Archive for the Foy Vance Category

A little of the past three weeks…

Posted in christianity, community, Foy Vance, friends, Queens, rain with tags , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2009 by Phil Alcorn

Three weeks ago, my friend was found dead in his living room. He was found by other friends of mine.

It was Valentines day. I had been out in Carrickfergus helping at an International Students event when I got the message. Standing outside the gates of Carrickfergus castle, I got the message that would change a part of me forever. At 14:22:09 on Saturday 14th February 2009, the message came in.

“Phil. Cliff is Dead.”

I called right back, not wanting to believe it. The chill had already taken a hold of me, and part of me knew it was true. The friend who sent me that message does not joke about such awful things.

The next hour or two were a blur. I wanted, of how I wanted to leave… but I had come on a bus full of International students… there was no way to get back to Belfast until the trip was over. I walked around the castle on the tour, half in a daze. The weather reflected my feelings – grey and cold… a fewspittles of rain coming down, almost as if the clouds weren’t sure what it was they were trying to do.

I remember phoning my Dad… it was my Nana’s birthday, I was meant to be going home for a birthday dinner. I didn’t go home… I went to my friends house once I got back to Belfast. She had been there, she had been one of the ones to find him. I went to see how she was… other friends came round. It was an alien day…

Cliff was my friend. Our birthdays were on the same day… only two days after the day he was found. He was only two days off his 55th birthday.

Cliff taught me so many lessons about life. Lessons about how to love, how to care… how to look out for others, how to laugh in spite of a situation… he shared my musical tastes, he taught me about humility and gentleness, he showed me that everyone has a story, and that everyone, EVERYONE, has worth. Cliff changed me. God used Cliff to change and guide me.

A good friend asked me a few days after that day how everything that had happened fit into my perception of hope. He said that my last serious blog post had been titled ‘Hope, still under examination‘. And it is, it is still under examination. Foy Vance sang a song called ‘Two shades of hope”, and in it he sings a line that I never really understood.

“Hope deals the hardest blows…”

It is the final track on an album titled ‘Hope’. At the time I heard it, I thought I had an idea what he was getting at… but it wasnt until the past few weeks when I think it has really hit home. There were so many things I hoped for, so many things I still hope for. I hoped that one day, Cliff would trust in God to save him. I hoped he would do his body a favour and lay off the drink and the fags. I had hoped to share our birthdays together in celebration, to sing elvis songs with him again loudly and badly. I had hoped he could come to church with me some day, and maybe even help me out in a talk for the youth. I hope that, one day, I will see him again in heaven. I hope that his family will be comforted during this time and the times to come. I hope Cliffs memory and his story will inspire those who knew him to be ever more loving and caring to those they meet, and will even inspire those who never met him.

And I think Foy is right. By itself, hope can deal the hardest blows. I can hope for these things, but during the initial stages after Cliffs death, I was struggling under the uncertainty of it all. I mean, the very definition of hope implies that the outcome is ultimately unknown. And I didn’t know how to face that… how to face the prospect that despite all my hopes, they may never come to fruition. I mean, some of them haven’t come to fruition. I never got to share my birthday party with Cliff. I never got to sing Elvis with him again. He never did give up on the booze or the fags…

But is this where I have made my mistake? In focusing on hope, have I lost focus on the other two remaining graces? Faith, and love? If I had true love, would I not have made more of an effort to do everything in my power to reunite Cliff with his maker? If I had true love, would I not understand that God’s decisions are perfectly just, and that events that happen on this earth will be used in perfect love to help us grow, learn, and come closer to our Father? If I had true faith, would I not be able to hope without the need for clarification, without the need for certainty?

Even things like the news last night, that an attack was made on an army base in Antrim, resulting in the death of 2 soldiers and serious injury of others including civilians. The real IRA have claimed responsibility, and the gunmen went so far as to fire at the downed victims even as they lay on the ground. Talking to friends, many of them are fearful that it will spark a return to the ‘old days’, that retaliation will spark retaliation and it will all become out of hand once more. Is the hope that our country could have peace enough?

God has been teaching me a lot recently. I believe He has more in store for our wee country than we expect. And I believe that whatever happens, God is not done with us yet. And after the past few weeks, I know that this hope is enough for me. This hope IS enough, because I know that despite the terrible things that go on around us, God is good. I have faith that although I never understand WHY things happen the way they happen, that God still loves us, and loves us perfectly. And so I will try and learn from His love. I will hold onto the lessons He is teaching me, and hold onto the lessons He used Cliff to teach me. And I will hold onto the hope that I will see my friend Cliff once more.

