I WAS so excited as I waited for the return of the Enniskillen Happy Days Festival, which is celebrating its tenth year and a welcome return to Ireland after a Covid intermission.
Happy Days is celebrating Samuel Beckett, one of Ireland’s literary geniuses and a man who personified Zen for me.
My day in Enniskillen began in St Michael’s chapel on Church Street at the top of the town. I went to hear a wonderful Canadian classical singer called Ema who was accompanied by an amazing pianist called Julius.
To be honest, I am not a fan of classical music but when Ema sang I was transcended to heaven as I sat in the pew, eyes closed and ears open as her melodic tones vibrated throughout my body, not knowing what was coming next.
I found myself in a meditative state in St Michael’s with the angelic voice of Ema. Her pitch was perfect and the venue was befitting.
All of the pieces that Ema sang told of the need for oneness and how we are all one.
This meant a lot to me as this is my core belief, that there is no 'other', we are one, and as I sat in my pew I became intoxicated with that oneness.
I left St Michael’s exalted and headed to the Breandrum Chapel of Rest on the Tempo Road. This was an old run-down chapel that was filled with cobwebs and the like. It was once again a befitting venue, this time for the reading of Beckett’s cemetery pieces by the wonderful actor Toby Jones.
The chapel was filled with Beckettsians and you could could hear a church mouse in the silence which was punctuated by Toby’s dulcet tones and the applause of the audience.
Once again I was reignited to the Zen of Beckett as Toby read.
What a genius the man was. He had a way with words like no other. He was a simple man in his Zen-like ways and was at one with silence.
One of his famous plays was 'Waiting for Godot' and I remember being in the company just before the pandemic of the Irish artistic legend Robert Ballagh, who told me a story about a time in Paris when he was to meet up with Samuel Beckett and a couple of others, but due to Robert’s wife being unwell and this was way before mobile phones, Robert was unable to attend the meeting.
One of the the other attendees later told Robert that they sat in silence in the cafe waiting for his arrival. Silence was Beckett's default position and after some time Beckett opened his mouth and said, "Waiting for Ballagh," to which they all laughed.
My last play of the day was a playlet called 'Ohio impromptu' and this was located on the monastic site on Devenish Island.
We travelled to the island on a lake cruiser, all forty of us sat in our seats with the sound of the torrential rain beating down on the roof top of the cruiser as we made our way across the island to the small monastic settlement.
We entered a bleak cottage that was in darkness, once again a setting that only the likes of Adrian Dunbar could imagine. Part of the room lit up like a screen and the two performers performed the playlet and blew me away. I would highly recommend if you get the chance go see it.
On my return to terra firma, I had the opportunity to thank the man himself whose idea the festival is, the big fella himself, Adrian Dunbar and I thanked him for making our weekend truly Happy Days.