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The Handel Singing Competition
25 Apr 2007

Handel Singing Competition Final – London April 23rd

Once again, George Frederick Handel’s old stamping ground of St. George’s Hanover Square, London, resounded last night to the sound of his music as aspiring young singers from all over the world fought out the Final of the London Handel Singing Competition.

Handel Singing Competition Final – London
23 April 2007


Year on year the competition’s status has grown and this was reflected last night in both the quality of the singing, and the quantity of audience there to listen – the place was packed with keen Handelians of all ages, music agents, directors and critics. Some sixty original young performers had started out on the audition and knock-out rounds, so the final six singing last night had made it through against considerable opposition and it showed. What was perhaps most interesting of all was perusing the contestant’s resumés and noting that two came from Australia, one from South Africa, one from Portugal and one from Eire.

As with all competitions, what the judges are looking for is not always what is appreciated most by the audience, but at least the London Handel one acknowledges this with both 1st and 2nd prizes and also an Audience Prize, given to the singer who gains the most votes in a quick-fire ballot taken immediately after the singing stops. Last night overall victory went to the only baritone singing, Derek Welton, the possessor of a fine, robust instrument who concentrated his fire on shorter oratorio and anthem pieces, with only one excerpt from an opera. His singing was focused and exact and technically very secure, his wider experience showing, even if he was rather wooden in his character portrayals. At the other end of the male vocal scale, and receiving the 2nd prize, was the countertenor Christopher Ainslie who conversely concentrated on Handel’s great arias for castrato from Serse, Orlando and Tamerlano. His rather elegantly “English” voice, although slightly covered at times, was complemented by a pleasing stage presence and flair for interpretation. For the ladies, it came as no surprise when the Audience Prize was bestowed on the charming Irish soprano, Anna Devin. Her strong interpretive skills were matched by a strong, secure technique and beautiful vocal tone and she shone in her two arias from Alcina and Giulio Cesare.

The losing competitors had nothing to be ashamed of – they all sang with credit and commitment and with great promise for the future: Gilliam Ramm, Joana Seara, sopranos and Julia Riley, mezzo-soprano. The first named had a big voice, perhaps lacking a little in Handelian style but impressive nevertheless, Seara from Portugal sang with delightful delicacy and precision, without too much power however, and Riley seemed to suffer a little from nerves and a rather odd choice of repertoire in her first items which hardly showed her voice off as they might. Her final aria from Ariodante showed glimpses of what she may be capable of in time.

As usual all the young singers were accompanied by the very supportive and elegant London Handel Orchestra, guided by Laurence Cummings.

© Sue Loder 2007

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