Inspired by our experience of Genfest 1980 , Andrew Basquille, Eugene Murphy and I, all students at University College Dublin at the time, started to dedicate more time to playing music together and entered a period of sustained creativity that resulted in the composition of many songs both individually and collectively. “Yes to You”, the song that we performed at the GenFest in 1985 dates from this time. Here’s how it came to be written.
Chiara Lubich visited London in 1981 and most of the Focolare Community in Ireland travelled to Great Britain for the event. One afternoon, as a group of us took lunch together close to the venue where Chiara was speaking, I started to play simple chords on the piano and developed a nice melody using a slightly unusual C / Dm / G progression (on guitar I wouldn’t have naturally played such a sequence). A volunteer, Joe McCarroll, a gifted songwriter in his own right, joined me and sang the lines “So many times that I’ve said maybe” to the emerging melody.
I continued with the line “So many times that I said no” and continued with the melody when Andrew joined and completed the lyric which then became the verse. Over the next two days between Andrew and myself we completed about 3 verses but didn’t know where to go for a chorus. This was eventually added – melody and lyric together – by Eugene who stamped his musical sophistication on the song by taking the chorus to Am and then to a beautiful minor / major interplay in E that reflected and emphasised a new level of conviction in the choice – “Yes to you”.
We were the asked to perform the song at the Genfest and spend months practising it. On the day we waited patiently for our turn to sing but began to realise that the show was running behind time. Sure enough, we were informed that our intervention had been cut and, bitterly disappointed, I started to pack up my guitar accordingly, months of effort and practice gone down the drain.
But then, very suddenly, the decision was reversed and we found ourselves taking our positions on a vast stage without a sound check and unable to make eye contact with each other. I didn’t have time to take my own guitar and was given a Spanish guitar with nylon strings, a type I was not used to playing! So we played “Yes to you” at Genfest 1985 completely out of our comfort zone, forced to depend on the strength of our relationship with each other and our desire to have Jesus in our midst.
My experience at Genfest 1985 was one of validation and verification – validation of my choice to live for unity and verification that it was possible. I had many experiences of large scale events – festivals, football matches, concerts – but at Genfest there was no hatred, hostility and enmity like when rival factions meet at soccer games and the fleeting alcohol / drug induced euphoria that’s common at festivals and concerts was replaced by a deeper, more lasting joy.