Video: Cliftonville fans stunned by BBC opera singer stunt
Amid growing concern over escalating ticket prices in the English game, a tenor certainly went a long way in Irish League football over the weekend.
The build-up to Saturday's Danske Bank Premiership fixture between Cliftonville and Glenavon seemed to be following a familiar pattern for fans who, after enjoying a pre-match lunch or supping a pint or two in the social club, headed for their seats in advance of the action kicking off.
Unbeknown to them, however, was the fact they were unwitting subjects of a hidden camera stunt by BBC Radio Ulster.
For hidden among their ranks was David Lynn, an operatic tenor from County Mayo who was in Belfast this weekend as part of NI Opera's production of Puccini's 'Turandot' at the Grand Opera House.
As kick-off approached, 'Nessun Dorma' – the aria which has been synonymous with football for 25 years since a Luciano Pavarotti recording was used as the BBC's theme for the 1990 World Cup – began playing on the stadium's sound system and, to the shock of match-goers who had hitherto been checking out the team line-ups and discussing their thoughts and dreams on the 90 minutes ahead, David whipped out a microphone from his pocket, took to his feet and didn't miss a note.
With heads turning and fingers pointing across the north Belfast venue, more and more cameras – some from the BBC, others on the phones of bamboozled spectators – descended upon the lower deck of the main stand as the realisation of what was happening began to dawn on the taken aback crowd.
Cliftonville fan Barry McCann, making a birthday trip home from working in London, said: “I didn't really understand what was happening until it was nearly over but it was brilliant. I've seen and heard plenty of strange things at Solitude over the years but that's up there with the most memorable.”
Nine-year-old Matthew Rafferty was left similarly gobsmacked and admitted the pitch-perfect performance has inspired him to follow in David's footsteps.
“I couldn't believe it,” said the schoolboy who was recently invited to join the St Peter's Cathedral Boys' Choir. “I wouldn't mind coming here and singing like that myself in a couple of years.”
His father Stephen Rafferty added: “Matthew has always been interested in music and loves coming to watch Cliftonville, so you could say he was doubly fascinated by what happened.
#WowTheFest - Turandot at Cliftonville
Eat your heart out Pavarotti and Maradonna. We brought NI Opera to Cliftonville Football Club yesterday in advance of the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival show 'Turandot' by Puccini at The Grand Opera House, Belfast. As CFC and Glenavon FC warmed up, opera tenor David Lynn stormed the terraces. Here's what happened..#WowTheFestPosted by BBC Radio Ulster on Sunday, 1 November 2015
“It was a surreal few minutes and it took quite a while for the penny to drop as to what was actually going on or where the singing was coming from, but the amount of people pointing across gave the game away.
“It's certainly something for Matthew to aspire to and, even if he doesn't end up some day playing for the Reds, at least he'll be able to come along and sing for the fans before matches!”
The three minute video – devised to promote the Ulster Bank International Arts Festival – ends with a stunned crowd offering rapturous applause to their infiltrator, who later tweeted: “Very much enjoyed being there today! Lovely audience!”
Belfast Telegraph Digital