Q&A: Composer Nick Boyle on helping recreate sounds of Syria now lost to war

Belfast musician and composer Nick Boyle has recently been working on an audio art project capturing members of the Ards Syrian community's memories of home

Listeners to Syria Sound of Memory will be transported to the city of Homs
Jane Hardy

How do you unwind at the weekend?

That can be a challenge! I've been writing music for the Echo Echo and Maiden City Festivals for choreographer Suzannah McCreight plus two exciting projects with Terra Nova Productions including Syria Sound of Memory. I'm very thankful that that's the case in these uncertain times. That said, I do take full advantage of the Lagan towpath and the fabulous Connswater Community Greenway in east Belfast daily. A walk is a great way to unwind.

What do you recall about weekends growing up?

The highlight of the weekend was attending the School of Music, which I loved, and the slice of Death by Chocolate I got at Butler's on the way back home – if I was exceptionally lucky. As a family we would often visit relatives in Tyrone or Moira, so although I grew up on the Falls Road, I have lots of countryside memories.

Friday night or Saturday night?

Could I pick both? Although I have been enjoying being at home, before Covid I would frequently be out playing piano around Belfast venues. I am looking forward to those times again, soon...

Do you have a must-listen weekend show?

I'm a bit vulnerable to going down podcast rabbit holes if a subject interests me and am not particularly loyal to any. Generally, I'll listen to a mixture of Radio 3, 4 and 6.

Must-watch weekend TV show/box set?

Very recently I dived headlong into Line of Duty and have become obsessed with 'bent coppers'. There's a great satisfaction to be had in hearing Adrian Dunbar introduce Norn Iron sayings to the wider English-speaking world.

Favourite eatery – or is it a takeaway?

That depends on the mood, but it's hard to beat Bao Bun Taiwanese street food on Botanic Avenue.

Is Sunday still special?

Being a musician and composer, it's difficult to wall off any particular day if there's an ongoing project. Sundays have certainly been enjoyable over the last few months as I've been working with with Terra Nova and members of the Syrian Community on Syria Sound of Memory. I developed five pieces of music to accompany the sounds created by the audio artist Jeph Vanger and script by Andrea Montgomery. Listeners will be transported to the city of Homs in Syria where they will visit the Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque gardens (a popular beauty spot enjoyed by citizens of all religions before the war) on the first day of Eid, a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.

How do you feel on Sunday night about Monday morning?

I'm lucky enough to really enjoy what I do, so irrespective of what day the next day is, I look forward to cracking on. I've certainly had this feeling working on my latest project – it's been a real privilege to help joyfully recreate the sense of places now lost.

:: Syria Sound of Memory, created by Nick Boyle and intercultural theatre company Terra Nova Productions, with support from Ards and North Down Borough Council's Good Relations initiative and the Northern Ireland Executive Office, is available to listen to via

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