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An Ulster Log: Dream role for showgirl Corrie Earley

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 11/07/2015

Young talent: Corrie Earley has landed the part of Nancy in Oliver
Young talent: Corrie Earley has landed the part of Nancy in Oliver
Robert Wilson

For one so young, musical starlet Corrie Earley - a student in her late teens at Belfast Metropolitan College - has already been in versions of top shows like Les Miserables, Joseph And the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Hairspray, usually in the chorus at the Grand Opera House in Belfast. She has also been in panto at the Theatre at The Mill in her hometown of Newtownabbey.

But now the young woman, whose stage talent has caught the eye of Peter Corry, has landed the role she has always dreamed of playing - Nancy in Oliver!

The show will run from July 24 to August 1 at the Theatre at The Mill.

"We are nurturing young talent like Corrie here," explains man in charge, Bernard Clarkson, who sees her as the perfect Nancy. "What an experience this is going to be," says Corrie.

Who can take up the baton on behalf of beloved Bob?

Donaghadee Male Voice Choir, which is searching for a new conductor to replace the much-loved Robert Wilson who died last month, are going ahead with a visit to Barcelona in October to sing at a series of concerts and at a church service.

"It's what Robert, on the rostrum for 47 years, would have wanted," says accompanist Ivan Black. "We are also going to sing at Perpignan in the south of France. Robert will be in our thoughts - he enjoyed these trips abroad with Donaghadee. And at several stages on tour, the choir would sing Guide Me O'er Thou Great Redeemer, which was his favourite hymn.

"We will be singing it again on this tour in his memory."

Chairman Mark Mawhinney and the choir are looking for guidance as they search for a conductor to replace Robert. "It's not an easy task," says Mark. "We are hoping possible candidates will contact us with their credentials."

On the trip to Spain and France, deputy conductor Norwood Steele will have the baton. And, when the 70-plus members return home, Mark Mawhinney and his committee will get down to the job of picking Robert's successor.

Robert (75) had a lifelong passion for choral music. Under his guidance, the choir, which had only 18 members when he took over in 1968, built an international reputation, performing as far afield as the US, Canada, Malta, Poland and Bulgaria, where it was the first choir from Ireland to sing behind the former Iron Curtain.

Robert once said: "We aren't just a choir - we are a family and the 70 members enjoy the craic as much as the singing. We go where the music takes us."

He was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to music and in his first season with Donaghadee, he was voted best conductor at Belfast Festival after winning two top awards.

Down the years, Donaghadee Male has chalked up more than 40 first prizes at festivals in Britain and has also taken part in the Eisteddfod in Wales.

An accountant by profession, Bob was a native of Ballysillan and an old boy of Everton Primary and Belfast High schools. He and wife Maureen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.

Val's cardie got its first airing on Ulster TV

Val Doonican, who has died at 88, was a familiar and favourite face on BBC TV for more than 20 years with his live show and Christmas special.

"But not many people remember that balladeer Val made his television debut on Ulster Television," says Al Logan, who was there on Doonican's first night in front of the cameras in the Havelock House studios.

The programme was Teatime With Tommy, a music show that ran for quite a few years on UTV with Tommy James at the piano, introducing several guest entertainers on every programme.

Val, whose Teatime debut was in 1964, was a big hit and returned to UTV and BBC NI a few times after that initial introduction.

But what did Val, who became famed for wearing cardigans, sing that first time for Tommy James?

Another favourite balladeer who appeared regularly on Teatime was Roger Whittaker.

Reflecting on service for Lord Jim

It was one of those great services in the Palace of Westminster chapel that is worth looking back on once again - the day family, friends and politicians gathered to pay homage to Lord Jim Molyneaux, former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party who died in March at 94.

"He was a special man," is how former Bishop of Down and Dromore, Lord Robin Eames, who gave the address, summed up this unassuming character who loved and respected the House of Lords, where he took his seat after retiring from the House of Commons.

Readings were by Lord Empey and Jeffrey Donaldson and there were tears when the congregation arose to sing Be Thou My Vision - one of Lord Jim's favourites.

My uncomfortable Odyssey is over

So the Odyssey Arena is going to have a new name.

Here's the one I'd like to give it - The Barn. For that's what the place is. It's the most uncomfortable theatre site, in my opinion. Making my way down those steep stairs on the upper floor with no rail to grip on to has always been an adventure for me.

I'm hoping that whatever refurbishment the SSE Arena receives will make it the kind of building I'll enjoy entering.

But I'm not holding my breath. Right now it has to be a really big superstar that tempts me there. Somebody like Neil Diamond the other week.

The first show in the new-look arena will be the Belfast Tattoo on September 4 and 5.

Julie still just a young one to me

Julie Andrews will never forgive me. I said The Sound Of Music star was 75. In fact, Philip Symes of Belfast points out she will be 80 on October 1.

Julie will just love being reminded that she is a bit older than I thought. I'd be delighted if someone told the world at large I'm five years older than I

actually am. The Sound Of Music opened on Broadway in 1959 and was produced as a film in 1964 and released in '65. One of the great musicals is returning to Belfast next month just as the 50th anniversary of the film version is celebrated, with attractive Danielle Hope in the role of Maria, played on the silver screen by Julie.

Perhaps someone will write in to tell me that Danielle is 30 and not 25 as her CV states.

Belfast Telegraph

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