Cliff was a special friend. He grew up in a ‘church family’. He became a Christian as a younger man, and became heavily involved in his church. When I met him, he was living on the streets, was addicted to alcohol and ciggarettes, and never revealed to me that he had ever at any stage made any sort of committment to God. But this wee Belfast man taught me truths about love and care and humility, and even God, that I will never forget. I miss you, Cliff. And I love you. And I hope that one day, we will sing again together in the company of our Father. I will wait for that day, our Kid… have your best singing voice ready…

Hope, track 7…

Posted in christianity, creative, Foy Vance with tags , , , , on May 20, 2008 by Phil Alcorn

The street was alive with people. Old and young, male and female, everyone bustled about their daily business. The sheer busyness of the place was almost tangible, like a fog that hung in the air, blinding those below it to the existence of anything but the task in hand. The cacophony of sounds that is life in the city centre only served to add to the mayhem. Shop doors opened and closed, engines growled as the cars and buses flew past, ignorant of the pedestrians crossing the street… Snippets of conversations, cries of newspaper sellers, blaring of horns… This was it, this was life in the mainstream.

The man sat quietly in a recess in the wall. Though his legs stretched out into the street in front of him, he was in no danger of being trodden on. He often liked to think of this place as his home… after all, it was where he sat, where he slept, where he lived and breathed and hoped and dreamed. Yes, he liked to think of it as home. It made it easier to believe that the people purposefully walking by the kerbside were not avoiding him, but merely respecting his space. After all, he would never dream of taking a stroll through their living rooms, would he?

With his arm outstreched and his hand open, palm up, it was clear to see this vagabond had not washed in some time. His fingers were grubby and weathered, the rest of his hand hidden by a pair of worn fingerless black gloves. A green jacket hung on his narrow shoulders, over an old wollen jumper. His jeans were torn at the left knee, and had at one time been a bright blue. An old white pair of trainers and a red woollen hat completed his get-up, with his face placed his age as being somewhere mid-thirties. His scruff of a beard, existent more by lack of shaving equipment than an intentional accessory, was a dark ginger, contrastic starkly with his hat. His eyes, green as a fir tree in winter, now watched each person that hurried by, too busy to stop. He watched, trying to make eye contact, trying to catch someone off guard, trying to stir up within people that feeling of sympathy and guilt that wouldn’t let them just walk by and ignore him… though by this stage, it was clear to see from the vacant resignation in his gaze, that he had all but given up on these people. They wouldn’t stop for him, he knew. To them, he was no more than another homeless guy, another figure to be avoided on this busy street, another person worth less than the task at hand. You see, they just think he’s going to take their money and then go and spend it on dope…

A young woman dressed in a navy trouser suit hurried past with a briefcase, looking with great intensity at something across the street that seemed to have just caught her intention. The vagabond sighed slowly to himself. No, he thought, these people didn’t understand… how could they? In the busyness of day to day city centre life, one can’t afford the time to stop and consider the complexities of life of a homeless person… after all, everyone has their own life to lead, why stop and think about the life of another?

Time passed, almost as fast as the people. The vagabond continued to look out at his fellow inhabitants of the city, his mind contemplating that great unsolved phenomenon… So often these days, he found himself thinking about it, of how despite being in the middle of such a crowd, how huge the feeling of lonliness can become. So engrossed was he, in fact, in analysing his own seeming non-existence in this world, his own isolation in a world of company, that he didn’t notice the man who had stopped by his side. No, he didn’t notice him at all, not until the first words were spoken…

A thoroughly unremarkable individual in terms of appearance, this visitor had seemingly arrived from nowhere. Dressed in an ordinary pair of combat trousers and a green t-shirt, he crouched down beside the vagabond, and spoke softly in his ear. The surprise on the vagabond’s face was immediate, turning his head to view this new arrival in bewilderment. The visitor continued to speak, his smile beaming out from his face. Indeed, even his eyes betrayed the happiness he seemed to feel feel inside, shining out and seeming to laugh along with the words he was speaking. After a good number of minutes the visitor, still talking, saw the first few tears forming on the vagabond’s eyes. The look of shock had never left his face, almost as though it was a mask, an emotion frozen in time. The visitor stopped talking for a moment, knowing the vagabond was about to cut in…
“Why?” His gruff voice cracked a little, as the first tear rolled down his cheek, into the wiry strands of his beard… “Why? Look at me, can’t you see what I am, where I am? I lost my job, my family and friends have disowned me… God can’t love me. I’m a lost cause…”
He felt the hopelessness rising up within him once more… Unable to continue, he merely sobbed quietly into his hands. The visitor watched on, the compassion in his eyes so tangible it seemed to almost flow out of him… stretching out an arm, he placed a hand on the vagabond’s shoulder, and gently squeezed. He opened his mouth one final time, and spoke in the same soft, uplifting voice as before…
“Be at peace, my child… Salvation is here today.”

