On the balmiest weekend of the year so far it was apt that the Citybeat Young Star Search attracted some red-hot performances from the best of Northern Ireland’s talent.
Connswater Shopping Centre in east Belfast was buzzing with excitement and the crowd were dressed for their holidays, with ice-creams in hand, as the latest heats in the search for the ‘next big thing’ were held on Saturday.
There were some words of encouragement for the nervous performers from Anna Guest, who was last year’s winner in the junior category. The nine-year-old, from Newtownards, said: “I think the standard is even higher this year but the contestants should realise that even if they don’t win it’s still a great experience.”
There were some unusual song choices for the youngest of the competitors, including Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and the 1986 Cyndi Lauper hit True Colours. Despite this, record producer and judge Micky Modelle said it was a much more positive start to the show than in any of the three previous heats.
The senior category, aged 13 to 16, raised the bar even higher. Charlotte Solomon (13) from Belfast was back for another shot after being placed seventh in last year’s competition. However, this time round she had the added support of big sister Patricia (23) who was also performing in the new young adult category.
The sisters both wowed the judges to earn places in the public vote and, according to the pair, there is no sibling rivalry. Patricia said: “We are very supportive as a family so if one of us makes it through the public vote and the other one doesn’t there won’t be any arguments!”
Another performer, 16-year-old Jessica Hammond from Belfast, was also a hit with the panel and brought something different to the heat with a beautiful acoustic guitar performance of Ella Fitzgerald’s Summertime.
Jessica, who reached the final four in Disney’s My Camp Rock talent show last year, is adamant that singing and performing is the only career path for her. She said: “At the moment I am focusing on getting my GCSEs but then I will be out knocking doors to promote what I do.”
Micky Modelle was impressed. “Jessica is just amazing, and there is the chance she could go all the way,” he said.
Another performer still in the running to become the Young Star Search winner 2010 is 18-year-old Chris Smith from west Belfast.
Chris, a performing arts student, sang Elton John’s Your Song to make it into the judges’ top three.
However, with only four male performers in so many heats, the Young Star Search team are beginning to wonder where all the Justin Timberlakes and Jason Derulos are hiding.
Citybeat presenter Stuart Robinson said: “I hope that more guys will take up the opportunity to enter online for our two extra themed heats next month.”
With 14 heats still to go, the search continues this Saturday at the Ballyclare May Fair.