Hugo Duncan: Derek is spoilt for choice as he marks decade in the business
When Derek Ryan decided to mark his 10 years as a recording artist by bringing out an album that would provide a flavour of his extensive back catalogue, he found himself confronted by an embarrassment of riches.
Not that the modest and unassuming Derek would claim that every song he recorded was a spectacular winner - even the greatest performers don't get to enjoy such an achievement.
But when Derek took soundings from different people as to what he might include on the album, he was both surprised and delighted at the array of songs which were suggested to him.
And now that his CD, The Hits, is due to be released next Friday, Derek can step back and await what will surely be acclaim for a body of work that is unrivalled for its originality and enterprise.
In February, he will undertake a major theatre tour that will include performances in some of Ulster's most prestigious venues, including the Ulster Hall, Belfast and the Millennium Forum, Derry.
Also included in the itinerary will be the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, the Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown and the Market Place Theatre, Armagh.
This weekend he is on a tour of Scotland and I will be joining him there tomorrow night - something I am looking forward to immensely, as he is always a pleasure to work with.
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Derek gave me an insight into the backdrop to his new CD, which looks to be a sure-fire winner.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to this point in my career - releasing my very own hits album," says Derek.
"I've seen many of my favourite artists release a collection of their biggest songs and I am very, very proud of the 21 tracks that I have on this album. I am indebted to my fans for making these songs the hits they were and I'm really hoping people will like the carefully chosen selection on the album."
Derek adds: "I want to dedicate this to my fans all over the world who have supported me. Whether it has been from the beginning of my career, or to the present day, this album is for them."
The songs marry Derek's talents as a songwriter of distinction and a performer of renown - someone who embodies energy, personality and profound depth in both his writing and singing.
Roll back the years and it was the haunting God's Plan that helped to initially project the Carlow entertainer into the national spotlight.
The passage of time saw Derek link up with the vivacious Sharon Shannon and the upshot was Hold Onto Your Hat, an upbeat number that has since struck a chord with dancers throughout Ireland and beyond.
"It's a song that tends to generate its own atmosphere whenever we play it on stage and, for this reason, I suppose you would have to say it's a particular favourite," explains Derek.
More recently, the reaction to Derek's recording of Down On Your Uppers was such that it just had to be included on the new album, while his duet with Lisa McHugh, Honey Honey, is another offering that highlights Derek's versatility, as well, of course, as Lisa's undoubted vocal talents.
The album is a pot pourri of all that is good about Derek - professional, captivating and superbly entertaining.
But although he has scaled the heights in an Irish entertainment context, Derek remains the same quiet and modest person who started his career with considerable trepidation a decade ago.
"Obviously, it was a chance I took, but I have never regretted it," he says.
"I have been fortunate in some respects and I am very grateful for that.
"Entertainment trends can change and you have to adapt, but so far we have managed to maintain our progress and this is hugely encouraging."
Parents get a tribute night to remember
When Fermanagh couple Noel and Edel McQuaid decided that they would like to honour the memory of their late son, Barry, they could not have envisaged the extent of the response to what proved to be one of the most memorable occasions in the Lakeland county for some time. Barry lost his life in an accident a year ago and Edel had been particularly keen to see a musical tribute paid to him.
Thus it was that the hugely popular Whistlin' Donkeys were booked to appear at Mahon's Hotel, Irvinestown last Saturday night and, in anticipation of a big turnout, a marquee was erected in the hotel grounds to augment the normal function room facility.
The upshot was that both were packed to the rafters as hundreds of people turned out to share in what proved to be a spectacular tribute to Barry's memory.
A charity auction was held in tandem with the show, and £84,000 was raised, which was divided between the Air Ambulance Fund and Trummery Primary School.
Over the course of the summer, there were plenty of festival high points in the Fermanagh entertainment programme, but nothing quite matched the scale of Saturday's event, which not only underlined the esteem in which the McQuaid family is held, but proved the county does not drag its feet when it comes to raising funds for worthy causes.
And on the subject of worthy causes, our annual Children in Need broadcast from the Blackstaff Studios takes place today.
I am looking forward to hosting singers such as Susan McCann (and her granddaughter), Jimmy Buckley, Declan Nerney, Michael English and Jamie Donnelly for what should be a couple of hours of first-class entertainment (1pm-3pm).
Pudsey Bear will also be in attendance and we will be revealing the names of the successful applicants to help me co-present my programme over the next fortnight.
In the meantime, the fundraising drive for Children in Need will remain in full swing.
Modest Joe Moore's talent to shine at album launch gig tomorrow night
For some time now, Joe Moore has been one of Ulster's best-known solo performers.
The Dungiven man has been round the block and is putting his experience to good use as he continues to build up a big following.
Tomorrow night, Joe will have a front-stage role at the Ramble Inn in Ballymena, where he will launch his new album which is entitled Country Boy at Heart.
It promises to be quite an occasion as Joe will be joined by the legendary Roly Daniels, Anthony McBrien and Tracey McAuley for what promises to be a feast of country music. With the Keltic Storm Band there to provide the backing, the night is guaranteed to go with a swing.
The modest and unassuming Joe possesses a distinctive singing voice and his easy-going manner certainly helps to make him a fans' favourite.
His popularity has spread beyond Ireland and extends through Europe and Scandinavia. The songs on his new CD are all favourites of Joe, although he is particularly fond of Daddy's Little Girl, which was written by Keltic Storm band leader James McGarrity.
Joe is not the only singer who is focussed on launching a new CD right now. Bryan Mullen is a young man who is making his way in the entertainment world and he will launch his album, Someday You'll Love Me, at the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny next Thursday. Like Joe Moore, Bryan has assembled a high-profile guest list of artistes, with Mick Flavin, Ailish McBride, Jim Devine and Paul Kelly among those due to appear on his show.
Bryan includes many popular tracks on his album and it certainly looks destined to enhance his popularity overall.