**************************************************

The street was alive with people. Old and young, male and female, everyone bustled about their daily business. The sheer busyness of the place was almost tangible, like a fog that hung in the air, blinding those below it to the existence of anything but the task in hand. The cacophony of sounds that is life in the city centre only served to add to the mayhem. Shop doors opened and closed, engines growled as the cars and buses flew past, ignorant of the pedestrians crossing the street… Snippets of conversations, cries of newspaper sellers, blaring of horns… This was it, this was life in the mainstream. But something was different, something had changed… people were stopping, turning around in the street. The homeless guy, the one everyone tried to ignore, the one who sat quietly in his recess day after day was standing up and shouting out to the world around him…

“Hallelujah!” he cried, “Hallelujah!” Tears were rolling down his face, as unhindered as his shouts. Looking around at the people stopping around him, he continued to call out…
“Hallelujah! Everyone, listen! This man, this man… There’s someone here you gotta meet! Someone you just gotta meet…”

He whirled around, pointing to where the visitor was stood. He looked once more into the face of his new friend, into those compassionate eyes. That same warm smile broke out on the visitor’s face one more time… and he was gone. The vagabond looked in amazement for a few seconds at the spot which had just been emptied of the visitor’s presence, before whirling around again, trying to see where he had disappeared to. Turning on the spot, looking wildly around himself, the crowd began to laugh. He looked up at them, unable to make out their faces now, his vision blurred by the tears still streaming down his face. He stumbled forward, into the crowd itself, still looking for the visitor. He barely noticied the jeers and taunts, the laughter of those around him as he pushed his way down the busy street. Eventually, the people around him continued about their business, losing interest in this clearly delusional man…

Onward he walked, looking around him, wiping away the tears with the sleeve of his jacket. As his vision cleared and he scanned the faces around him, he saw a young woman sitting on the ground, back against the window of a fast-food shop. She was well dressed, wearing a pair of blue designer jeans and expensive looking brown leather boots. Her red shirt was buttoned up just so far as to be a little revealing, and her long, straight black hair had obviously been styled. The vagabond watched as she pulled her knees in towards her, hugging her legs as she stared the the pavement before her. He saw the people hurry past her, not noticing the single tear escape her eye… sympathy welling up inside him, the realisation of all that had happened suddenly hit home. Abandoning his search for the visitor, the search he now knew was fruitless anyway, he walked up to the girl, taking a seat on the ground next to her. She didn’t seem to notice him at first, not until he spoke…

**************************************************

The street was alive with people. Old and young, male and female, everyone bustled about their daily business. The sheer busyness of the place was almost tangible, like a fog that hung in the air, blinding those below it to the existence of anything but the task in hand. The cacophony of sounds that is life in the city centre only served to add to the mayhem. Shop doors opened and closed, engines growled as the cars and buses flew past, ignorant of the pedestrians crossing the street… Snippets of conversations, cries of newspaper sellers, blaring of horns… This was it, this was life in the mainstream. But something was different, something had changed… people were stopping, turning around in the street. The homeless guy, the one everyone tried to ignore, the one who sat quietly in his recess day after day was standing up and shouting out to the world around him… and a girl was with him, some new friend he seemed to have found. The two of them were stood in the street, crying out to those around them…

“Hallelujah! Hallelujah! There’s someone here you we have found!”

