What a day it was! You might think eight hours of classical music would be a turn-off. Far from it. At Christ Church, on 14th April, we had the joys of the John Warner Singing Competition. Twelve singers from all over the country, here to win a total of £3,500, giving us all a musical banquet.
Now perhaps classical music doesn't press all your buttons, but if you've enjoyed 'Nessun Dorma” with Pavarotti or you tune your car radio to classic FM, you would have loved it. The standard was very high; some of these singers may be the stars of the future. For example, Michael Ronan, from the Royal Academy, sang Handel's “O ruddier than the cherry”, raising hairs on the back of the neck . Then there was James Rhoads, also from the Academy who performed Britten's Canticle 1, a piece of astonishing difficulty both to learn and commit to memory. Neither of them won a prize but they and several others could have done, the standard was so high.
The winner was Michael Rakotoarivony, a baritone from Madagascar, studying at the Royal Academy with a velvet voice (hints of Fischer-Dieskau?) and a wonderful way of bringing the audience into his world. Runner-up was Sian Dicker, from the Guildhall, a singer of huge range and power, for whom an operatic career beckons. Interestingly, there was an accompanist's prize won by Teodora Oprisor. She played beautifully for James Rhoads and the winner. It is about time we recognized the true importance of the accompanist. At its best, the relationship with the singer is one of musical equals, playing different roles.
Four singers had local connections; Tamzin Barnett, Rhiannon Merrifield, Howard Weyman and David Thomas, and here there was a strong link with the Chichester Festival of Music, Dance and Speech which has encouraged so many young musicians over the last sixty years.
The competition, run since 1988, first by Geoff Simmonds and, until this year by Ron Williams will come round again in a couple of years. Remember the name, John Warner, and look forward to future delights.