Sax in the Music City!

Gerard McChrystal. (0310AQSI01)

Gerard McChrystal. (0310AQSI01)

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This Friday’s Music City! celebrations will see one of Derry’s most accomplished musicians, return to the city as part of Music City! The City of Culture year could have proved very different for saxophonist, Gerard McChrystal, due to the fact an accident, prior to his last Derry performance, placed his playing career in jeopardy.

Gerard last performed in Derry as part of the BBC Sons and Daughters concert bill in January. An event he described as: “My kind of gig. The audience reaction was amazing.”

Considering he had almost accidentally ended his career a few weeks prior to the show, little wonder he was delighted to participate.

“I was cutting some speaker cables and I put a knife through my index finger,” he explained.

“That was only three weeks before the BBC show. I almost cut through my tendon. I had a two day wait after the accident to see if my finger was to be operated on. In fact it was a strange quirk of fate that the surgeon was actually married to a previous student of mine.

“There is no doubt I was lucky to play at that gig. In fact that day I had also spent eight hours stranded in the snow not sure if the flight would make it, so it really was the worst possible preparation for any concert. It worked out in the end though.”

The Music City! programme describes the performance from Derry saxophonist, Gerard McChrystal and Australian guitarist Craig Ogden, as being held ‘across the city all day.’

Mr. Ogden is principal lecturer in guitar at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and visiting lecturer at London’s Royal College of Music. City of Culture ambassador, Gerard McChrystal, is professor of saxophone at Trinity Laban, London.

Basically Derry is in for a memorable musical treat.

Speaking about this Friday’s event, which is also the Summer Solstice, Gerard said: “I think the two instruments work really well together.

“We have a large enough repertoire as we’ve both worked together for some time, so playing all day will be no problem,” he laughed.

“There will be a little something for everyone as we will be pulling pieces together from South America, England, Ireland and Poland. There will be a lot of jazz compositions. That is where the two instruments meet best I feel.

“Craig is a great guitarist with two number one albums to his credit and he is recognised as one of the top three guitar players in the world. He really is something, so it should be a good day,” added the man who grew up in Derry’s, Fortwilliam Terrace.

The internationally acclaimed musician admits he is “not 100% sure of the plan, but I’m really looking forward to Friday and having a good root around the city.

“We will be playing in some community centres and the like, especially in Carnhill and Shantallow as that is where I grew up.”

The Leicester based saxophonist will certainly have an early start as his flight arrives in Derry at 6am Friday. There is no doubt the pair are in demand, both have to rush off to perform a concert in France this Saturday.

“There is a lot of travel in the job so there will be no rock and roll party or stay over after Music City! It is often like that, fly in, sound check, play the gig and fly out again. Dealing with the airlines and ensuring your instrument is safe is the worst part of the job.”

Despite his travelling concerns Gerard is a frequent visitor home.

“I love coming home regularly. Derry is becoming a very cool place these days. Things like the Radio One Big Weekend help that. I think that is the biggest change I see with City of Culture: People are talking about it, they are excited by Derry. There is a sense of optimism which is now being shared by both those in and outside the city.”

Music City! will see events and concerts played throughout the city from dawn til dusk. For full details log onto www.cityofculture2013.com