Seamus Heaney’s 80th Birthday Celebration

Bríd Brennan, Adrian Dunbar, and Neil Martin at “In New Light; An Occasion To Mark What Would Have Been Seamus Heaney’s 80th Birthday.”

By Maggie Holland, Assistant Editor
May / June 2019

World-renowned artists gathered in Bellaghy, Northern Ireland, on Saturday, April 13, for “In New Light: An Occasion to Mark What Would Have Been Seamus Heaney’s 80th Birthday.” It was held at the Seamus Heaney Home Place, a literary center celebrating the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate, who passed away in 2013.

One of the artists in attendance was acclaimed Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz, who presented the U.K. and Ireland premiere of “Anything Can Happen,” a classical choral piece he composed centered around three of Seamus Heaney’s poems. It was performed by the internationally acclaimed Codetta Choir, featuring Milena Simovik on viola.

Glenn Patterson, director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queens University, introduced the evening. Producer, arranger, and musician Neil Martin opened the celebration with a musical performance, followed by Northern Ireland actors Bríd Brennan and Adrian Dunbar conducting intimate readings of Seamus Heaney’s most beloved poems.

The audience reaction was very positive. “I came home from the Home Place last night feeling that we had witnessed the performance of a lifetime,” said Jim Holland. “Saturday’s concert was superb. It was a very fitting celebration of Seamus Heaney’s birthday. You could tell from the buzz afterwards that everyone felt the same,” said Maura Johnston.

In other Heaney news, the BBC announced in early April that a feature-length film exploring the life and legacy of the poet is in the works. A release date is still to be announced. ♦ Maggie Holland

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