Frances Black Out Of Shadow

By Maria Croce
From The Daily Echo

Even though she hails from a musical family, Frances Black never thought she'd become a singer.

And even at the age of 16 when she took to the stage for the first time, she opened her mouth to sing and nothing came out.

She left the stage mortified and it was another couple of years before she dared to venture back on. But her family, including her singer sister Mary Black, helped her find the confidence to pursue music.

Frances went on to become Ireland's top selling solo artist in 1994 and 1995 and Ireland's number one female artist in 1995.

She faced another setback when she suffered bruised vocal cords in 1996 and feared she wouldn't be able to sing again. But she's now gone for a healthier lifestyle and is back on top form with a new album called Don't Get Me Wrong and a UK tour calling in at The Anvil in Basingstoke on September 17 and Salisbury City Hall on October 8.

"It never dawned on me I would be a singer," said Frances. "I thought I would be a childcare worker or something. When I started out singing with the family I didn't take it seriously."

Frances has two sisters and five brothers and began her professional singing career in 1986 when she toured with her siblings to promote The Black Family album. She then joined the traditional group Aracdy but it was her inclusion amongst the best of Ireland's female singers on the million-selling album Woman's Heart in 1993 which secured her status and launched her solo career.

But she's never forgotten the traumatic experience of taking to the stage at 16 when she found she couldn't sing.

"A couple of musicians asked me to sing because they knew my sister Mary was a good singer. But when I got up on stage nothing came out. It was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my career - except it wasn't really my career at that stage. Ijust put it down to experience. But I decided then it wasn't for me."

It wasn't until Frances was about 19 that she was persuaded by her family to tour with them and with their support she got back on stage and sang.

"I was very frightened but I had my big brothers and sister behind me and they sang the chorus on my numbers and one of my brothers kept whispering encouragement."

Now Frances is very much a singer in her own right and has stepped out of her famous sister Mary's shadow. But she admits: "Mary was always the main singer in our house. From the time she was five she was a soloist in the choir. It was just inevitable Mary was going to go into the music business."

But there is no rivalry between the sisters - both have successful but separate careers. "Our voices and our shows are very different," explained