The Nightingale soprano Eric Gentet’s tribute performance

Child prodigy and soprano nicknamed ‘The Nightingale’, Eric Gentet, is making a rare appearance in Belfast to perform a concert at Rosemary Street Church on Thursday, April 21. His performance is in homage to Belfast’s famous soprano Billy Neely and the BBC and Boys’ Brigade wartime soprano Derek Barsham, who inspired him.

Promoted by Stephen Beet
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 9:07 am
Child prodigy and soprano, Eric "The Nightingale" Gentet, is making a rare appearance in Belfast on April 21
Child prodigy and soprano, Eric "The Nightingale" Gentet, is making a rare appearance in Belfast on April 21

Famous boy soprano Derek Barsham’s widow, Barbara, and the family of Belfast's own Billy Neely, will be flying over from Cape Cod in USA and Central France to watch the performance of the young French boy soprano, Eric Gentet - The Nightingale, which will include English and Irish songs of the 20th century at the Belfast concert.

Now 16-years-old, Eric will be supported by the Boys’ Brigade and civic dignitaries for his special spring appearance. His Belfast concert will present songs which were originally performed by Derek and Billy, to revive their wonderful repertoire

Eric said: “The voices of the old boy sopranos live through me, and I aim to keep and develop my soprano voice. I have the ability and maturity to sing some of the great emotional operatic works originally written for boys, but now only performed by women.”

Eric has wooed the hearts of the folk of Northern Ireland by his pure soprano voice, reducing some to tears with his performances of Danny Boy, The Rose of Tralee and the incredible Italian Mana Morta.

His voice has been favourably compared to that of the famous sopranos Billy Neely and Derek Barsham and his return to Northern Ireland is planned to include performances for pupils at local schools, to help inspire young musical talent.

Billy was a member of St Anne's Cathedral Choir and sang all over the UK and broadcast many times from 1948 to 1950 and Derek recorded and broadcast many times from 1944 to 1947. He famously sang Land of Hope and Glory on the BBC radio immediately after Winston Churchill announced the cessation of hostilities on VE-Day 1945.

Eric sings in the same way as boy sopranos of the past, who retained their angelic, controlled vibrato, singing voices long after their speaking voice had broken. This unique voice-technique has mainly disappeared since the 1950s and Derek and Billy were amongst the last boys to have been trained in these techniques.

Eric will be supported by the Boys’ Brigade and civic dignitaries

Eric will be accompanied on the piano and organ by his 10-year-old brother Marc and by the well-known pianist Orly Watson BA MA FLCM, who is organist and director of music at Dromore Cathedral and the official accompanist at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Click here for tickets or contact Stephen Beet at [email protected] to Eric’s Belfast concert at 7.30pm on Thursday, April 21, are available at £10, or £8 for seniors and under-16s free.

A musical prodigyAt the age of eight, Eric became famous in France when he was the first and still the youngest child selected to sing opera on stage for the French TV programme Prodiges. He surprised the judges because, at that age, he could already sing so many famous difficult arias in nine languages.Immediately known in France as Eric le Rossignol (The Nightingale) he was then invited to be the soloist with the Choir of the Red Army. At the age of 11, he was again soloist with a choir of 10,000 children and an orchestra in a stadium with an audience of 40,000. Each of these events were viewed by millions of people on national French TV.More recently, Eric has performed in many concerts at churches in France, Northern Ireland, South Korea, Portugal, Spain and Australia.

For tickets to the Belfast concert at Rosemary Street Church on Thursday, April 21, book here or contact Stephen Beet at [email protected] or on 07955524986.

Eric has wooed the heart of Northern Ireland with his pure soprano voice