Belfast Telegraph

Video: Sir Richard Branson backs Children of Ireland hoping to beat X Factor to Christmas number one with Tubular Bells

Youngsters from Armagh and Down hope to take Mike Oldfield's legendary track to the top of the charts


It's been 40 years since it first topped the charts.

Now a group of schoolchildren from Northern Ireland are hoping to bring the multi-million selling hit Tubular Bells back to the number one spot – with the help of some star backing.

The youngsters from Armagh and Down are hoping to take Mike Oldfield's legendary track to the top of the charts this Christmas in direct competition with the X Factor winner.

The group, known as The Children of Ireland, is part of a project backed by Sir Richard Branson to help young people recreate classic albums.

Pupils from Saint John the Baptist Primary School, Portadown, St Joseph's High School, Crossmaglen, and Newry High School are among the young people involved.

Sir Richard said without Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, the Virgin Group may never have got off the ground and without producer Tom Newman – who's originally from England, but now lives in Narrow Water Castle in Warrenpoint – it may never have been recorded.

In a blog post about The Children of Ireland version, Sir Richard said: "It's got its own magic and is well worth downloading.

"Tom's idea is to give young musicians the opportunity to re-create classic albums and record them in situ, with many sections actually being recorded in the classroom."

Tubular Bells' Christmas No 1 campaign organiser Micky Dodds, from Newry – who runs independent music station Radio Pure Gently – says he wanted people to purchase the new recording to support the school children and also beat whoever is this year's X Factor winner in the race for the top chart spot.

Micky told the Belfast Telegraph an album will follow the Tubular Bells single and similar projects will take place in the future on other classics such as Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club.

He said: "This has been set up by myself and the original producer of the 1973 album, Tom Newman.

"It has the backing of Richard Branson and other people originally associated with the Virgin Records Label.

"Tom is doing this as an independent venture to educate the school kids musically.

"The proceeds from the download sales will go back into developing the programme into further schools, both in Ireland and the rest of the UK," he added.

Crafting Mike Oldfield's 1973 masterpiece Tubular Bells took real dedication

Tubular Bells was the first album released by Virgin Records and an early success for the company.

The 1973 debut album from English musician Mike Oldfield was produced by Tom Newman, who now lives Narrow Water Castle in Warrenpoint, Co Down.

The same year, the eerie opening piano solo was used in the soundtrack of the globally-successful horror film The Exorcist and it gained considerable airplay as a result of the movie's popularity.

In a blog post about the new The Children of Ireland version of the song, Sir Richard Branson, explained Oldfield had played over 20 different instruments on Tubular Bells and made over 2,300 recordings until he was satisfied. He said: "It wasn't an easy process for him and Tom, but it was worth it."

On his memories of the time, he added: "Tom and his friend Phil Newell converted The Manor from an outhouse into a recording studio.

"Nik Powell and I would help paint walls, strip off lino and knock through partitions, while Tom installed the very best equipment, from a 16-track Ampex tape machine to echo facilities and even a grand piano.

"The Manor became, in our humble opinion, one of the best studios in the world.

"Tom wasn't finished there. He was a wonderful engineer who took Mike under his wing and helped him to craft Tubular Bells into the legendary album it became."


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