This year, for the first time, Ireland will be competing in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Sofia on Saturday November 21. Representing Ireland is Aimee Banks, a 13-year old from Moycullen, who will be singing ‘Réalta na Mara’/‘Star of the Sea’, a song which she co-wrote and composed.
This is an epic song about travelling home from sea, in the midst of the gales of the ocean, not knowing if you will make it, hoping you have luck on your side, and being guided by the ‘Star of the Sea’. It is a metaphor for life, there are rough patches but things work out. Aimee can sing in six different languages and while Eurovision has always been a family fun night in her house, she never dreamed she would be a part of it herself, or be representing Ireland.
After extensive auditions nationwide, Aimee was chosen from the top 32 singers, selected for the televised national heats, which were broadcast on TG4. Each performer sang his/her own original Irish language song. ‘Réalta na Mara’ is particularly special to Aimee, as her grandmother who passed away last April, was her biggest fan, and also had helped her with it in its early stages. “I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it when I won,” Aimee tells me.
Though still only 13, Aimee has already been singing for seven years. “I started singing when I was six years old,” she reveals. “One Sunday at Mass I went up to the priest and asked could I sing and it all started from there. My whole family are into music, my sister sings, and my mum, and other members of the family on both my mum and dad’s side.”
Aimee is in second year in Coláiste na Coiribe and a Stage 3 student at the Stagecoach Galway drama school. She is also a twin and one of three children. While her peers might be busy listening to the likes of Little Mix, Aimee prefers to immerse herself in Puccini, Handel, and Verdi and her dream is one day to follow in the footsteps of Maria Callas. “I love singing classical music, one of my favourite songs to sing is Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ and Madame Butterfly is my favourite opera. I would absolutely love to be a professional opera singer some day. One of my favourite roles would be Violetta in La Traviata, Maria Callas played it.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, Aimee also recently won first place for the International Vocal Competition American Protégé and will have the honour of performing in Carnegie Hall on December 19. There she will sing ‘Lascia Ch’io Pianga’ from Handel’s opera Rinaldo.
This year alone Aimee has already secured eight National titles at Ireland’s prestigious Classical Festival Feis Ceoil 2015 and was also awarded Overall Vocalist Award and Bursary 2015 for Midlands Feis Ceoil in June. Last year she recorded her first album, My Classical Spirit, and donated the proceeds to Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice.
Aimee can look forward to the moral support of the Banks clan who are accompanying her on her upcoming trips. “My family are all coming to Sofia and my whole extended family are coming to see me in Carnegie Hall, it will be a holiday for them all,” she says excitedly.
Galway audiences will get their next chance to see Aimee perform live in the new year; “The Three Tenors have asked me to sing with them on February 13 in the Town Hall and I am so happy because I love listening to them,” she tells me.
Before that we can all tune into Junior Eurovision. The show will be a live broadcast from the Armeec Arena in Sofia, Bulgaria, on TG4 on Saturday November 21 at 6.30PM.