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Ulster log: Can Amanda make it to Grand Ole Opry stage?


Amanda Agnew

Amanda Agnew

Sterling performer: Tuppence Middleton, star of War and Peace

Sterling performer: Tuppence Middleton, star of War and Peace


Amanda Agnew

It's quite a trip from Bangor Tech to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, but folksy Amanda Agnew (with a country flavour) is confident she will make the journey with her own brand of songs.

In between studies at her hometown college, she has already been a guest artist in the hoedown capitol singing her self-penned compositions like Haven't Met You in Nashville's Bluebird Cafe, before returning to Bangor to resume her course in film-making.

You will catch the 34-year-old with a special kind of voice at the Empire Hall in Belfast on Sunday, January 31 as a guest of JD (Jim Dolan) and The Straight Shot. She'll be introducing the audience to her EP with original tracks like Think of You, which she recorded in Nashville.

When Amanda makes it onto the Ole Opry stage, she'll be responsible for a little bit of history. I can't think of any student from Bangor Tech who has played there. Amanda is a favourite on Downtown Radio and BBC Radio Ulster. Her dream is to appear at the Opry to perform two of her originals - The Moon and Me, which has yet to be released, and Heartstrings.

An old girl of Bangor High School (before she signed up at the Tech), she was one of four performers to showcase at the Bluebird Cafe as part of a Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, and appeared alongside Benita Hill (hit songwriter for Garth Brooks).

She started out as lead guitarist in an all-girl band called Magenta and didn't take up singing until she wrote her first serious song in 2011.

Fans wonder why she waited so long. In her band are brother Andrew Whittaker on bass, drummer Laurence McKeown, Simon Templeton on keyboards and Gordon McAllister on guitar.

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How granny coined star Tuppence’s odd name

Tuppence Middleton, the 28-year-old actress who will be lighting up the BBC1 screen again tomorrow night (9pm) as bed-hopping Princess Helene Kuragin in War and Peace, must get tired of being asked how she came about her curious first name.

Well, the answer is that Tuppence was borrowed by her mum Tina from a song entitled I’ve Got Sixpence. No, I haven’t got that wrong. The two old pennies referred to appear in the body of the song which was written by a Scot called Alec MacMaster, an eccentric kind of fellow who lived in a cave near Oban where, the story goes, he sold I’ve Got Sixpence to a song collector for a pint of Guinness.

When Alec sobered up he tried to buy his lyrics back, but there was nothing doing.

Tuppence’s granny loved the poem and used Tuppence as a nickname for her daughter Tina who made it her daughter’s official name at her baptism.

The day Jim made Glen’s Eagles soar at Stormont

The death of Glen Frey who played at Stormont with The Eagles back in 2001 reminds me that Elton John was the first of the celebrities to grace the hallowed grounds in the summer of 1979. And he actually brought his own sofa with him ...

As to who was responsible for Stormont’s grounds being opened up to Elton and the other superstars including Pavarotti, Michael Flatley and Rod Stewart, it wasn’t the late Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State at the time.

Sure, likeable Mo opened many doors, but the genius behind that first occasion with Elton was the late Jim Aiken. With the

Troubles still raging in 1979, not one of the stars would have signed the Stormont deal if Jim hadn’t been involved as promoter.

My close friend played a huge part in keeping the province alive and cheerful in difficult times. Greats like The Eagles came here to perform, not just at Stormont but at the King’s Hall and other venues.

It was Jim who brought Frey and his Eagles to Stormont that famous year of 2001 to sing Hotel California and all the other hits.

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