Minister calls the tune for 2016 Peace Proms
Onlookers might have assumed it was a Christmas party - but Arts Minister Heather Humphreys was thinking beyond to the far more important 2016 centenary celebrations as she took over an Italian restaurant for an impromptu lunchtime concert.
Soloists with the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland joined Ms Humphreys for a sneak preview of a selection of works they will be performing at the New Year's Day Peace Proms at the National Convention Centre, which will kick-start the official celebrations.
Amongst them was 23-year-old tenor, Emmet Cahill, from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, who has just returned from a tour of America and who sang 'Cavan Girl' as a special tribute to the Cavan-Monaghan minister.
Emmet has won a number of prizes in competitions across Ireland; he was the RIAM 'Promising Young Singer of 2010'; he scooped the 'John McCormack Young Tenor Award'; and he was voted 'Tenor of the year' in 2013 by The Irish Music Association in the United States. He is set to record his debut album next year.
Classically trained soprano Megan Ruby Walsh (18) from Navan, Co Meath, performed 'Ellis Island'. In 2014, Megan won 'The Soloist' competition with the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, which saw her perform with them in the USA, with a sell-out show at Carnegie Hall, New York.
Back home, she sang with the orchestra to more than 40,000 people in major venues across the island.
Mezzo soprano Sarah Richmond from Belfast, sang 'World In Union' - with peace, unity and harmony being the key message of the Peace Proms.
Ms Humphreys told the soloists that "more than anything" she was looking forward to the concert on January 1.
Sharon Treacy Dunne, who set up the orchestra in 1995 as a cross-border initiative, said that while the minister had travelled to Dundalk a number of weeks ago to hear them rehearse, she had not met the soloists and so had decided to take them out to lunch.
"It was fantastic," Ms Dunne said, adding that it was a very rare occasion that they got to sit down and chat with the soloists as it is normally a very pressured environment when they are performing.
"We never get time to sit and to enjoy each other's company so that was very enjoyable," she said.
The Peace Proms is being heralded as a landmark event and will be hosted by Ms Humphreys, who had conceived the original idea of having the Cross Border Orchestra to open the 2016 celebrations.