Belfast Telegraph

Choir gives pitch perfect performance with just 10 days notice

By Chris Kilpatrick

They wowed a worldwide audience of a billion people with their pitch-perfect rendition of Danny Boy from the iconic Giant’s Causeway.

Now the head of the children’s choir who got the ball rolling on the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics has revealed they were given just 10 days to prepare for the greatest show on earth.

They managed to pull the whole performance off by the deadline — and kept it top secret at the same time. The children helped Northern Ireland take a starring role in the extravaganza, seen by a billion people around the globe.

They raised the curtain for other Northern Ireland figures to play major roles, including award-winning actor Kenneth Branagh as the pivotal figure of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Local musicians and athletes, including gold medalist, Dame Mary Peters, also figured prominently.

Forty-four children from Phil Kids and Belfast Philharmonic Youth Choir featured in a montage of choirs from across the UK at the start of the ceremony. The Northern Ireland contingent were up first, with their performance from the world famous Causeway beamed across the globe.

The London Games have been seven years in the planning but remarkably the Belfast choir — made up of children aged between eight and 14 — put in a gold medal-winning performance in a record time of just 10 days.

Brother and sister Lochlainn and Caoimhe Quinn from Drumbo were two of the young singers to feature.

The pair — both pupils at Aquinas Grammar School — said they have been inundated with text messages from their pals since Friday evening.

Caoimhe (13) has been singing with the group for five years while Lochlainn (11) has been with them for three.

Prior to Friday the biggest audience they had performed to was a couple of hundred people.

“I was a wee bit nervous but not overly,” she said. “It was really good. I didn’t realise it was going to be on so early so that was a nice surprise. Lochlainn and I both texted everyone we knew when we knew it was going to be on — but not until that night!”

Lochlainn said: “All my friends saw me and said it was really good. I really enjoyed it.”

Chairman of the Belfast Philharmonic Society, Tom Coard, told the Belfast Telegraph the body was first approached about taking part on Wednesday, June 27.

Just over one week later — Saturday 7 July — they were in Blackstaff Studios in Belfast recording the track.

Filming took place at the Giant’s Causeway on Tuesday, July 10.

“I received a phone call from the Arts Council who had been contacted by the organisers,” Mr Coard said. “They asked if we could help them which led to a series of frantic emails to parents to see who was available because it was the beginning of July.

“They said they had a month to go and asked could we do something about it.

“Initially we were told it would be over the course of three weeks and that was then consolidated into about 10 days. We got the ball rolling quickly.”

He said nerves didn’t affect the young people and praised the hard work they put into ensuring the success of their segment.

He added: “It all came together in the end and I’m extremely proud of the work they’ve done and extremely proud of them as youngsters and young people for having that ability to rise to the occasion and believe we could do it.

“It was a fantastic experience for the youngsters.”

Hundreds gathered to watch the show on big screens at Belfast City Hall and Waterloo Place in Londonderry.

In all, 19 local athletes will take part in the games representing either Team GB or Team Ireland.

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