Harmony North project aims to bring people together

Barry Douglas at the piano with pupils at the launch of the Harmony North project at Hazelwood Integrated College. INNT 35-515-SO
Barry Douglas at the piano with pupils at the launch of the Harmony North project at Hazelwood Integrated College. INNT 35-515-SO

In stark contrast to the backdrop of increasing political instability and crisis, young people from across the divide in north Belfast are coming together with esteemed classical pianist Barry Douglas OBE to form a trailblazing choral group, Harmony North.

In this decade of centenaries, Harmony North aims to bring young people together to showcase their talents and attributes whilst raising their aspirations, promoting good relations, and projecting a positive image of the area in which they live.

Speaking at the official launch of the project at Hazelwood Integrated College on Friday morning, a spokesperson for the Harmony North project said: “2016 will be a difficult year for interface areas as it is the centenary of two events which resonate with two different cultures - the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising. North Belfast, characterised by sharp political-religious division, is vulnerable to the potential fall-out from these commemorations.

“With 11 post-primary schools in north Belfast, encompassing 10,000 young people, Harmony North will be an exceptional musical project which will be a unique symbol, by its unity, bringing young people, staff, parents and the wider community together in harmony.”

The choir will be led by renowned choral director Donal Doherty and well-known local poet, Michael Longley CBE, will write a Harmony North anthem.

The culmination of the first year of the Harmony North project will involve a performance at a Belfast City Centre venue around Easter 2016 and a representative group of 20 students from Harmony North will perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC in May 2016 as part of their International Festival: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts and Culture.

The official launch of Harmony North was attended by representatives from each of the participating north Belfast post-primary schools as well as Barry Douglas OBE, representatives from Camerata Ireland and the Integrated Education Fund who have financed the initial stages of the project.

Barry Douglas talked with much enthusiasm about the project, saying: “When you hear of north Belfast sadly it’s not always good news, but this project shows that our young people can create really great news!”

A plan for the Harmony North project has been complied for the forthcoming year, however those behind the initiative are hoping to secure funding to make it sustainable in the longer term.