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NI's Dara determined to follow his music biz dreams despite Voice Kids final heartbreak


Dara and Paloma Faith. (C) ITV Plc

Dara and Paloma Faith. (C) ITV Plc


Dara and Paloma Faith. (C) ITV Plc

Dara McNicholl, Northern Ireland's first finalist on The Voice Kids, has described his time on the talent show as "priceless"

The Co Londonderry lad missed out on the top prize - a £30,000 musical education bursary that went to series winner Justine Afante - but won the runner-up prize, a family trip to Universal Studios in Orlando.

Dara said that getting the chance to duet with coach Paloma Faith on last night's show was worth millions.

The 13-year-old, a pupil at St Colm's High School in Draperstown, only started singing three years ago - and his parents had no idea he was so talented until a teacher told them.

His rendition of Whitney Houston's I Have Nothing saw all four coaches on the show attempt to convince him to join their teams.

But it was far from plain sailing for Dara. After his voice started to break earlier this year, he was worried about how he would sound in the final, filmed five months later.

"After the semi-final, the coronavirus happened and the final was postponed, then my voice started breaking," he said.

"To put it bluntly, I couldn't sing well at all. It put me under a load of pressure for a while because I didn't know if I'd be able to continue. It was hard."

But Paloma's words of encouragement and advice helped Dara overcome his fears and perform a cracking version of Against All Odds in the final, complete with a high-note ending.

"Paloma told me to look at it this way: she said I was quite lucky because the others had to sing with the same voice, but I had a whole new voice and range to go with," he said.






A duet version of Ain't No Mountain High Enough had Dara singing Paloma's praises even more.

"I just felt really lucky that someone of Paloma's stature would want to do that with me. I felt like I should have been paying someone millions for the privilege," he said.

"She was always very generous. For her to give me her time was amazing as she is a very busy woman. She insisted on coming to all of my rehearsals and vocal coaching sessions, which I don't think is that normal on The Voice Kids. She really made such a big, big effort for me."

Dara's dad Chris, the lead physio for Ulster Rugby, said he had wife Donna really appreciated what Paloma had done for their son.

"She really did roll her sleeves up and got stuck in to join the other vocal coaches and challenged them to help Dara even more," he added.

"My wife was there in the days running up to the final. She had nothing but good things to say about Paloma."

Dara, an under-14 hurler for Ballinascreen, admitted he was devastated to lose out to Welsh teenager Justine.

"When I was walking up the steps before we all went back onstage for the announcement, I just accepted that Justine was going to win because her vocals were that good. They were almost non-human," he said.

"I am not going to lie to you, I was still devastated, but you smile and you nod and you clap and that's what I did."

Despite the blow, Dara is determined to continue in the entertainment industry and has his sights on a career in music or acting.

"When I say that it (his time on the show) was priceless, I really do mean priceless. I got to meet and work with an A-list singer, as well as coaches, producers and the like. They are top-class professionals. Now I have those contacts.

"Do I have Paloma's phone number? Well, I have her Instagram. That's more the modern way."

Dad Chris said that it would be a "dream" to see his son pursuing his musical ambitions, hopefully at the annual Stendhal Festival in Limavady.

"I was saying to Dara just the other day that this is the time that Stendhal would have been on," he added.

"We usually go as a family to camp there for the weekend and watch all the acts, so it would be a real dream come true if we ever saw Dara up onstage there one day."

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