Page last updated at 06:18 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 07:18 UK

Omagh choir to take on 'The Boss'

by Judith Cummings

Omagh Community Youth Choir
In January, the choir recorded songs for an album that would go on to chart in the American top ten

A choir, a rock 'n roll legend and one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Not the likeliest of combinations, but for one night in June, the Omagh Community Youth Choir and Bruce Springsteen will battle it out on the fields of Glastonbury.

In September 1998, Daryl Simpson, a music student, and other local youth leaders established the Omagh Community Youth Choir in the wake of the August bombing.

Its vision - to bring together young people from all seven post-primary schools in the town to work and have fun together.

More than 10 years on, the choir is still singing, and later this month it will battle it out with one of the giants of rock and roll at one of the world's greatest music festivals.

Earlier this year, Daryl was approached by Playing for Change, a collective of musicians from around the world, aiming to promote peace through music.

The were creating an album and looking for choirs that fitted the bill and in January, armed with a mobile recording studio, they met the choir on the Baronscourt estate, outside Omagh.

The result took everyone by surprise.

Bruce Springsteen
The choir will be on a rival stage to Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury

"The Playing for Change album was released in the United States a few weeks ago and it went straight in at number 10 on the Billboard charts," said Daryl.

"It was absolutely amazing for us to be involved in three out of the 10 songs which are featured on the CD. In fact we have one song completely dedicated to ourselves."

But with that success came a challenge.

"Out of that, Playing for Change has been asked to be the headline act on the Saturday night on the Jazz/World at the Glastonbury Festival.

"We've been asked to go over and perform as part of the collective.

"The only problem is we're up against Bruce Springsteen, but I'm sure we'll bring more people than he will," joked Daryl.

Lynsey Davison, a 17-year-old pupil at Omagh Academy, joined the choir two years ago.

"I received a text about Glastonbury three weeks ago and as soon as I heard about it, I was so excited," she said.

But 'The Boss' will not be the only rock and roll legend the choir have encountered this year.

"On the track, War/No More Trouble, we sing with different people from all over the world, with people from Africa, India and Ireland and even people as famous as Bono," said Lynsey.


Daryl's solo career has also flourished and he is now a member of the highly successful classical crossover group, The Celtic Tenors.

So how does the choir fit into a hectic schedule, including world tours?

"The choir provides a different outlet for my interest in music. I've always been very keen for young people to embrace music," said Daryl.

"As much as I enjoy my professional career, I get huge satisfaction out of working as an amateur with the choir.

"This has all been a real gift for me. You've got to embrace it and go with it, and that's definitely what we're trying to do.

"Did we want the choir to run for 10 years? Actually, we wanted it to run for much longer than that. Our hope is that it will be there in 50, 60 years' time.

"There is no better way of bringing people together than through music or song."

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