Musical success for Thornhill student Niamh

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A Derry student has been given a major endorsement by some of the top musical theatre experts after making it through to the final five in the major West End competition ‘West End Calling.’

Thornhill pupil Niamh Long, from Juniper Park, is one of five contestants, all aged between eight and 21, hand picked by judges including Kieran Brown (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Wicked), Damien Walsh (Sunny Afternoon, Dreamboats and Petticoats), Kate Playdon (The Honeybuns – BGT, Pretty Woman) and Tom Lees (Vocal arranger and musical and musical director for Collabro).

Judges comments about Niamh included: “You gave a stunning audition,” “Your voice is so powerful and made the panel feel so confident in your performance,” “You have a phenomenal voice.”

Speaking to the Journal this week, Niamh’s mother Claire Long said the entire family were behind Niamh and would be supporting her in London for the competition finals.

“We’re so proud,” said Claire.

“Hundreds of people auditioned for this and for Niamh to reach the final five is just amazing.”

Claire said Niamh’s musical interest may come from her father Stephen’s background in the Long Tower Folk Group. Niamh has always loved musical therapy. Her sister is very musical too, although she’s trained as a classical singer.”

Niamh has trained under a number of experts locally including Michelle McLaughlin, Niamh Moore and Emmett Doherty at the Foyle Piano Academy, the Fresh Academy of Performing Arts.

She’s currently rehearsing to play the part of one of the brides in the Londonderry Musical Society’s upcoming production of ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’ She also trains with Fireworks Academy and the DDTA, where she does Jazz and Ballet.

Niamh herself said she has thorughly enjoyed the experience so far.

She added: “This is my first time doing anything like this apart from local Feis singing competitions. I have received very honest and constructive criticism and ideas for new song choices from the judges which has helped me immensely.

“During the audition and heats I have met new friends and hope to keep in touch with them in the future. Last year I got my first main role as Emma Carew in St Columb’s College production of Jekyll and Hyde. After that I was approached to play another lead role in St Joseph’s College school show. I also became a member of NISMAT(Northern Ireland School of Music and Theatre) where I played the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie.

In September last year I joined Fresh Academy, a local drama and theatre group, and have performed in a number of productions. The academy ran a workshop with cast members from the touring production of Blood Brothers. I have also attended a BSPA (Belfast School of Performing Arts) workshop with Anna O’Byrne which was amazing and I learned so much from listening to their experiences”.

West End Calling is a musical theatre singing competition for young performers and gets applicants from all over the UK.