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Royal couple Prince Charles and Camilla let hair down at special Hillsborough concert

By Lisa Smyth

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have been treated to a concert by some of Northern Ireland's most talented performers.

In the stately surroundings of Hillsborough Castle, the royal couple hosted an evening of entertainment with performances from comedian Tim McGarry and the folk & trad group of The Royal Irish Regiment.

The event, compered by Radio Three's Sean Rafferty and attended by First Minister Arlene Foster, representatives from charities affiliated to the royals and local dignitaries rounded off a long day of engagements for Prince Charles and Camilla.

The duchess looked stunning in a beautiful emerald green lace dress, accented by green shamrock earrings, while her husband had changed into a navy suit.

The start of proceedings were delayed slightly as a result of a minor accident earlier on the M1, meaning some members of the audience were late arriving due to the tailbacks.

The performances were staged in the majestic Throne Room, overlooking some of the 96 acres of grounds in which the castle is located.

Members of the Harp Ensemble from DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin kicked off the event, followed by the north Belfast actor and comedian McGarry.

Despite performing in front of the future king of England, the funnyman did not hold back and delivered his usual no-holds barred wicked style of humour.

Offering an alternative explanation of Northern Ireland to the royal couple, at one point he even took aim at the Queen herself.

Referring to Her Majesty's famous speech in Dublin in May 2011 during the first official visit by a British monarch to Ireland in 100 years, the comedian said: "Don't take this the wrong way, your mother's Irish was awful."

However, he embellished by saying she sounded like Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had taught her how to speak Irish. He continued: "He speaks Irish like he is under caution."

The evening continued with performances from baritone Bruno Caproni, with conductor David Brophy playing piano, and a number of rousing renditions of some traditional tunes by the folk & trad group from the Royal Irish, who encouraged the audience to clap and sing along.

The royal couple met the performers afterwards where they took the opportunity to thank them for their contributions to the event before mingling with the invited guests at a Champagne reception.

Musician Grainne Meyer from Moneyglass in Co Antrim, a member of the Harp Ensemble, described the couple as very friendly and easy to talk to. "It was such a privilege and an honour to perform this evening," she said.

"It was very exciting. We weren't really able to tell anyone we were coming and we didn't really know who we were performing for until the last minute.

"They were so friendly and welcoming, they were very down to earth."

Comedian Tim said he was nervous ahead of the performance but Prince Charles appeared to enjoy it.

"I was pleased with the reaction," he said.

"Normally I would ask people in the audience to tell me about themselves, like where they're from, but I didn't think there was much point this time."

Stella Cummings travelled from Limavady, Co Londondery, for the event and said she was delighted to be invited.

Mrs Cummings, who was there in her capacity as vice president of the British Red Cross in Northern Ireland, said: "It is a huge privilege to be invited and I am very pleased to be here.

"The castle and grounds are absolutely stunning and the performance was very enjoyable as well."

by lisa smyth

Belfast Telegraph

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