December 2016 saw the Lyric Theatre collaborating with three of Northern Ireland’s finest musicians, Duke Special, Peter J McCauley and Ursula Burns, on a variety of new productions.
The music sector has grown significantly over the last years, and now plays a key role in overall economic development. With a rise in the number, and quality, of musicians and bands making headlines and enjoying success in the international marketplace, the Lyric is appreciating the ongoing success stories which make us proud of our unique, indigenous music scene and is showcasing this on the stage.
Peter J. McCauley worked as the Musical Director of ‘The Nativity…What the Donkey Saw’, Grimes & McKee’s irreverent seasonal comedy. Peter signed a deal as a recording artist and has toured arenas, clubs and festivals (SxSW and Glastonbury) across Europe, UK, Ireland and North America with artists including Snow Patrol and Foy Vance. He has recorded with Pat McManus, Alana Henderson and as a producer he has worked with The Jepettos and Callum Stewart.
Peter commented, “The move to musical director for theatre was the most challenging transition yet. Swap working with musicians, songwriters and recording engineers, to working with actors, comedians, a choreographer, director, set designer and writers. The variety of experience, perspectives and disciplines, makes for an exciting collaboration with results beyond what I could have anticipated. My background isn't theatre, but the Lyric feels to me like the kind of place where you can break the mould, and different perspectives are welcome.”
Meanwhile, Ursula Burns worked at the Lyric as composer of their festive family show, ‘The Gingerbread Mix-Up’, which reunited Kyron Bourke and Christina Nelson from the production of ‘Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf’ last Christmas. Ursula’s critically acclaimed debut album in March 1998 gained a Hot Press nomination for Best Solo Female. With her harp she has toured America, Australia, Europe and UK and played the Albert Hall twice. Earlier this year she released her fifth solo album ‘The Dangerous Harpist’.
Ursula said, “I was amazed by the Lyric’s openness to the creative process, the freedom to think outside the box, to take risks, and their receptiveness to new ideas. Gingerbread is a really sweet show with lots of audience interaction. As a touring musician, it’s vital to have a connection with a local theatre and get a chance to diversify into creating scores and songs for shows. Writing to a brief is very different from the self-indulgent process of making an album. The Lyric is such an inspiring and beautiful place and it has a family atmosphere - I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity as it keeps my song-writing muscles flexed.”
Finally, the inimitable Duke Special signed off his year-long artistic residency at the Lyric with three very special sold-out concerts featuring new and existing compositions, including the first ever performances of songs from his new musical based on Mark Twain’s ‘Huckleberry Finn’. Duke was joined by different friends and musical collaborators each night, resulting in three completely unique events.
The Ulster born singer songwriter and gramophone impresario, has superbly crafted this a new collection of catchy, rousing and lyrically poignant tracks. Dynamic, musically ambitious and bracingly eccentric, many may be surprised by the cultural breadth of his work. Hailing from Belfast with a sound that is self-confessed “hobo- chic”, Duke Special is once heard, never forgotten.