The search for Northern Ireland’s next big singing sensation was hotting up at the weekend with an array of talent battling it out in the second heat of this year’s Young Star Search.
A strong sun was shining in Wallace Park in Lisburn where hundreds of people gathered at the conclusion of the Mayor’s Carnival Parade through the city. There was something for everybody — from BMX freestyle stunts and stomach-churning funfair rides to bouncy castles and chocolate fountains.
But the main attraction was the CityBeat stage from which DJ Stuart Robinson’s well-known catchphrase “Who’s it gonna be?” boomed out across the park as the contestants who made it through to the second heat lined up to impress the judges.
The juniors, aged between and 8 and 12, were first up and despite their years put in some gutsy performances.
Eleven-year-old Chantelle McAteer from Dromore was back for her fourth shot at Young Star Search fame and performed the Kelly Clarkson’s My Life Would Suck Without You with as much oomph as the American Idol herself.
Chantelle said: “I came eighth last year and the year before so I’m determined to go all the way this time. I chose a Kelly Clarkson song because it meant I could really perform and show off my voice at the same time. I think that’s what it’s all about – you have to be the whole package to win.”
The intermediate category saw the first male performer of the heats take to the stage. John Rowan (15), from Belfast, had an army of fans chanting his name and it soon became clear why. He pulled off the Lady Gaga/Beyonce smash Telephone with style. Word perfect, and with the dance moves to match, John had the crowd in a frenzy.
He said: “I would love to pursue a singing career but in the past I was always too scared to get up and perform.
“Lady Gaga is a real inspiration to me and I’m definitely one of her little monsters.”
This year’s competition has seen the introduction of a senior age category for those aged 17-25. However, as the older contestants waited nervously for their turn, the spotlight was stolen by one very cheeky chappy.
Four-year-old Nathan Dougherty from Lisburn was disappointed to hear he had a quite a bit of growing up to do before he could audition for Young Star Search. However the team had it on good authority (from his nana) that he was a star in the making.
He took to the microphone and serenaded the crowd with the American classic Tennessee Waltz before declaring himself the winner.
His mum, Rachel, said: “He has been singing since before he could talk. I don’t know where he gets all the confidence from but when he’s old enough we will definitely come back and audition for real.”
Wallace Park was the perfect setting for Saturday’s audition and there was a real party atmosphere in the air.
The contestants were, by and large, a lot more relaxed than the Carrickfergus bunch and it showed in their performances. I was overjoyed to discover that, as I requested last week, Miley Cyrus was nowhere to be seen on the bill. Instead, there was a refreshing mix of old and new song choices.
Having some male performances this time around really helped to keep the audition line-up interesting and little Nathan’s performance would have melted even the stoniest of hearts.
However, Micky Modelle’s mantra — pick a song you can actually sing — still isn’t getting through to some of the contestants and, unfortunately, cost them their chance to be crowned the winner.
Voting details and videos of all the contestants’ performances from Lisburn, and from Carrickfergus on May 3, are available to view on the Citybeat website at www.citybeat.co.uk.
The three hopefuls who were selected by the judges from each category now have to impress the public if their dream is to continue. Voting opens today and the all-important results will be announced by DJ Stuart Robinson on his Friday afternoon show.
The winner of this year’s Citybeat Young Star Search will receive a selection of great prizes including a massive shopping spree, the opportunity to record their very own CD single with airplay and the chance to jet off with easyJet to a top European destination of their choice.
The search for more amazing young talent continues this Saturday in the Westwood Shopping Centre in Belfast.