SINGER Andrea Begley, from Pomeroy, impressed on the first episode of BBC talent show The Voice on Saturday when she performed an emotional rendition of Sarah McLaclan’s Angel.
The 26-year-old niece of country singer Philomena Begley, was overjoyed when judges Danny O’Donoghue of The Script and Welsh legend Sir Tom Jones tuned around in their seats and both vied to be chosen as her mentor for the contest.
When Andrea told the judges, also including uber cool popstar Jessie J and rapper/producer will.i.am, that she wasn’t sure who had turned round because of her impaired sight - the singer and civil servant suffers from glaucoma and has just 10 per cent vision - Script frontman Danny O’Donoghue bounded on stage to give the Ulster native a big hug.
O’Donoghue called Andrea “something special” and said her singing was “absolutely beautiful”. Tom Jones added that he felt “very emotional” listening to Andrea sing and would love to mentor her through the competition.
Speaking to the News Letter, Andrea said one of the reasons she decided to audition was because of the blind format: judges initially listen to contestants sing while their seats are turned away, only turning round to face them if they like what they hear.
“I couldn’t see the judges anyway but they also couldn’t see me. There was an equality in that which I really liked,” said Andrea.
“I was on the same level playing field as all the other contestants and that was wonderful.”
Andrea described her first appearance on the primetime BBC show, which last year beat the X-Factor in the ratings war, as a “phenomenal experience” but remained tight-lipped about what we can expect in the coming weeks.
“Normally I’m quite good at keeping a handle on my nerves but I was extremely nervous before my audition on The Voice, It’s just such a big opportunity.
“It’s the biggest platform I’ve ever performed on so it was just huge, huge pressure. But it was a phenomenal experience.
“I admire all the coaches - they’ve all got something really different to offer. Musically I’d say my sound is probably most similar to Danny O’Donoghue. I love The Script and Jessie J in particular.”
If she makes it through to the finals, and if the dream of a recording contract becomes a reality, Andrea imagines herself as an artist similar to her musical heroines KT Tunstall and the multi award-winning Adele.
“I’ve been singing as long as I’ve been talking,” she explained.
“It’s always been a huge part of my life. To have the opportunity to develop as an artist would just be amazing.”
Since losing the majority of her vision as a result of childhood glaucoma at the age of six, Andrea has appreciated the escape and catharsis that singing offers her.
“For me music is my outlet, my hobby, something I could always do independently, it takes me to a place where my loss of sight doesn’t matter.
“Music has always been my getaway and winning The Voice would be an absolute dream come true.”
Catch The Voice UK on BBC One, Saturdays at 7pm.