Monday, 30 April 2018

When Van Played Cyprus Avenue

WHEN VAN PLAYED CYPRUS AVENUE (320kbs-m4a/65mb/28mins)
BBC Radio 4 broadcast: 3rd October 2015

"And I'm caught one more time
Up on Cyprus Avenue..."

Van Morrison made a number of references in his songs to the east Belfast neighbourhood in which he grew up, none more directly than in Cyprus Avenue from his 1968 album Astral Weeks. Romantic images of leaves shaking on a tree, rainbow ribbons in a young girl's hair and a mansion on the hill evoke memories of Cyprus Avenue in the years before Van left Northern Ireland to pursue his career in the States.

Cyprus Avenue - with its intricate arrangement of flute, harpsichord and strings - was recorded in New York, far from the well-heeled, tree-lined avenue along which the young Van would pass on his way home to the working class area of Hyndford Street. This was in the years before the Troubles. East Belfast was steadfastly loyalist and protestant.

When the arts broadcaster Marie-Louise Muir moved into the area, she was already aware of the iconic quality of street's name - not just from Van Morrison's song, but from the fact that the Reverend Ian Paisley lived on Cyprus Avenue. Marie-Louise was a Catholic 'blow-in'. So, when Van announced that he'd be celebrating his 70th birthday by playing a gig literally feet from her front door, she was curious to see how the community would respond.

Produced by Alan Hall.
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio Four.

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