Thousands of pop hopefuls were dreaming of stardom at the weekend as Citybeat’s Young Star Search opened its hunt for Northern Ireland’s next big thing.
The Belfast Telegraph and Citybeat have teamed up this year to find Northern Ireland’s best young singing stars.
Auditions were held at the Movie House Cinema at Belfast’s City Side, Glengormley, on Saturday and yesterday.
Judges said they were impressed with the talent on show.
Star Search founder and Citybeat DJ Stuart Robinson said “the quality of talent is getting better and better” in the competition, which is now in its fourth year.
He was speaking as the young hopefuls, aged eight to 25 years of age, queued up yesterday to sing for a place in the next round of heats.
“We’ve had thousands of entries this year, which just goes to show that demand for this type of opportunity exists in Northern Ireland, but we want more guys to audition,” said Mr Robinson.
“Girls are dominating the entries, so we need some strong male performers. National talent shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent have snubbed Northern Ireland, choosing not to hold auditions here, but their loss is our gain.
“We are making sure that everyone has the chance to take part in our competition and make their dreams come true.”
Bangor-based record producer Mickey Modelle was joined on the judging panel by Nicky Petrie from Pagoda PR and Claire Millar from Citybeat news.
Mr Modelle said he had already spotted a number of contestants who could go all the way to August’s grand final.
“I want to find a star. I want to give someone the chance to be a recording artist.
“I have about a dozen people in my head that could go really far and one or two in particular could really shine through.
“My advice for anyone coming to see us is to make sure they pick the right song and the right key,” he said.
Courtney Keane (14) travelled from Warrenpoint yesterday with her parents Patricia and John. She has been singing since the age of six and hopes to go to a performing arts school and hopefully take up to a career in music.
Her father John said: “We are enormously proud of her. She’s a very talented singer and it’s so brave to get up in front of everyone. I can’t sing a note, she gets her voice from her mother.”
Caitlin Cochrane (11) and her cousin Nicole Cochrane (11) love singing at home in Glengormley. After a restless night’s sleep, knowing they would be singing for the panel yesterday, Nicole said: “I’m not nervous at all. I entered last year and have come back to take it further.
“It’s a real fun thing to do and a confidence booster.”
Victoria Quinn (13), from Stoneyford, Co Antrim, chose Don’t Stop Believing as her audition song.
“I like the Glee and the Journey version. I just love singing. I’m ambitious and I want to win this.”
Gavin Gribben (8), from Mayobridge, Co Down, made his way to auditions despite having a throat infection.
The keen singer and Irish dancer said he was determined to go on.
“My throat is sore but I wanted to sing anyway. I love Brian Adams, Boyzone and Westlife, but I’m going to sing Over The Rainbow for the judges,” added Gavin.
Courtney Stuart, from Bangor, wowed judges with a Beyonce- style version of Ave Maria.
She said: “I found out about this through friends on a performing arts course. I wanted to do it last year, but didn’t have the confidence. Everyone in my family is in to horses, but I love singing and dancing.”
Another contestant was Leila O’Neill (9), from west Belfast.
“My uncle Jonjo O'Neill is in the Royal Shakespeare Company and he’s my inspiration.
“I look up to him and hope one day to act and sing. I’m not that nervous because I sing all the time,” added Leila.
“My song is Fly To Your Heart by Selena Gomez. I love her and The Jonas Brothers.”
After the final audition on Sunday, May 2, the competition will then take contestants to their area heats, starting on Monday May 3.
The judging panel for that stage of the event will features record producer Mickey Modelle, Citybeat and MTV presenter John Kearns, and Afternoon Drive presenter Glen Pavis.
It’s not too late to enter to find out if you have what it takes to be the next Nadine Coyle or Gary Lightbody. The final date for entries is May 1. Fill out a form at www.citybeat.co.uk or telephone 028 9023 4967 to apply.
Solo singers, aged eight to 25, who have booked a place will be allocated a time slot to perform. Performers can turn up on the day without a booked time slot, but will have to wait for their turn.
This year sees the launch of a new young adult category, for those aged 17-25. Prizes from Citybeat include a massive shopping spree, the opportunity to record a CD single with airplay, the chance to jet off to a top European destination with easyJet and the fantastic opportunity of performing at a host of high profile events throughout the year.