THE world was shocked when a terrorist targeted young fans leaving a concert by their idol Ariana Grande in Manchester in May.
A Cork teenager was so moved by the tragedy, in which 23 people were killed and 250 were injured, that she penned a song in response.
The song by 16-year-old Méabh Fitzgerald, from Whitechurch, is called Van Gogh and has already been viewed hundreds of times on Youtube.
“I was inspired after attending a Hans Zimmerman concert at the 3 Arena,” says Méabh, who is a 5th year student at St. Angela’s, a pupil at the Cork School of Music, and an accomplished pianist, practicing seven hours a day.
“The composer, who wrote the score for The Lion King and Gladiator, paid tribute to the people of Manchester. He dedicated a piece he wrote to them and in June he donated the money from his Wembley concert to the Grenfell Tower relief fund.”
Méabh feels her song reflects the sorrow people people after the Manchester atrocity. but adds: “I’ve never thought of myself as a song-writer. I did the first bit in the middle, which is the emotion, then I built around that.”
The lyric goes:
The world can be a scary place.
I’m hot and bothered thinking ’bout division ’cause your race
Religion, gender, even standing at the wrong place
At the wrong time
They were only young
Why should they have to need a lifeline?
The world pulls together
When days like this come round
We take a minute’s silence
For loved ones not those clowns
They are selfish and subversive and their morals are a crime
Let’s reflect, not dwell
Those coward don’t deserve our time
“I built the slower bits around the fast bits,” explains Méabh, “it took me about seven hours.
She had a collaborator.
“Rebecca Barry Cunningham is an amazing singer. She has no training and she can’t read music. But what a voice!
“I sang the song first for her and she said, ‘I love this song. I’m up for it’.”
“I had Rebecca mind to sing Van Gogh and when I heard her sing it for the first time; I knew she was the right choice.”
Méabh’s sisters, Eiméar, Ailbhe and Clíona, were oblivious to the rehearsals that were happening at their house.
“I heard the music going on in the background,” says Eiméar.
Méabh was always tinkling away at her beloved piano.
“But it wasn’t until I heard the recording, that I realised what the girls were working on. There is constant music in the background in our house. Our mother, Betty, is choir-mistress with the choir Cór Gael. We are all involved in music,” adds Eiméar.
“Méabh gets up at 6.30am every morning before school to practice. So we were all in the dark about the Van Gogh composition. Then, when we heard the recording, we were all amazed by the quality and the lyrics that resonated so well with all that happened in the world this year.”
Méabh says a lot of practising and tweaking of the composition went on before the final recording.
“There were some mistakes that had to be fixed. When we were happy with everything, we uploaded it onto facebook and then to Youtube where it proved so popular.”
Where did the title, Van Gogh, come from?
“Rebecca and I agreed on the title only 10 seconds before we uploaded the song,” says Méabh. “We both thought it was catchy. And it seemed to suit the chorus.”
The song asks pertinent questions of attackers who target innocent people.
I’m walking down the road
I’m painting like Van Gogh
Why should this be my final move?
I’m standing at a show
I’m playing piano
Who are you to decide my final move?
All these hearts that you are breaking
All these cities that you try shaking
Think you’ll win but you won’t succeed.
Méabh has been accepted onto the William Finlay Programme for young, gifted pianists who display ability, motivation and potential.
“I’m excited about that,” she says. “The master-classes, workshops and country-wide events attended by well-known professors and pianists are a great opportunity for me. The mentors involved in the programme are at the top of their profession. The performance opportunities will be exciting.”
Méabh is also attending a two-week music summer camp in Manchester, not far from the site of the Arena where the terrorist attacks were carried out in May.
“Being in Manchester will be a sad reminder of what happened,” says Méabh.
The talented teenager has a glittering career in her sights.
“I hope to go on to be a concert pianist someday,” says Méabh, whose main interest is in classical music. “I play all classical and Baroque. I like to play romantic and contemporary pieces too.”
The world stage is beckoning.
“I put in a lot of hours practising,” she says. “I love it and I have great teachers, Susan and Jan. I enjoy the lessons and performing concerts every week.”
Méabh has another string to her bow. She smiles.
“Yes, I give ukulele lessons at home. It’s good fun I also teach piano. My pupils are great.”
Méabh plays the Cello as well. “My mum wanted the cello input for her concerts,” she adds.
What are her hopes for Van Gogh — Méabh’s first attempt at composing a song, which has meaning for so many?
“I hope people will keep on listening to it,” she says.
Méabh is fascinated how her first stab at penning the lyrics to her composition took off.
“I was amazed how it shared on Facebook like it did. I’m not a lyricist. I came up with the chorus first, then built up the piano part, the instrumental, around it.”
The result is a haunting, powerful melody of our time.
What do mum and dad think of their gifted star? “They were surprised and delighted with Van Gogh,” says Méabh.
“Our house is full of music. We have three pianos in the house. My dad plays the guitar.”
Méabh is thrilled with the response of her song.”
“Rebecca is really happy too,” says Méabh. “She is a natural singer. It was great to have her in my corner.”
To hear the song, see Youtube — Méabh Fitzgerald and Rebecca Barry-Cunningham - Van Gogh.