Music plays such an important part in Manchester’s identity that it was only right and proper that the council decided to mark the anniversary of the Arena attack with a mass singalong.
In the days following the bomb, it was in song that Mancunians found solace. Three days after the atrocity, a member of the public sparked a spontaneous civic singing session when she broke into Don’t Look Back in Anger following a minute’s silence in St Ann’s Square, which had been carpeted with floral tributes. A clip went viral, prompting both Gallagher brothers to donate all future royalties from the song to the We Love Manchester fund, which now stands at £21m.
It was that anthem that began the singalong in Albert Square on Tuesday night, introduced on video by Noel Gallagher and led by 2,800 amateur singers from choirs across the region. I took part with the Romiley Rock Choir, which is based where I live in Stockport. There was no time for rehearsals, but that wasn’t a problem for those of us who have been singing Oasis songs since 1996. Ariana Grande’s One More Time proved a little more tricky for anyone over 20 and it turns out no one really knows the verses to Never Forget by Take That, despite its belting chorus.
The blue skies and warm air were a reminder of what happened a year ago, when 22 people went to a pop concert and didn’t come back alive. I didn’t need a coat then either, as sirens blared and armed police were pressed up against the windows of Marks & Spencer, preparing for marauding gunmen who never appeared.
Some of the children who escaped that night have formed the Survivors’ Choir, along with their parents. They sang Andra Day’s Rise Up, which got half the audience blubbing when a little boy on the front row ran for a cuddle from the choir leader before the track got going.
Just when we thought the night was over, a trombone piped up from underneath the Albert memorial and started to play All You Need Is Love. A Liverpool song, sung in Manchester: proof that though football can turn neighbours into enemies, music brings everybody together.