Belfast Telegraph

Star Search hunt for talent hotting up

By Amy Ryan

Some fantastic young talent has already been discovered as this year’s Citybeat Young Star Search travels across Northern Ireland in its hunt for the next big thing — but Newtownards always offers a little bit more excitement.

Heats held at Ards Shopping Centre in the town have produced two of the past three Young Star Search winners – Rachael Stewart in 2007 and Anna Guest in 2009. So hopes were high when this year’s contest returned to gauge this year’s talent.

Citybeat presenter Stuart Robinson said: “Every year we are amazed by the wealth of talent in Newtownards. With such a good track record it’s quite possible that the young singers of Newtownards could pull off the hat trick.”

With 21 contestants, the Newtownards heat was the biggest to date. Not surprisingly it was also the noisiest as the crowd cheered on their favourites and waved Citybeat flags and banners. It was a tentative start for the junior category as nerves got the better of some of the youngest competitors. However the mood shifted when 11-year-old Brooke Blackwell from Dundonald took to the stage to perform the DJ Sammy dance track We’re In Heaven. Record producer and judge Micky Modelle said she produced an “excellent vocal” and Brooke sailed through to face the public vote.

Brooke was joined in the judge’s pick by seasoned Young Star Search contestant Caitlin Beiker who produced a pitch perfect version of Rihanna’s Take A Bow. Caitlin (12) made it to last year’s top ten and is determined to make it all the way this time around. She said: “I have more confidence this year because I know what to expect. I hope people vote for me because I have a unique voice and if I get through my next performance will be even better.”

With the crowd well and truly warmed up it was the turn of the seniors, aged 13 to 16, to impress the panel and they didn’t disappoint.

Fourteen-year-old Anna McIlmoyle from Gilnahirk wowed the judges with her performance of Natasha Bedingfield’s Soulmate with Citybeat DJ Glen Pavis describing her as “the one to beat”. Anna is no stranger to the stage having taken part in school talent shows and auditioning for last year’s Britain’s Got Talent. However she was still battling the nerves before her performance.

There were no such nerves for one of Anna’s fellow contestants in the senior category, Paul John Walker (16) from Dundonald. Flying the flag for the boys Paul put in a cool performance of Chris Brown’s Girls complete with dance moves.

The panel said he had a great overall image but advised him to pick an easier song.

With just four heats remaining in the competition the Young Star Search crown is tantalisingly close. The search continues this Saturday at Abbey Centre in Newtownabbey.

newseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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