**************************************************

The sun was setting as the vagabond walked down the gradual hill towards his destination. He said a little prayer, just to give thanks to God for the view which he beheld; the valley sides illumiunated by the tawny-orange hue of sunset. Not many people were still out and about at this time; in fact, save the vagabond and the man walking along beside him, not a single person was to be seen on this street…

“You’re right…” the vagabond’s companion spoke into the silence. “I don’t think anyone could have expected it… Some have dreamed of it, of course, have been desiring it and praying for it for as long as I can remember, but I doubt anyone woke up this morning and knew it would start today…”

The walked onward a little more, reaching the bottom of the hill and turning into a new street. The companion spoke once more, continuing his thread. “I’ve been praying for it myself, y’know… many nights I would sit in my room, looking out the window at the lights of this city… praying for revival to come…”

They turned in through a gateway, stopping at the door as the vagabond’s companion fumbled in his pocket for his key. The vagabond turned around, looking out at the street before him. The school on the other side of the street stood tall, blocking his view back up the hill they had just descended. Pulling out his keyring, the vagabond’s companion led the way into the house. “I’ll have the kettle on in a jiffy,” he said, gesturing the vagabond towards the sofa in the sitting room to the right. “By the way, I had meant to ask you earlier… The visitor you were telling me about, what exactly did he say to you? Did he tell you his name?”
The vagabond smiled as he moved towards the sofa. “His name… he told me it was Gabriel.”
The vagabond’s companion stopped midstep, halfway to the kitchen. He was well aware of the significance of that name… turning to face the vagabond, he asked again, “What did he say? What was his message?”
The vagabond’s smile broadened, and a laugh escaped his lips… He gave his new companion the answer he sought…

“Hope…”

Still in a foy kinda mood…

Posted in Foy Vance, funny on August 31, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

Found this on youtube – made me smile!

Foy Vance…

Posted in christianity, Foy Vance, gigs, U2 on August 31, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

There are few things that can move me to tears these days… I don’t know why that is, maybe it’s just a part of ‘growing up’… But there are a few things in this world that do still cause that well of emotion inside of me… I experienced one of them tonight…

Foy played in the Black Box tonight, as he had done the previous two nights, and will do again tomorrow night. After a slight change of plans, the troop that headed down was myself, dougie, katy and jen, and we were accompanied by simon and ross… Being quite far up the queue, we got incredible seats, right by the stage pretty much…
The support act was a guy called Ken Haddock – very talented guy, quite a similar style to Foy (they’re good friends too…)… He gave a very good performance, and amusingly called Foy and his troop out to support him in a couple of his songs – they were spectacular!

So, after a short intermission (long enough to buy another round of drinks) Foy, Joanne and Jules came to the stage. What followed was simply incredible… Yes, I may be biased, seeing as he is my favourite artist, but I firmly hold to the belief that no-one throws a gig quite like Foy – and I also hold firm to the statements I made in a recent post about being at a gig of Foys is like encountering God in a very unique way (I am in no way deifying Foy, merely commenting on his songs and performance – enabling an encounter with the divine).
I’m not going to give a rundown of the setlist here, nor give a report of the gig – all I will do is highlight a few points that particularly stood out. Enough people will write a report soon enough.

Foy’s banter with the crowd is always a bonus – he is so at home with his ‘home crowd’. So much so, we had a sing-song near-on the end of the gig. This is a moment that moved me to tears (well, watery-eyes…)… Foy suggested we have a sing-song, and began playing guitar and singing without amplification (no mics or amps), and before I knew it, I was singing along with the whole room to I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For… it was a beautiful moment, hearing the whole room sing together to a calm acoustic version of the U2 classic. When we reached the lines ‘You broke the bonds and You loosed the chains, carried the cross of my shame, of my shame… You know I believe it’ I couldn’t help but feel emotional – I can’t describe how special that moment felt…
The second emotional moment occured during the penultimate song, Come On Up To The House – we were all on our feet, stamping and clapping away as Foy belted out the old gospel style classic – God was there as we sang along… maybe not everyone felt it, but I did…

I’m still quite in awe of the whole thing…

working on it…

Posted in christianity, Foy Vance, gigs, U2 on August 29, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

Still organising my thoughts into a coherent pattern (with further backup from todays events), I decided NOT to do a soapbox-style shoutout tonight… rather, I will just share my excitement about my plans for this thursday night…

If any of you have been reading this for a while, you will have heard me talk about the musical genius that is Foy Vance… well, he is playing at the Black Box in Belfast on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night this week… so myself, 3 friends, and 296 people I probably don’t know are heading down on thursday night to hear the master at work.

