So who'll be hitting the high notes at WEA Awards?

Thornhill College in Derry, winners of BBC Northern Ireland School Choir of the Year, will perform two numbers at tonight's Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A RECORD-breaking 192 companies and organisations wanted one . . . . though all but 20 will be disappointed.

For it's only the very cream of the crop who will lay their hands tonight on an Irish News Workplace & Employment Award, the most covetous gong in local business.

A record-breaking 610 people are due to attend tonight's gala dinner in Titanic Belfast, which will be presided over by BBC presenter Karen Patterson and Give My Head Peace star comic Tim McGarry.

Two of those guests will represent separate sole-trader companies, both starting out on their corporate journeys, while at the opposite end of the scale, other attendees will represent organisations whose employee numbers run into the thousands, like Moy Park, Almac, North West Regional College and First Derivatives.

As well as the various category winners, tonight will see the introduction of an overall Employer of the Year award, which has seen the judges select a stand-out company from all the entries received.

As well as the kudos of being named as overall Employer of the Year, the winner will also receive a special engagement workshop from well-being partner the Ulster Orchestra, which will enable further employee engagement.

After a complimentary drinks reception courtesy of Diageo, tonight's guests will dine on a starter of Walter Ewing's smoked salmon, sea vegetable salad, Belfast stout wheaten bread, tomato, caper, served with a quail's egg and dill.

They'll then move on to main course of Causeway prime beef fillet, gratin potato, heritage carrot, buttered and nutmeg puree spring onion, red wine and thyme jus, followed by a dessert comprising a medley of strawberry cheesecake, lemon parfait, strawberry gelee and bee-haven honeycomb.

As revealed last week, guest speaker is former investment bank Darragh McCarthy, founder and chief executive of Belfast and Derry-based financial services firm FinTrU.

In what will be a stimulating and uplifting address, he will focus on the power of his people and his unashamed focus on nurturing talent, mirroring the ethos of the WEA Awards which he holds in such store.

Always a relaxed evening, tonight will also see a number of musical interludes, featuring Thornhill College in Derry, recent winners of the BBC School Choir of the Year, and singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan, described by Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody as "the voice of an angel - one of the most exciting artists to come out of Northern Ireland".

In the senior choir category final at the Ulster Hall in April, Thornhill saw off the challenge of Dalriada in Ballymoney and Carrickfergus Grammar, singing two pieces The Seal Lullaby and De Angelis, which they will replicate this evening, under the baton of conductor Elizabeth Quigley.

Just back from supporting Snow Patrol on a run of US dates, 29-year-old Portaferry singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan takes the stage this evening en route to a summer packed with festival dates including Glastonbury and his biggest Belfast headline show at Custom House Square on August 17.

Tonight marks the culmination of the 13th running of the Workplace & Employment Awards, which have been supported by eight key business partners - Carson McDowell, the Public Health Agency, Henderson Group, Queen's University, Miller Hospitality, KPMG, Progressive Building Society and venue partner Titanic Belfast.

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