There was sweet music in Ballymena following the welcome return of a popular festival that hit all the right notes.
Midtown Sounds 2022, held in partnership with the Tower Centre and the Ballymena BID, saw musicians once again performing live in front of the public, having been restricted to a virtual show 12 months ago when the Covid pandemic was at its height.
This year’s musical extravaganza – a collaboration with local band night Sequel – gave three young local acts an opportunity to showcase their considerable talents.
Conor McAuley, Foreign Mornings and The Caged Hearts all took to the stage, adding some atmosphere for shoppers frequenting the busy Tower Centre mall.
Emma McCrea, Ballymena BID Manager, said it was superb to see gifted musicians performing in person.
“This year’s Milltown Sounds line-up illustrates that we have an abundance of talent and artistic creativity in our Borough,” she said.
“In conjunction with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, we are delighted to support our local performers by showcasing this unique festival.”
Kicking off Day One’s festivities, McAuley wowed the crowd with his intricate guitar picking and crystal-clear vocals.
Next up was a stripped back performance from Foreign Mornings and two members of The Caged Hearts, another popular band, finished off the show with an acoustic set of their infectious Indie pop sounds, accompanied by some well-chosen covers.
Sequel is the brainchild of Eoin Agnew, The Caged Hearts’ frontman, who has been inviting local bands to perform in Ballymena for several years.
And that’s why, as part of this year’s festival, he was invited to oversee the 2022 line-up.
On Day Two, special workshops were held in an empty unit within the Tower Centre.
A Junior Jammers workshop facilitated by The Music Rooms, a local shop and music tuition centre, gave children aged between three and six the opportunity to try out some African drums.
As well as being given free rein to make as much noise as possible, the children learned the basic rhythms and patterns associated with African musicians’ distinctive percussion techniques.
It proved to be popular, with children from a range of communities taking part, as well as those who’d travelled from outside the borough to be involved.
Next up, local musician and life coach Amanda St John shared valuable industry insights with attendees.
This workshop, which largely consisted of one-on-ones with local musicians, covered the basics of marketing and how to release your work. It also offered an invaluable opportunity to learn from Amanda’s experience and expertise.
The best-attended workshop of the day saw local producer Michael McCluskey covering the basics of his role, as well as fielding questions from the audience regarding specific audio issues.
Meanwhile, local vocal coach Sarah Irvine led a group on how best to warm up your vocal cords, breathing techniques as well as tips and tricks to improve vocals.
The piece de resistance, however, was undoubtedly the Midtown Sounds Jam, with several local musicians coming together for the festival’s final hour.
Always one of the festival’s most enjoyable sections, this year’s one managed to exceed all expectations.
Council collaborated with local business Ted & Stitch in order to create Merchandise for Midtown Sounds, with T-shirts and Tote bags being modelled across the town centre.
Performances also took place at the town’s popular Busker Spot on Greenvale Street.
Organiser Joe Rocks said it was “invaluable to partner with the Tower Centre for this year’s Midtown Sounds”.
He added: “It gave us a strong presence within the town centre and the perfect base to pique the interest of onlookers into some of the work we are currently doing.
“Local musicians were still afforded the opportunity to perform in live settings, and we were able to provide them tools and knowledge from Industry professionals in order to help them climb to the next rung of the ladder in their career,” he added.