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Amide terror, odd glimpses of Utopia
"…Deirdre Gribbin has been a name to watch in British music since her opera Hey Persephone! was given its premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1998 and performed in London. She writes strong, assertive music, big with personality and concentrated bursts of colour and like the piece tonight, "Unity of Being" much of it grows through long, distilling processes from childhood memories, which she said, "are usually about experiences that children shouldn’t have."

Born in 1967, Ms Gribbin grew up in the Falls Road area at a time when it was locked in conflict with the nearby Shankill Road. Some of her earliest recollections are of going shopping with her mother and being caught in the cross-fire between paramilitaries and soldiers, or watching buses being hijacked and set on fire.

"When you’re a child, that kind of thing is oddly thrilling. We lived with fear. And you don’t forget things like that."

On the day the Ulster Orchestra gave the premiere of "Unity of Being"- the day between the riots and the murder of a journalist- she drove me through the Falls to see the streets where she was born, where she took music lessons from her aunt (across from the house of Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein) and where she went to convent school.

"The worst times were around the hunger strikes of 1981, when thing got really bad.

Lots of parents kept their children out of school as a protest against the deaths of the hunger strikers, but mine were insistent that I should go. Of course they were nationalists, but they didn't support the violence. I went to The Belfast School of Music, which was a place for extra tuition and mixed: Catholic and Protestant together. It was like an escape."

Does she resent the way the Troubles scarred her childhood?

"It was certainly extreme, but has given me a store of emotions to write about and a motivation to make people feel something in response. I don’t write about this place because I go looking for it. It’s absolutely in me. There’s no contrivance. ‘Unity of Being’ is a peace anthem, a necessity."

October 14 2001
The New York Sunday Times
Michael White
  © 2005 Deirdre Gribbin  
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