Intricate lyrics, smooth melodies, buckets of charisma and even the odd touch of drama – the UCC Songwriters Competition, now in its second year and organised by the Music Society, can be considered another resounding success. Cork is a city laden with wonderful young musicians and the past three weeks in Cyprus Avenue have been a testament to that fact. The sheer volume and more importantly, the quality of entries shows that perhaps the Cork music scene is on the cusp of something special – a spirited renaissance spearheaded by the adept and highly capable artists of tomorrow.
Out of the two heats, Beth O’Reilly, Christina May, Ricky Kelleher and Miah Phelan deservedly progressed to the final. With the immense standard of talent on display reaching the climax of the tournament is a wonderful achievement in itself. Choosing a winner out of this quartet was a near impossible task for the highly esteemed judges. Beth O’Reilly, an already accomplished lyricist and musician in her own right, put on a stellar performance in both the heats and finals. Meaningful lyrics accompanied by catchy hooks and infectious tunes ensured she was a tough act to follow. Christina May displayed an excellent variety in her performance, joined by her accompanist Niamh Byrne the duo executed beautiful harmonies with both piano and guitar driven songs, Christina’s more bluesy-jazzy approach was a shift from the other competitors, injecting a genuinely enjoyable element of diversity into the nights entertainment. Miah Phelan presented a strong vocal performance alongside impressive piano work to deliver five powerful pieces: everything showcased by Miah here would effortlessly slot into mainstream radio airplay. Ricky Kelleher presented a solid mix of power-folk tunes fuelled by a rousing acoustic guitar and well balanced, almost laidback efforts. The instrumental aspect of Kelleher’s performance alongside his gravelly vocals impressed the judges and audience alike.
The crowd’s votes were cast, the judges painstakingly reviewed their ballot sheets and the performers anxiously nursed their drinks in anticipation of a decision. Ultimately, and deservingly, the sublime Ricky Keller was announced the winner, but what was clear from the three nights of phenomenal music was that Cork has a lot of talent, and this will not be the last we hear of any competitor.