Irish League football fans were treated to a taste of something a little bit different this weekend.
The build-up to Saturday’s Danske Bank Premiership fixture between Cliftonville and Glenavon started off routinely enough, with fans trickling to their seats as the lads on the pitch warmed up, both sides getting ready for what was confirmed to be a tricky enough match.
Fans had clearly had a chance to enjoy their pre-match pints in the social club, and were mostly ready and waiting in the stands for the action to kick off when all of a sudden, unbeknownst to them, they became the unwitting subjects of a hidden camera stunt by BBC Radio Ulster.
Hidden among their ranks was David Lynn, an operatic tenor from County Mayo who was in Belfast this weekend as part of NI Opera’s production of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ at the Grand Opera House.
As kick-off approached, ‘Nessun Dorma’ – the aria which has been synonymous with football for 25 years since a Luciano Pavarotti recording was used as the BBC’s theme for the 1990 World Cup – began playing on the stadium’s sound system.
David then whipped out a microphone from his pocket, took to his feet and didn’t miss a note.
Excited fans talked about the confusion as they tried to identify the source of the pitch perfect tenor…
As the Belfast Telegraph reports, heads were turning and fingers pointing across the north Belfast venue, as more and more cameras – some from the BBC, others on the phones of bamboozled spectators – descended upon the lower deck of the main stand as the realisation of what was happening began to dawn on the taken aback crowd.
Cliftonville fan Barry McCann, making a birthday trip home from working in London, said: “I didn’t really understand what was happening until it was nearly over but it was brilliant. I’ve seen and heard plenty of strange things at Solitude over the years but that’s up there with the most memorable.”
— Cliftonville FC (@cliftonvillefc) November 1, 2015
Nine-year-old Matthew Rafferty was left similarly gobsmacked and admitted the pitch-perfect performance has inspired him to follow in David’s footsteps.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said the schoolboy who was recently invited to join the St Peter’s Cathedral Boys’ Choir. “I wouldn’t mind coming here and singing like that myself in a couple of years.”
His father Stephen Rafferty added: “Matthew has always been interested in music and loves coming to watch Cliftonville, so you could say he was doubly fascinated by what happened.”
The three minute video – devised to promote the Ulster Bank International Arts Festival – ends with a stunned crowd offering rapturous applause to their infiltrator, who later tweeted: “Very much enjoyed being there today! Lovely audience!”
The club had asked fans to get down slightly earlier on Saturday, but refused to reveal the mysterious reason why…
The stunt has caused widespread praise, with hundreds of enthusiastic comments, likes and shares causing the post to go viral on social media. Marco Birolo wrote: ‘Nice to hear Puccini at Solitude!!’
Whilst Dolores Mcphillips said: “Class….The reds very own Pavarotti!”