Young Co Down pianist to strike a chord at New York’s Carnegie Hall

Young pianist Rowel Friers who will play the Carnegie Hall later this week
Young pianist Rowel Friers who will play the Carnegie Hall later this week

A gifted Co Down schoolboy is set to make his musical debut at one of the world’s most celebrated concert venues this week.

Pianist Rowel Friers, 14, from Holywood will perform at Carnegie Hall in New York on Friday, alongside the New York Concerti Sinfonietta.

Rowel, the grandson of the late cartoonist of the same name, is one of Ireland’s most talented up and coming pianists and has taken part in and won many competitions – his first was at the age of five.

Having attended both St Patrick’s Primary and Sullivan Upper, Rowel’s educational background mirrors that of golf superstar Rory McIlroy, and he will be hoping for a similar meteoric rise in his field of expertise.

The illustrious New York venue where Rowell will perform opened in 1891 and has played host to a wealth of musicians including George Gershwin and The Beatles.

He was encouraged by his professor Ray Keary, on behalf of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, to apply to Dr Julie Jordan – artistic director/founder of the New York Concerti Sinfonietta – for an audition.

The audition was held in March in a Dublin hotel, and, despite an injury to his hand, Rowel performed to overwhelming applause.

His father Jeremy said: “He had been ordered by his physiotherapist to give his hand complete rest, therefore he had not played the piano for a week and, naturally enough, had not practised any of the works needed for this audition.

“But when he met Dr Jordan he was immediately put at ease by her friendly demeanour and the audition started soon after.’’

Rowel’s proud father said the piano was in the hotel lounge where a grand staircase swept up to the first floor.

“As Rowel performed general members of the public started to gather on the staircase and around the piano to listen. When Rowel finished he had rapturous applause! Dr Jordan turned to the people and said ‘Should I take him to Carnegie Hall?’, to which a reply rang out ‘Yes!’

Jeremy said Rowel was “overwhelmed and delighted” to learn that he would be going to the prestigious venue.

He is one of a number of Carnegie Hall debutants whose audition earned him the right to play at one of the most famous concert venues in the world. Auditions were also held in Dallas, New York City and Palo Alto.

Rowel will be travelling to New York along with his father and mother Josephine the day before the concert and the aim is to return the following day in time for an exam at Sullivan Upper.