It has been a remarkable year in the professional life of Derry soprano Margaret Keys.
The world class singer has performed for religious and world leaders, travelling the globe to share her talents - and will end 2015 on a high singing a solo of ‘O Holy Night’ in the prestigious surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of a sold-out gala concert ‘Christmas With the Stars’.
She will then drop back to Derry for a quick stop before jetting off to spend Christmas in Rotterdam, where she will be performing in two gala concerts with world renowned pianist Jan Mulder - who she met through her work with Andrea Bocelli during the papal visit to the US earlier this year.
It means she is putting the big Christmas dinner with her family on hold for a bit but, she said, “it was too good an opportunity to turn down”.
And there have been countless amazing opportunities for the talented songstress this year - something which she is completely grateful for.
“It has been a fantastic year,” Margaret said. “I have had some unbelievable opportunities, which I never take for granted.
“Singing a solo in a fantastic venue like the Albert Hall will be a great way to top it all off. I’m singing ‘O Holy Night’ - that’s the solo everyone fights for so I’m delighted to have it,” she laughed.
Although, she does admit the experience will be bittersweet as she wishes her late father, Bill, could be there to see her perform.
“I’ll have a wee chat with him before I go on stage - I always do.
“I’ll ask him to get me through it and make sure it goes well for me.”
Indeed away from the glitz and glamour of the stage, it is her family in Derry that keeps Margaret grounded.
And while her professional life has been going from strength to strength, she has suffered personal tragedy with the loss of both her daddy and her beloved grandmother, Margaret, in close proximity.
“I like to think they are up there pushing me on,” Margaret said.
“I think having a strong faith, and a strong family are what keeps me grounded. I’ve learned that I might be away and get that phone call to say a loved one is unwell, or has passed on, and that has given me a new appreciation of those close to me.
“It has made me realise, more than ever, that family is what matters. You don’t realise that perhaps until tragedy does come to your door.”
With her feet on the ground, but eyes fixed to the future, Margaret will continue to fly the flag for her home city. “The best thing of all,” she says, “is getting home, and sharing a cup of tea with my mammy.”