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Oscar-winning Smith recalls happy days in city

Oscar-winning singer songwriter Sam Smith once spent a 'happy' summer in Belfast rehearsing for a musical, it emerged yesterday.

The now instantly recognisable superstar went unnoticed in Belfast in 2007 when he was just another wannabe musician taking part in a residential theatre scheme at Stranmillis College.

After 10 hours of rehearsals every day, Sam and a couple of dozen other young hopefuls performed in the musical Oh Carol, featuring the music and songs of Neil Sedaka.

And Smith later told the American singer that the musical in Belfast was one of the happiest times of his life.

Smith came to the city after he successfully auditioned for a part in the show produced by Youth Musical Theatre UK (YMT).

In the programme notes, the singer -who would go on to sell millions of records - was listed as Samuel Smith.

In the same year, Ed Sheeran appeared in another YMT production of Frankenstein in England.

Smith, a 25-year-old Londoner, studied singing and songwriting for several years after his time in Belfast.

He was nominated for six Grammy awards in 2014 and has also won a raft of Brit awards

In 2015, he and co-writer Jimmy Napes picked up the Oscar for Best original song for their composition Writing's on the Wall, the theme for the James Bond movie Spectre.

YMT executive producer Jon Bromwich, who was in Belfast to announce details of auditions for Paperboy at the Lyric Theatre in July, says Smith bumped into Sedaka at the Oscars ceremony in Hollywood three years ago.

Sedaka said he'd seen a video of the Belfast show and enjoyed it immensely.

Jon said that YMT had given breaks to a large number of artists, but it was rare for two talents as huge as Sheeran and Smith (below), to be unearthed in the same year.

YMT are holding special auditions for Paperboy for young people on the Shankill and the Falls Roads on Friday, February 16.

Jon says they're looking for actors, dancers and musicians. And he says they could unearth a new Sheeran or Smith.

"We knew that Ed was never going to be the greatest actor on earth.

"But there was just something about his singing and the way he approached the music that caught the eye in the auditions.

"He got in on his potential, rather than his skillset at the time."

Sheeran later said the most important thing he learnt at YMT was a work ethic.

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