The winner of the 2015 Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Award was announced on 19th February at the Royal Academy of Music in London after a week of competition.
Soprano Emily Garland (pictured below receiving her prize), who hails from Somerset and is in her first year with the Royal Academy Opera studying with Kathleen Livingstone and Jonathan Papp, was revealed as the winner after an afternoon of final round performances.
Emily will now receive £14,000 to help towards her studies at the Royal Academy of Music during 2015/2016 but is not a stranger to accolades. She recently took part in a competitive masterclass with Dame Felicity Lott as part of the Three Choirs Festival, and as the join winner she will performa a full recital in the festival later this year.
During the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Final Round at the Royal Academy of Music, Emily sang pieces by Frank Bridge ("Come to me in my dreams"), Claude Debussy ("Apparition"), Puccini ("Vissi d'arte " from Tosca) and Richard Strauss ("Cacilie" and "Morgen").
Competing with her on the day were eight other singers from the academy. These were soprano Lorena Paz Nieto, mezzo-soprano Laura Zigmantaite, soprano Alys Roberts, tenor Oliver Johnston, baritone Henry Neill, tenor John Porter, baritone Richard Walshe and soporano Charlotte Schoeters.
Magical mezzo voice
"The 2015 award final was perhaps the easiest one for the adjudicators to decide on," says Elizabeth Muir-Lewis, a trustee and founder of the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Trust.
"While the standard was very high, it was Emily's singing of "Morgen" that clinched it . She spun a magical mezzo voce line that was exquisite.
"This is a singer who will go on to great things She has power plus the ability to sing softly, with a musical intelligence. Yet again there was a fine Chinese baritone who riveted us with his resonant and powerful voice .
"The winner of the Richard Lewis bursary (2014) John Porter competed. This tenor showed what a very italianate voice he has, which if carefully nurtured will do well. On the whole this was among the top award finals, with an exceptional standard of achievement , and representing the quality of the teaching at the Royal Academy. Next year the award will rise to £15.000."
"The Richard Lewis Trust has made a decision to benefit the Royal Academy in the main. Over fourteen years they have run and managed the award superbly, and also the level of the students receiving the trusts help is at, we feel, the right one.
"They still have years of training yet to do, but are advanced enough to make use of financial help as they prepare to go out into the tough singing world."
A second award was also given on the day. This was the Webb Award for Accompanist which was won by Jâms Coleman (pictured, left), who accompanied baritone Henry Neill in the final.
"We also would like to thank Brenda Webb who funds the piano award. It is a truly generous and much appreciated award," says Elizabeth Muir-Lewis.
The adjudicators on the Final Round day were Elizabeth Muir Lewis from the Trust; the Royal Academy of Music's Head of Vocal Mark Wildman; Alexander Crowe, Opera Role Coach at the Royal Academy Opera, tenor and BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Ben Johnson and renowned mezzo-soprano Jean Rigby.