

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# The one who has loved us

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# Has brightened our way

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# The Lord of all kindness

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# Has called us to be

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# A light for his people

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# To set their hearts free

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# Let us build the city of God

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# May our tears be turned into dancing

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# For the Lord our light and our love

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# Has turned the night into day

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# God is light

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# In him there is no darkness

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# Let us walk in his light

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# His children one and all

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# O comfort to my people

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# Make gentle your words

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# Proclaim to my city

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# The day of her birth

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# Let us build a city of God

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# May our tears be turned into dancing

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# For the Lord our light and our love

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# Has turned the night into day. #

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May Almighty God,

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the source of all inspiration, harmony and culture in creation,

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fill you with joy and peace on your earthly pilgrimage.

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And the blessing of God Almighty,

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the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

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be with you now and for ever more.

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Amen.

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And so we come to our final hymn

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in this Songs of Praise City of Culture special.

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For that, we have chosen the wonderful Angel Voices Ever Singing.

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From all of us here, in Derry-Londonderry,

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until the next time, bye-bye.

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Next week, Aled visits Whitby and the North York Moors

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to celebrate the harvest of land and sea.

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And congregations from farming and port communities

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all over the country sing their harvest hymns

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in praise of God's creation.

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Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Eamonn Holmes is in Londonderry for the world's largest gathering of Irish culture, as the All Ireland Fleadh fills the city's streets with music and song. And congregations join to sing hymns of praise at the Guildhall.


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