One of Northern Ireland’s top musicians says more needs to be done urgently to support the COVID decimated local arts-scene.

Like many of his friends and colleagues, Kryon Bourke, has seen his household income dwindle to nothing this year, as his residency in Belfast’s Jazz Bar, Bert’s, abruptly ended, due to COVID restrictions, along with other revenue producing projects. And with limited financial support for freelancers like Kryon, the year has been one of hardship.

But, in spite of this, Kyron has found solus and support by teaming up with other struggling musicians to write a covid/lockdown inspired album, The Limelight, with the first single released today, entitled Lily’s Lament.

Kyron said: “Most of my friends and colleagues have all been negatively impacted by COVID. The theatres are closed with a limited online program – therefore most actors do not get to partake. Not only were musicians out of business during the lockdown but in September, the NI Assembly banned all live music. The few of us who were getting back to work, albeit in a limited way, were told not to play/sing and that we should retrain! I’ve been a musician for over 30 years, and I was simply told to retrain. Unbelievable!”

“In spite of the hardships this year has brought, about a month into lockdown I wrote a song called – When this is over – ‘When this is over/we’ll go to Paris/late September, when the Beaujolais is new’…sort of wish list for when the pandemic ends.

Kyron continued: “I had the idea I might create ten songs along the same lines. My friend, the poet Eileen T O’Neill, liked the idea and mentioned that she was also writing poems about the pandemic/isolation/lockdown. I suggested we collaborate. The amazing Maeve Smyth joined us to help me with the vocals.”

As they were due to discover, producing an album in 2020 was never going to be easy.

“So, the inspiration was the situations we, all of us, found ourselves in the middle of, due to COVID 19 and its effects on society.

“We were all isolating, of course and the contents of the songs were all about isolation/enforced distance. We explored ways to record remotely. Eileen sent more words and I composed more music. Maeve sang on the rough recordings. I liked the strange quality of the phone voice memo recordings. Ultimately none of this would have been possible without our editor, Stephen Dunwoody. He remotely mixed and produced all the demos.”

“At first, I thought about how to make a music video for one or more of the songs. My idea then was that Maeve and I would record our parts on mobile phones or ask a member of our households. And somebody could do the pickup exterior shots.

“The producer, Una Nic Eoin from my Covid cancelled theatre show (No Citation) got on board. As the project mushroomed – I decided, at the suggestion of Una, to apply for an Arts Council Grant. Don’t forget, none of us had worked since March, so funds were low. After weeks of waiting, I was informed that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland have awarded me a grant of £1500 – a fraction of what we need to make the movie! The new idea now is to make a short movie – with links at the end to full versions of the songs and the platform on which they are available, there will also be links to interviews with the cast, the writers/composer etc. It will also be an interactive piece capable of melding with a stage show some time in the future. We also hope to make a music video for the song, Lily’s Lament, which will be the first single from the album.”

Kyron Bourke’s album featuring the vocals of Maeve Smyth, entitled The Limelight, will be available on widespread release in Mid-December.

The single, Lily’s Lament is available now to download for £1 here

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