Winner of this year's £14,000 singing award revealed

Eleven singers were picked to be the finalists in this year’s Richard Lewis Award singing competition at the Royal Academy of Music.

The selection process took place over two days before the final on February 26th and was probably one of the hardest on record. This was because the standard of singing was extremely high. It always is, but this year particularly so.

The judges at the final included Dame Josephine Barstow (soprano) Paul Charles Clarke (tenor) as well as the Head of the RAM vocal department Mark Wildman, Elizabeth Muir-Lewis (Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks trustee) and Ingrid Surgenor (piano judge).

There were four sopranos, two mezzo sopranos, one counter tenor, two baritones, one bass baritone and one tenor incontention. All were good. So who would win?

Alex Otterburn beguiled with a lovely round baritone, particularly in Parry's Take oh take those lips away while Damien Ganclarski's counter tenor is a voice that will develop, and which he used well in a Handel aria from Rodelinda.

Anna Harvey had a warm deep mezzo, and is an intelligent singer, showing her versatility from Britten's Phaedra but she was a little static in her body language, perhaps.

The baritone Haobin Wang was one of those electrifying and resonant singers that the Orient produces and he will become a wonderful voice in time and iss already something special.

Anghara Lyddon was another fine mezzo singing Carmen's Seguedilla with plenty of robust singing. Charlotte Schoeters soprano had a beautifully controlled voice, even if her Mozart Exultate came astray at times.

Tenor John Porter showed that he had a very promising voice, with some lovely top notes. Give him a few years and it will be a winner. Emily Garland was a soprano with a smooth and lovely well placed tone. If Hear ye Israel was perhaps too testing, her Frank Bridge Come to me in my dreams was exquisite.

The soprano Cathy-Di Zhang sounded promising and has an intelligent and beautifully placed voice, her Bach controlled and even.

And the winner

Celine Forrest. Tossing off that formidable aria from Don Giovanni Non mi dir with aplomb, some lovely Debussy and a Welsh song sung with dignified beauty. A very worthy winner from a set of young singers, all of whom could have won.

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