Northern Ireland

Van Morrison plays Belfast's Cyprus Avenue on 70th birthday

Van Morrison Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Van Morrison is marking his 70th birthday with two concerts on a Belfast street that inspired him

It is a quiet, leafy street in east Belfast that has inspired two songs on one of the greatest albums of all time.

Now, almost 50 years on, Van Morrison has returned to Cyprus Avenue to perform two concerts on his 70th birthday.

Fans travelled from across the world to attend the gigs that were the climax of the EastSide Arts Festival.

Morrison performed the first concert at 15:00 BST and before taking to the stage again at 18:00 for a second show.

Tickets for both concerts sold out a number of weeks ago.

Morrison was born a short distance away at 125 Hyndford Street, just off the Beersbridge Road, on 31 August 1945.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Tickets to Monday's gigs sold out a number of weeks ago

His mother Violet was a keen singer, while his father George worked at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and collected jazz and blues records in his spare time.

Element

Morrison formed his first group when he was in his early teens and a pupil at Orangefield High School.

He had early success with his band Them, but it was his solo album Astral Weeks, recorded over three days in New York in 1968, that brought him global renown.

In a recent interview with the Irish Times, Morrison said seven of the eight songs on the album had been written in Belfast.

Image caption The tree-lined Cyprus Avenue will be transformed into a unique concert venue on Monday

"Writing it, it was always visual, because it was moving between these locations, so Belfast train from Dublin up to Sandy Row," he told interviewer Fintan O'Toole.

"It has a strong visual element to it."

The song Cyprus Avenue closes side one of the album, while the street is also mentioned in the famous opening to Madame George on side two.

Mystical

Morrison sings of being "down on Cyprus Avenue, with a childlike vision leaping into view".

Image copyright Connswater Community Greenway
Image caption Morrison - pictured in the Hollow, as namechecked in Brown Eyed Girl - was inspired by his home city

Cyprus Avenue is about a 10-minute walk from Hyndford Street, and he has described it as "a very mystical place".

"It was a whole avenue lined with trees and I found it a place where I could think."

He also writes about other nearby locations, including Orangefield Park, the Connswater river and the Castlereagh Road in some of his songs.

In 2014, Van Morrison performed concerts at Orangefield High School, and on Monday he returned to play at another childhood haunt.

You can listen back to Van Morrison's first Cyprus Avenue concert on BBC Radio Ulster online, while BBC One Northern Ireland will screen it on Friday 4 September at 22:35 BST.

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