On Sunday night, I had the great pleasure of attending the senior singing competition. The usual hustle and bustle of the event was compounded by the fact that it had been snowing and so people crammed in to get out of the cold or as was the case for me, out of the way of rampant snowballers.
The competition was started by the usual convivial speech by Mr Moore introducing the Judges. After Mr Moore vacated the stage his space was soon filled by the figure of George Fowler who gave a confident introduction to his song and proceeded to sing said song with a most expressive face. His song Les Roses d’Ispahan was sang well and from the gut. However I am encroaching on the judge’s territory and I’m sure no one will want to hear the same thing twice so I shall move on to Tom Lloyd who sang Schubert’s ‘Du bist die Ruh’. This was interesting as I thought that he was a little constrained on the closed notes but my word when he opened up an incredibly rich voice flew from his lips; this was especially evident at the two crescendos which were just as climactic as the composer meant them to be. Well done. After that we were subjected to a roundabout turn by Andrew Spicer as he certainly didn’t sing anything “high brow” as had the other two. Instead Andrew sang “I got plenty of nothing” from Porgy and Bess. This piece is very funny if sung right and Andrew pulled it off. He certainly had me giggling away in my seat at least. I was impressed specifically however by the fact that he managed to keep a fast and difficult piece very clear and easy to understand. Then back we were with the German theme as Moritz Bensel sang Schumann’s “Du bist wie eine Blume.” This is an emotional piece and suited Moritz’s voice perfectly. It was a good effort by Moritz and although he thought he had sung ‘rubbishly’, I can tell him now that I enjoyed it immensely.
One of the highlights for me was Ed Chapman’s ‘O Isis and Osiris’ from ‘The Magic Flute’. This piece had some mind-blowingly low notes which Ed sang strongly and straight from the gut. Next on was Leonard Ma who sang J S Bach’s “Qui mihi fecit Magna” with a rich and impeccable Anglo-Latin accent. My only piece of advice to Leonard would be keep your eyes open as for much of the time they were closed. This damaged the effect of really what was quite a marvellous baritone voice. Now on the subject of surprises the next singer was Jonty Binns who sang “If Music be the food of Love.” I don’t mean to say that his being there was a surprise, not in the slightest, no; the surprise came from the fact that he sang the song with a high alto voice. I must say I was astounded by his ability to reach those high notes and keep strong all the way through. A very impressive talent and I hope he uses it to good effect in the school choir.
The next on my list was Rob Cross who sang “Fear No More The Heat of the Sun.” A magnificently rich voice carried along by crystal clear enunciation. The judge said of Rob, when he was later talking about each performance, that he “drew me on to a sword” in that he started quietly drawing in the audience and then whipped out a quick crescendo and impaled the judge to his desk (metaphorically only, of course). There was a slight pause in the proceedings when Teresa Fawcett-Wood wasn’t around, and surprisingly there was no frantic flap, but the show coolly went on. In loco Teresae, the next contender descended the stairs. This was James Aitken who sang a piece which was, some might think, a little too near the cusp of his range for it to be carried off. However, I thought he managed it. It was a jolly good effort, well done James. Following that Sam Ansloos sang “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeny Todd.”He gave a jolly introduction which instantly created a favourable atmosphere, and then leapt straight into the piece. From time to time, Sam threw a little bit of Cockney colouring in to add some atmosphere to his song. There were points where the song went very high, and Sam was forced to a falsetto. However, luckily for him he has a strong falsetto voice and so it worked well. With a flourish Sam was done and the next singer descended to run the gauntlet. This was Meredith Lloyd who sang “Speak, Music”. All I can say is well done Meredith, as not everyone always hit the notes perfectly, but for Meredith, the notes where clear cut and of 24 carrot [sic] quality.
The judges must have been hoping it would be over now, as it was already hard enough to decide on a winner, but there was no rest for the wicked (they hadn’t given me a prize in the junior section, not that I’m biased or anything), and the next singer took their turn in the limelight. This singer had some real operatic qualities and sang her Song “Ach, Ich Fuhls” (from Mozart’s Magic Flute) beautifully. This was, of course, Sienna Holmes, who, as I’m sure no one has forgotten, sang that very song at the concert version of The Magic Flute, performed in the Allington Hall last year. (Yours truly was a member of the chorus.) A very well known Churchillian was next to rise to the challenge: Laurence Jeffcoate sang Schubert’s “Widmung” which means dedication. Now I’ve had much to say about most people so far but as far as I was concerned Laurence was at the top of the league. He has a superb voice which carried right through the auditorium, pitch and tune completely mastered. With said voice Laurence pulled of both a difficult introduction and ending to the song. So, very well done: I enjoyed it tremendously. In truth I think the Judges were wrong not to give him a higher prize but “C’est la vie.” The next singer was a worthy contestant in the higher bar that my expectation had set after Laurence’s song: Ali Webb was that contestant and his jump was Gershwin’s “By Strauss”. (I’m going to stop the metaphor now as it’s getting out of hand.) I was suitably impressed. Not only did he make a nice sound but it was also the correct sound as he hit all the notes well. Expressive, would be a good way of describing his singing, although not necessarily what one might associate with the piece: one judge said that he “sang with a hint of flirting.” Well, that’s one way to win them over! I was excited about the next song as it was the song that I had sang in the Junior Competition; also I had helped the singer prepare, so I had a personal interest too. The singer himself was none other than Rory Fraser, who sang “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.” The introduction given to song brought a chuckle to the audience. In true Fraser style, a joke was thrown in. The joke being an apology to the judges for being the third person to sing his chosen song and as such it might turn into a “Sunny Boy” episode. (Devotees of P.G. Woodhouse will know what I mean.) Anyway the actual singing bit was great as well. He had a most pleasant voice which carried of the romantic felling of the piece nicely. To spice it up he included an exhibition of his waltzing talent on the line “For we were dancing cheek to cheek.” A great effort and a magnificent performance. I’m only sorry that he didn’t win a prize as, in my view, he jolly well deserved it. At what I thought was to be the end, another Churchillian took up the challenge and also carried on the theme of comedy, as his song was “Have some Madeira M’Dear.” It was a very funny song made all the more funny by Will Heyes who managed to be two completely different characters during the song. It was said of Will by the Judges that his “ability to switch between comical and sinister was great, even worrying.”
Just as we all thought it was over and the judges were preparing to slog it out with each other as to who should win. Teresa arrived and was ushered to the stage. Carried on by her dramatic arrival she boldly announced her song, “Mattinata”, and dived into it. This piece was incredibly fast with some really high notes and yet she kept up and hit each one. She really did sing the song very well right up to its climactic ending afer a huge crescendo. Jolly good show Teresa!
Whew, this has been a lot of writing, but there was so much to write about. It was a really enjoyable competition and the Judges had a hard choice on their hands. I would like to finish with a quote by John Lennon, in honour of music and my house master, a former puiblisher (I’m a Churchillian, in case you haven’t guessed,): “Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only the publishers who think that people own it.” With that I bid you all a good day and may music grant you pleasure wherever you go.