7 April 2022

‘Where the Birds Sing’ – A symbolic tribute to all those affected by The Troubles

The Commission for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland have partnered with the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition in their 10th anniversary year to sponsor short organ piece, ‘Where the Birds Sing’.

‘Where the Birds Sing’ has been specially composed by Grace Evangeline Mason and formally dedicated on the sheet music to all those touched by Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

Acknowledgement is a concept that can have various meanings to people.

For those affected by the legacy of violence, it can be a formal measure of accountability for harm caused as often seen in the continued pursuit of truth and justice mechanisms.

For others, it can be a symbolic offering.

“We need to give the concept of acknowledgement some space from truth and justice measures,” states Andrew Sloan, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Victims’ Commission.

“Undoubtedly, those measures are exactly what acknowledgement means to some people. However, our research team, through the course of their work, have heard from many people affected by the conflict who have chosen not to pursue those avenues but do still wish to have recognition of the hurt or harm they experienced, and also the resilience many have grown in their journey towards healing.”

The musical piece is designed to create space for reflection and to offer some small, symbolic acknowledgement of the experiences of all victims, no matter where they reside.

“We’ve been so mindful that there is need for greater acknowledgement of the experiences of those victims and survivors based outside of Northern Ireland, who often have not had the same access to support as those within,” continues Sloan.

“We wish also to recognise the valuable role that faith and grace can play in building hope, resilience, post traumatic growth and societal healing as a society transitions out of conflict.”

The piece premiered last week in Southwark Cathedral, London, where a number of victims, survivors were able to hear it for the first time.

Richard Jutsum, a survivor of the Ballygawley bus bombing commented “I thought the piece was really powerful and really moving. The thing with organ music for anyone who has been caught up in a bomb, is that hearing is often affected and so you can really feel this music as opposed to just hearing it. I’m just really thankful to have been invited and am just amazed that someone so young can both write and play something like that.”

Richard Yarr, founder of the Northern Ireland International Organ Competition adds “Each year our performers remind us that music covers the full gamut of emotions.

“We are humbled to be associated with this important new work, showcased by one of our brightest stars, and deeply connect with all it seeks to achieve. It is sure to be a very special moment in our gala programme.”

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