Although hastily rescheduled to Monday 5th March following the snowy weather on the previous Friday, the Final of the Helen Wareham competition proved just as exciting; an opportunity for the senior winners to perform to a visiting adjudicator for the prestigious Helen Wareham Prizes awarded on Speech Day.

On this occasion it was a delight to welcome Angus Meryon back to Cranleigh to adjudicate. Mr Meryon was, for a number of years, Head of Woodwind at Cranleigh and went on to appointments at St Paul’s Girls’ School and Putney High School where he is now Director of Music. His insightful comments, wisdom and helpful advice to the fourteen senior competitors showed his wealth of experience as a fine professional clarinettist and as an examiner for the Associated Board.

For his winner in the Strings category, Mr Meryon chose Millie Mazzone (violin) whose authoritative account of the Humoresque by Sibelius showed excellent technique, great musicianship and real affinity with the piano accompaniment, provided so beautifully as always by Head of Performance Richard Saxel. James Thornton-Wood won the Brass competition with a haunting and beautifully-toned account of Villanelle by Paul Dukas – he of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice so brilliantly brought to life in Disney’s ‘Fantasia’. James took successful risks with a wide range of dynamics, hand-stopping techniques and tonal colours.

The piano prize was won by Kiko Liu for the calm serenity and range of sonorities she evoked in Cloche de Matines by Bergmuller. The woodwind prize was hotly competed for by Saskia Hogan with her stylish and technically excellent Fantasie by Faure, but it was Emma Grainger who won by a whisker by drawing the audience into a hugely impressive performance of the showpiece Solo de concours by Messager. The winner of the Vocal prize was Pippa Lock. Currently starring as the lead part in the school musical production, Pippa brought all the communication skills of the stage to Mozart’s delightfully coquettish aria Una donna de quindici anni from ‘Cosi fan tutte’.

Enormous thanks are due to the teachers of these talented youngsters and to Richard Saxel for expertly guiding them through the competition to success. Credit is due to the hard work and superb performances of the other competitors who also performed very impressively, making the adjudicator’s task unenviable.

There is an opportunity to hear these winning performances again, as well as winners from the Junior and Prep School Competitions, at “Encore” on Friday 27th April at 7.30pm in the Emms Centre. This is a black tie event and tickets are available for purchase here