- 08 Sep 20
With the extraordinary quality of the 75 videos recorded by Irish musicians for 'Rave On, Van Morrison', the celebration of Van’s work – organised by Hot Press magazine to celebrate his 75th birthday – becoming clearer by the day, the bard of Belfast himself has now spoken...
Van Morrison has thanked the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, for his contribution to Rave On, Van Morrison, the tribute created and curated by Hot Press, and hosted on YouTube, to mark the 75th birthday of the incomparable Belfast artist.
The Hot Press tribute involves 75 artists paying musical tribute to the man widely recognised as Ireland's greatest ever songwriter and performer – among them Sinead O'Connor, Bob Geldof, Hozier, Imelda May, Damien Rice, Una Healy, Glen Hansard, Andrea Corr, Damien Dempsey, Bronagh Gallagher – and many more.
In a career spanning 60 years as a professional musician, Van Morrison has written over 450 songs, including many that have become standards – ‘Gloria’, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, ‘Moondance’, ‘Jackie Wilson Says’, ‘Have I Told You Lately’ and ‘Days Like This’ among them. Van Morrison's album Astral Weeks (1968) is widely regarded among the greatest albums of all time. He has released over 40 original albums; his most recent, Three Chords and the Truth, was released in 2019.
“I”d like to say thank you to President Higgins for his rendition of my poem 'Rave On, John Donne',” the man dubbed the Bard of Belfast says, in a specially recorded video message.
The music for President Michael D. Higgins' version of ‘Rave On, John Donne’ was fashioned by the composer Bill Whelan, who is best known as the creator of the global smash hit musical, Riverdance. The video, conceived by Hot Press, with editing by One Productions, is currently the No.1 performing video of the celebration, ahead of powerful, and hugely popular, videos by Hozier, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, Andrea Corr and Bob Geldof.
“I think it is a very beautiful and inspiring piece,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes says. “The performance of ‘Rave On, John Donne’ by President Michael D. Higgins is outstanding, and it is lifted magnificently by the brilliant soundtrack created specially for the purpose by Bill Whelan, who is such an extraordinary musician and composer.
"We wanted to make a statement about the island of Ireland by marrying the powerful performances delivered by the President, and by Bill and his musicians, with beautiful images – and the response to the piece suggests that people really do see it in that light. Everyone on this island has a right to feel proud of the extraordinary music that has been created here by musicians from every corner of the island of Ireland, over the course of the Rave On, Van Morrison project. Long may it continue."
Van Morrison has also thanked Hot Press, and the many musicians who contributed, acknowledging the wonderful diversity of the arrangements delivered by the 75 artists, as they perform 75 of his songs – often with rare gusto.
“I’d like to thank Niall Stokes and everyone at Hot Press,” Van said, "for the celebration of my work on my 75th birthday. And I’d like to thank all the musicians and singers involved and all the artists involved, with the great, innovative arrangements."
There have indeed been an extraordinary number of powerful versions of Van’s ground-breaking songs. Some have been beautifully simple, including the track that opened the biggest ever celebration of Van’s work – a beautiful version of ’Moondance’ sung by Andrea Corr, of The Corrs, with just a strummed mandolin as backing.
Others have been utterly unique, like David Lyttle’s re-imagining of the spoken word track ‘On Hyndford Street’ with superstar actor Liam Neeson doing the reading; and others again have been intricate and impressively polished, including an exceptional version of – and video for – ‘In The Days Before Rock ’n’ Roll’ by Paul Casey and friends (a crew that includes Belfast music legend Terri Hooley of Good Vibrations fame, broadcasters John Kelly, Eve Blair, Ralph McLean and Mickey Bradley, also of The Undertones, as well as fellow-Undertone Billy Doherty and many more, all backed by musicians Liam Bradley, Nicky Scott, Rod McVey, Damien McGeehan and Lauren Doherty).
Among the recent videos unveiled is a brand new version of ‘Gloria’ by Dea Matrona – three young female musicians from Belfast, who have received views and comments in reaction to their YouTube premiere sufficient to suggest that they may well be on the road to stardom. Dea Matrona are sisters Mollie McGinn (20), Mamie McGinn (16) and Orlaith Forsythe (20.)
“There are so many great songs, amazing performances and brilliant videos here that anyone who loves music will be transported,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes added.
To see all the videos so far and for daily premieres, visit the Hot Press YouTube channel.
Hot Press also published a special Van Morrison Issue, to coincide with Van’s 75th birthday, which can be purchased directly from the shop on hotpress.com.
“Thank you very much everybody,” the message from Van Morrison concludes.
To which we can only add, echoing the sentiments expressed by so many of the musicians: “Thank you, Van, for all of the epoch-making music over the past 60 years. You are completely and utterly without peer."