Ulster log: Why Andrea is a shining light for male voice choir
It isn't every singer who gets her photo superimposed on the side of a lighthouse. But Andrea Begley is there, looking good for all to see in my picture today, bringing a little light and glamour to the edifice which stands at the mouth of the harbour in Donaghadee.
Why? Well, the 29-year-old from Pomeroy, a winner in 2013 of television talent competition The Voice, is appearing in the Ulster Hall tonight with Donaghadee Male Voice Choir.
"And what better way to publicise our get-together than a picture of Andrea on the lighthouse which is kind of the choir's emblem?" says conductor Robert Wilson.
He's right, of course, and he has promised Andrea a trip to Donaghadee for a look inside the lighthouse that has made seafarers feel safe for years.
After The Voice, Begley was signed to Capitol Records. Her winning single My Immortal entered the UK singles chart at number 75 and peaked at No. 30. It reached No. 70 in the Irish singles chart.
But not everyone was happy at the success on The Voice of Andrea, who is partially sighted as a result of glaucoma.
Her victory annoyed one of the show's judges Will.i.am, who thought his artist Leah McFall, also from Northern Ireland, should have been the winner - even though he acknowledged that Andrea had an incredible voice.
She understands his disappointment and says today: "Will spoke to me and he wishes me well, but obviously everybody wants their act to win. But at the end of the day, the audience voted for me, so that's it."
Tonight she will be singing tracks from her album The Message. On the bill, too, will be the Barnburgh Village Singers from Yorkshire and Thumscoe Harmonic Male Voice Choir, also from Yorkshire, along with the combined voices of the choirs from St Malachy's College, Belfast, and Hazelwood College, Newtownabbey.
We’ve been Missing you Tracey
She’s been described as everything from an indie darling to a doyenne of post punk to a disco diva, but Tracey Thorn sees herself as a “square peg in a round hole”.
The Hertfordshire singer, who found it quite hard to fit in when she was younger, found fame as one half of Everything But the Girl between 1982 and 2000. Along with her husband Ben Watt, the pair released nine albums and sold millions of records worldwide.
In the early Nineties, after being dropped by their label, EBTG released a remix of one of their singles Missing, and it became a massive dance hit.
But rather than capitalise on their success, the politically-minded Thorn quit the music industry to raise a family instead.
The band played Belfast’s Europa Hotel at the height of their fame, but it’s been some time since Thorn was last here. Happily, she’ll be back in the city next weekend, May 10, at the Black Box, as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, reading from her best-selling autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen.
Novel way of peeling back layers of history
Here’s a curious title for a novel — The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society. It was written by Mary Anne Shaffer — a yarn set in 1946 about an author called Juliet Ashton casting around for a plot for her next book and stumbling on this oddball organisation.
The story is about life in Guernsey under the German occupation during the Second World War and explains how Ashton discovers that this potato peel organisation is every bit as extraordinary as its name. Its “meetings” were an alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island. Its membership included a motley cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists.
After the war, Shaffer researched the society and the German occupation when she was stranded on Guernsey for 12 days because of bad weather.
Her novel, which is based on historic facts, was published posthumously in 2008, just a few months after Mary Ann’s death at 85. The final touches to the book were provided by her niece, Annie Barrow. Now, it’s being read again on the 70th anniversary of the war.