County Derry’s influence on The Voice series has been strengthened as yet another young star blazed through to the next round of The Voice Kids UK.
Dara McNicholl, from Moneyneena, wowed the judges with a stirring rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’, securing four chair turns in the blind audition.
“It was a case of ‘go big or go home’, so I tried a bit of Whitney, and it was a good outcome, as you can see,” the thirteen-year-old told the County Derry Post.
“I love singing and I love to go up on stage, and if I don’t get picked, at least I can go down and do a good song.”
“It’s not an easy song, I can tell you, so I was so nervous. I was trying to get through the song and I could think of everything else later.
“Not only are you on TV, but you’re singing in front of these amazing celebrity coaches that could make your dream come true.
“I didn’t even notice that Danny Jones and Will.I.Am had turned in the first seconds. Then the other two came later, it was such a relief.”
Donna McNicholl described the experience as 'nerve-wracking'.
Proud parents Donna and Chris were watching from the wings with host Emma Willis as all four judges stood up and took notice.
Mum Donna said the experience was more nerve-wracking for the rest of the family than it was for Dara himself.
“It was horrific, so nerve-wracking. The producers and the team look after you, but they said they’d never seen anyone as nervous as myself and Chris,” she said.
“Chris, in fact, was white as a sheet and the two girls had frozen faces. I think we were nervous he would forget his lines.
“We couldn’t see the coaches’ reactions, so we were led by the audience roaring and shouting. That’s when we realised someone had turned, but we didn’t know there were four until the end!
“We’re taking our lead from him. He’s such a calm fella, you wouldn’t know to look at him if he’s annoyed or under pressure.”
Dara's humming didn't always go down well with mum and dad.
Donna and husband Chris, both physiotherapists, are proud of Dara, although Donna admits his early fondness for humming didn’t immediately meet with their approval.
“To be honest, he did hum a lot from he was a toddler, and it was pretty annoying,” she said.
“He auditioned for a school play, which was Tales Told of Ireland Old and he got a part to sing a piece in it, so Mrs Patricia Heron from St Eoghan’s had to ring and tell me.
“He never mentioned it and he never practised it at home, so that was really the start of it. He sang Banna Strand, it was beautiful, and heads were turning in the community hall.
“You’re always proud of your children, even achieving small things like learning to cycle, or the girls playing camogie for Ballinascreen, but this is on a different level.
“We’re indebted to the local community, there is a real culture of sport and music in Draperstown, Ballinascreen. Dara’s two sisters have gained so much from it as well.
“I read once it takes a village to rear a child and myself and Chris have discovered that it’s very true, you get guidance from everyone.”
After his performance, the St Colm’s Ballinascreen U14 hurler opted for coach Paloma Faith to take him forward in the competition.
“You didn’t miss a note, it was crystal-clear. I was blown away by your voice, it gave me goosebumps,” said the English singer-songwriter afterwards.
Dara says he has been inundated by messages of support since Saturday night’s TV appearance.
“I’m not used to it, my phone is about to go to A & E here, there are that many messages,” he said.
“We’re just so thankful, because all those people really did make it happen and you have to appreciate it.
“All the practice in the car paid off. There are good speakers there, it’s like my wee studio, I just plug the phone in.”
The Voice Kids continues this Saturday, July 18, at 7.25pm on ITV.
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