Derry sings The Town I Loved So Well with Phil Coulter

Thousands of Derry people have raised their voices in tandem with the man who penned their city’s anthem in a rousing rendition of ‘The Town I Loved So Well’.

Cloudy skies and the threat of showers could not deter the crowds from turning out on Saturday afternoon for a rare chance to make history.

The mass choir, many of whom lived through the turbulent years of the Troubles to which the song refers, joined the world-famous singer, songwriter and producer as he returned to his native Derry to receive the Freedom of the City and host the musical event at Ebrington Square.

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The sing-a-long was organised with the City of Derry International Choir Festival, and will be broadcast in full on the festival’s social media channels and website later in the month on World Singing Day, October 15, ahead of the 10th City of Derry International Choir Festival which runs from Oct 19-23.

Crowds gathered at Ebrington to sing with Phil Coulter.

Before the event got under way, those gathered held a minute’s silence to remember those killed and injured and the wider community at the centre of the terrible and still unfolding tragedy at Creeslough in neighbouring County Donegal.

Phil was welcomed home with a special birthday song, and was joined on stage by conductor Donal O’Doherty, Codetta Choir and a host of talented musicians.

He led the crowds in renditions of ‘Steal Away’ and the Irish rugby anthem ‘Ireland’s Call’.

Surprise recorded messages from Derry musician Damian McGinty and actor/ producer Roma Downey congratulating Phil were then relayed over large screens before the unmistakable opening chords of ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ were played.

Phil Coulter on stage at Ebrington in Derry.

For over seven minutes Phil, the choir and the people of Derry joined as one as they sang about the town we all know so well.

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And, almost 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement paving the way for peace in Ireland, the ‘bright, brand new day’ longed for in the song came to pass in more ways than one as the clouds parted and the sun shone on those gathered at the conclusion of what had been a brief but magical moment for all those who were part of it.

Keep an eye out on www.derrychoirfest.com/ for details of when the full performance will be released and what else is coming up at the festival.

Crowds gathered at Ebrington to sing with Phil Coulter.