THE Aura Centre in Letterkenny was at full capacity when a community gathered together in unison to sing, remember and reflect upon the tragedy at Creeslough – thanking all those involved in the aftermath.
A pin drop could be heard, as the audience of around 1,500 people fell silent.
And as the names of the ten fatalities were recited, everyone reflected for a moment before the hushed auditorium was suffused with beautiful echoes of a harpist and violinist, complimented by the ethereal tones of Moya Brennan and her co-host, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh.
Heartstrings were tugged, emotions were stirred and hairs on arms stood to attention as they sang, in Gaelic, ‘I’ll always be With You’.
As Moya Brennan and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh reminisced about the birth of their careers in Creeslough hall, their words of the tragedy served as a comfort to the local people.
“It happened to all the Donegal people,” they said. “We were always with you.”
The night gained momentum, and hosts welcomed names such as Mickey Joe Harte, Brian Kennedy, Lisa McHugh and The Whistlin’ Donkeys to the stage.
Harte began with a touching sentiment: “When words fail, music steps in’, before recalling where he was when he heard the news of the Creeslough tragedy.
“I was heading down to Cork at the time when I heard the news,” he said.
He then sang Ben E. King song, ‘Stand by Me’, a song which he released on his social media in the aftermath of the tragedy as a source of consolation with the people of Creeslough.
The entire auditorium was in perfect harmony.
And as I sat, in amazement and amusement – with Brian Kennedy perched on the seat beside me – his time came to navigate his way onto the stage.
‘Carrickfergus’ was sung flawlessly – followed by ‘Better Man’, ‘The Boxer’ and a big finale in ‘You Raise Me Up.’
As my eyes welled up, the words of Kennedy soothed me and everyone alike.
“Sometimes a song can put its arms around you,” he said.
Lisa McHugh performed effortlessly – singing classics like ‘Travellin’ Soldier’, but the main attraction was her rendition of ‘My Donegal’ – the sentiments of which touched the hearts of the entire auditorium.
And after an impressive set from the Whistlin’ Donkeys, they sealed their performance off with a track that enlivened the spirits of the Donegal attendees – ‘Hills of Donegal.’
“Donegal has been very kind to us throughout the years,” concluded Fergal McAloon, Whistlin’ Donkeys singer and proud Tyrone man, as he expressed his solidarity with the people of Creeslough.
The tuck shop was in full swing come the intermission as people satisfied the appetites – building energy for the awaited peak of the evening.
A golden jacket blurred past me as I made my way toward my seat – a seat I must mention proved fairly popular – as Moya Brennan and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh also took full advantage of the two spare seats to my left.
And as I cast my eye toward the stage, the golden jacket happened to be upon the back of none other than Brian McFadden – or ‘Brian Jim Pat’ as he’s known around Creeslough.
“Creeslough is in my blood,” he said as the concert resumed. “I had my first snog in Creeslough… and my first Smithwicks, too!”
‘Flying Without Wings’ was then sung, as a sea of flashlights illuminated the auditorium. The conditions were optimal for a tear to escape down my cheek.
And just when I thought the pinnacle of the concert had been and gone, Claire Bowes took position at the piano.
‘The Town I Loved so Well’ sung from the hearts of three primary schools who reside in the vicinity of Creeslough.
This was the moment that touched me most, as I’m sure it did for many others in attendance.
Accompanied by the beautiful music of Omagh resident Claire, how could it fail to be the perfect end to a memorable evening.
As we departed the auditorium, one phrase was at the forefront of my mind, and it was the words of Fr John Joe Duffy.
“Continue to walk with us,” he said.
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