On May 8th the 2013 final took place at the Royal Academy of Music in London of the annual Richard Lewis-Jean Shanks Award.
It was agreed among the adudicators that the singers competing were possibly the best line up heard for many years.
Emily Garland who was the first competitor, showed her warm powerful soprano in arias such as In Quelle Trine Morbide (Puccini) while Celine Forrest , another soprano, sang with style in a lighter programme of Debussy and Mozart.
The baritone Bozidar Smiljanic opened with an aria from Elijah, and here one felt was a possible winner. A generous and lovely sound. The panel particularly liked the Rimsky Korsakov Oktava. Alice Rose Privett (soprano) had a vibrant and very capable technique. A song by Dove was a brave choice for a competition, which involved a series of exhaled breaths. Ein Traum by Grieg was ravishingly sung.
Christine Gansch (pictured, top) sang after the tea break. This is a beautifully controlled soprano with even tone and exquisite pianissimos. Here was indeed a star singer.
Next came tenor Oliver Johnston who sang some Renaldo Hahn and Quilter with a fine voice although with some work to be done on his top notes. But a lovely singer who will have a fine career.Emily Vine (soprano) would be the ideal Strauss singer (Zerbintetta in Ariadne? Or Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier?) with an amazing ability to reach the high notes and spin a high line.
The last competitor was Angharad Lyddon (mezzo soprano). This was a gorgeous mezzo with a deep and vibrant rich sound. Her programme showed her versatility, even if it was a bit the sameness.
So who won?
Overwhelmingly Christine Gansch. This wonderful singer accepted her £14,000 prize (to continue studies in the Academy)
But what of accompanists?
The affiliated Webb prize of £3,500 went to Thomas Primrose. It was made easier to choose from among a fine number of accompanists, as Primrose had the lions share of singers to accompany. He showed that essential quality that all good accompanists must have, the ability to listen to the singer and to breathe with them.
Among the large audience was a group of music lovers from Eastbourne who came up by bus to hear the final. Many of them have been supporting this important award for over ten years.