Belfast Telegraph

Shipshape youngsters on song to turn up the heat at festival

By Amy Ryan

A new batch of this year’s Young Star Search hopefuls took their turn to walk the plank in the latest heat of this year’s competition at the Belfast Maritime Festival.

With the sun shining on Saturday, and the Harland and Wolff cranes and huge ship masts providing a spectacular backdrop at Clarendon Dock, the singers braced themselves for stiff competition in one of the largest heats so far in the Citybeat search for the next big thing.

It was down to pint-sized Emma Lowry (8) from Glengormley to set the standard and she didn’t disappoint. She had the crowd clapping along as she performed Mercy by Duffy without a hint of nerves. Judge and record producer Micky Modelle said it was one of the most confident performances he had seen so far this year and Emma immediately earned a place in the public vote.

Emma, who has autism, said it was her dream to become a pop star. Her mum Kelly said: “She has no fear standing up in front of a big crowd like this and she is just music mad. As part of her condition she is very talented musically and can even play the piano by ear.”

With 11 competitors in the junior category and just three top spots it was vital that each singer performed well. Belfast girl Carla Morelli (11) produced a polished performance of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, which saw her join Emma for the public vote.

With no young adult category, it was down to the seniors aged 13 to 16 to avoid being outshone by the little ones.

Naomi Noble from east Belfast gave a delicate rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

This category also saw one of the few male performers of the competition take to the stage. Fourteen-year-old Jamie McBrien from Belfast sang America by Razorlight to a mixed response from the panel. Citybeat DJ Emma Fitzpatrick recommended a different song if the public choose the good singer to go through to the semi-finals in August.

Jamie, who is a pupil at Aquinas Grammar School in Belfast, said: “I wasn’t overly nervous today because I just try not to think about it too much. It was a little strange being only one of three guys auditioning but maybe it’s a bit harder for us — after all, a girl can sing a guy’s song but not really the other way around.”

Citybeat presenter Stuart Robinson said it was one of the strongest heats he had seen so far this year. He said: “The talent is just amazing, especially from some of the youngest of the contestants. Every year the standard improves and there are definitely one or two singers from this heat that could go all the way.”

With such a successful round of auditions at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, the Citybeat team were back at Clarendon Dock yesterday for an event with a twist.

The Eighties-themed heat saw outstanding performances of ‘blast from the past’ tracks.

Guest judging the event was 26-year-old Conleth Kane from Lurgan, who has just competed in RTE’s reality talent show Fame: The Musical.

After a Young Star Search double-whammy the stakes are higher than ever and Stuart Robinson has urged the public to pick up the phone to keep their favourite’s dream alive. The search continues this Saturday at Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor.

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