The passing of Lyndon Stephens, who founded Belfast based label Quiet Arch, was marked with a celebration of the music he helped create at Belfast’s Empire Music Hall.
The Goodbye Quiet Arch event was initially billed as the beginning of an indefinite hiatus for the label but, when Lyndon Stephens passed away on the morning of the gig, it became a focal point for the country’s music scene to remember and honour his life and work.
Stuart Bailie compered, introducing the acts and expertly set the tone for what must have been a difficult evening for those performing. As people poured in from the street it was fitting that one of the label’s newest additions, Laytha (formerly Taobh Eile), opened the show. Gentle folk guitar sat underneath Niamh and Philana’s interwoven harmonies. Stand out track Daughter gave us a glimpse into the label’s future as it continues under the moniker “New Champion”.
Stories of Lyndon were shared by those who perhaps knew him best. Stevie Scullion of Malojian confessed he thought Lyndon had been giving him dirty looks for years before they formally met, only to find that Lyndon’s poor eyesight meant he was squinting to see the musician. Ciaran Lavery remembered a time on tour when Lyndon in the passenger seat adjusted the wing mirrors to suit himself, while Joshua Burnside paid tribute to his mentor with a rendition of I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day. Closing the night Ryan Vail praised Lyndon for turning his life around and making it possible for him to tour the world and support a family through his music. The artists spoke of Lyndon’s dedication, innovation and generosity of spirit.
The breadth of talent on show and range of genre is testament to the Quiet Arch Lyndon built. From Laytha’s gentle folk through to Ryan Vail’s electronic light show we witnessed the impact he had across Northern Ireland’s music scene and saw why he was a trusted sounding board for so many in the music industry here and internationally. From those, he directly worked with, to those inspired from a distance by his approach and dedication, to people who just loved the music he brought to prominence the admiration and love for Lyndon was everywhere. There was no great outpouring of emotion, rather a quiet determination to honour his memory and his legacy, to continue and build from the platform of Quiet Arch.