Foy seems, to me at least, to be one of those artists who really crosses the border between ordinary gig and genuine memorable experience… The thing that sets him apart I feel, along with other artists such as U2, is how much of himself he truely devotes to his music. The likes of U2, and Foy, although some may heartily disagree, cross the divide between average ‘pop song’ and a true emotionally stirring ballad. They take an emotion or event and run with it lyrically, with hard hitting truth and raw honesty, and merge that with musical talent I can only dream of… And to witness them perform (although I have never seen U2 live, only recordings) is to witness something exceptional. The amount of energy and emotion they pump into their performance is a sight to behold. The gig becomes more than a gig – it becomes a brief encounter with the divine. And I don’t believe it’s going too far to say that… both U2 and Foy have immersed their faith in their work, resulting in songs that touch the soul and stir the spirit… when they perform, I believe they are engaging in acts of worship… Engaging with God in emotions and thoughts about diverse experiences and events, and using their gifts to do so…

Thats all I feel I really have to say right now… You may agree or disagree, but those are my thoughts. I’m looking forward to thursday night…

Martha Wainwright…

Posted in Foy Vance, friends, gigs, guitar on August 14, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

I’ve no idea if I’ve even spelt that right… but ah well…

I went to see Martha Wainwright tonight (after finding the site to link to I see I HAVE spelt it right!)
I had never heard her own stuff before, rather I knew her as the girl who sang with Snow Patrol in their ‘Set fire to the third bar’ song that my friend Marc hates… Anyway, I had thought she sounded ok on that, so when my friend Jeannie (who is a fan of hers) asked me to go along with her and a few other friends to a gig she was doing in Lisburn, I happily agreed. After all, it had been her who had introduced me to the magic of Foy Vance!
So, I was reminded last night (sunday night) about the concert (‘oh crap, i forgot!!’ was my first thought) and so tonight we set off for Lisburn, my hopes high of a good gig. After picking up Sonya, Dave and Connor (all of whom I hadn’t seen in a while, so I was glad to see them) we set off on an interesting route to the lyric arts centre in Lisburn.

The support act was a local band called The Winding Stair who I have to say I really enjoyed. They were very Irish in their sound, and yet kinda modern too – I loved it… although I am sad to say I don’t really feel their myspace recordings do justice to their live performance.
So after the support and a short interval was Martha. She came out to applause, and I was shocked for a moment into thinking she was wearing nothing from her waist down (but then noticed she was in fact just about wearing a pair of shorts, lol). She began to play acoustic guitar (I was under the impression she was a pianist, but seemingly either I was wrong or she had gone for a change tonight), and I have to be honest and say that I was quite unimpressed with the first song. Or even to go further, I wasn’t so much unimpressed as I was disliking it. It just wasn’t my kind of thing at all… I can’t even really try and describe what it was like, but it didn’t appeal to my tastes at all…

She spoke to us (the crowd) a few times throughout the performance, and revealed that a lot of the gig was new songs as she has just finished work on a new album. To be blatantly honest, I found the entire gig average. It’s kinda hard to describe… I thought it was good in that I appreciate the talent she has – she has an incredible voice, and used the guitar very well to accent that. However, her style of music I found to be very unappealing to my tastes. Also, her songs all seemed to be very depressing and hopeless… and it didn’t help that she seemed to forget her lyrics a lot.
All in all, I stand by what I told my friends when I left. I thought it was good, yes, but I didn’t really enjoy it… I won’t be rushing back to see her. Good thing the next two gigs I’ve got tickets for are The Rolling Stones and Foy Vance!!

foy, and some thievery…

Posted in Foy Vance, friends, rain on July 22, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

Today was an unusual day. There were some tensions at home due to my sleeping habits, work was busy, and a non-uniform day was in effect (which I didn’t realise until I got in…)

It was Becca’s birthday today too, Happy 22nd Becca! Though I doubt she reads this… she’s my sister by the way…

After work, we were meant to go out for a birthday dinner, but due to some unpredictable circumstances, it was cancelled, during which time I was offered and accepted a ticket to see Foy play at the Waterfront in Belfast (dinner was later un-cancelled, although I by now wasn’t attending). So, my second viewing of a live Foy gig was unbelieveable!! It was my first public gig, and he was outstanding! The man has some serious serious talent, playing a variety of styles in a variety of songs, some his own and some covers… he is fast becoming one of my favourite artists!

I also have to note thta a real novelty of the gig was how I managed to get the ticket… Foy had set some aside for a friend of mine and their family, and one had to cancel last minute, so my friend asked me if I’d like to go… So not only did I get a free ticket, but it was a ticket for the private seating at a standing only gig! I felt well lucky, and appreciated every second of it!

Oh, and as I sign off due to dodgy connection, let me explain the reference to thievery… I’m currently piggy backing on my neighbours’ unsecured wireless from the comfort of my bed, something I only just realised I can do!!

Oh, and it was raining earlier, and I got wet… I love the rain…