Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland soprano Margaret is invited to give royals a Christmas serenade

By Leona O'Neill

From the Pope to Rod Stewart and Andrea Bocelli, Londonderry-born classical soprano Margaret Keys has wowed some of the world's top names.

And this December she will bring a little sparkle to the Queen's Christmas during a special Royal Carol concert at St James's Palace.

Margaret, who is signed to record company Universal, will perform songs from her new Christmas album A Winter's Tale as well as a few wartime classics, in front of 300 guests at the palace on December 6.

This all came about because of her friendship with Northern Ireland TV presenter Eamonn Holmes.

Margaret recalled: "I was doing the Best Heroes event in London with Eamonn Holmes. The committee of the Royal Carol concert was there and heard me singing and thought I'd be perfect for the show and asked me if I would do it. I said I absolutely would be free.

"There will be two royals there, but we will not be told who until the day. It could very well be the Queen.

"I'm going to sing O Holy Night and also a Vera Lynn medley, like the White Cliffs of Dover.

"There are 300 invited guests and there is a little tea party afterwards. But I can't stay for that. I have to rush off because I'm doing the Sparks Winter Ball with Gabby Logan that evening, so I have to open that."

Margaret, who dazzles on the world stage, is hoping to give the royals a taster of her new album.

"I recorded this album in record time, just two days," Margaret said.

"I've never done that before. It was a full 10 hours in the studio for the two days.

"It was a tough task, but it showed me what I could do when I put my mind to it.

"I've always wanted to do a Christmas album. It's not all Christmas music, there is If by Bread on there and Feels Like Home by Randy Newman.

"The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra filmed their sections in Prague and I recorded in Cambridge.

"We recorded it in September, we put the Christmas jumpers on, myself and the producer.

"I needed to in order to make it feel a little festive.

"We were singing White Christmas with the sun shining outside, so we had to. It did the trick."

Margaret says that Eamonn has been like "a rock" to her as she has progressed in her career.

"Eamonn Holmes has been very good to me, he has been really supportive," she said.

"He has been a real blessing. Eamonn is really well established and the advice that he has given me and how he has introduced me to people, he has been a real rock, particularly in the last year.

"If I felt I needed advice on something he would be the person I would ask.

"People like Eamonn and Bradley Walsh help me a lot. They are incredibly supportive. I suppose they see someone younger coming up and they recognise how difficult that is."

She may sing for some very famous names and in some of the world's largest concert halls, but on Christmas Day, Margaret will be back singing in her family church, just yards from her front door.

"I will sing at Long Tower Church at 12 o'clock Mass.

"I've done that since I was 18-years-old. It's tradition. I sing O Holy Night and the church turns out the lights. It is just so beautiful and magical."

Margaret will also perform at Londonderry's Waterside Theatre on December 21. For more information on tickets and how to purchase Margaret's album visit www.margaretkeys.co.uk.

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