On Wednesday 22nd January listeners in the packed Clive Stevens Recital Hall heard 21 singers showcasing what a wealth of vocal talent there is at Cranleigh School, nurtured by what must be one of the most distinguished and dedicated team of vocal coaches (and accompanists) in any independent school. Several of these tutors were in the audience to encourage and support their pupils, at times mouthing every word and thought-projecting every note. Special mention goes to Adrian Goss, who also accompanied four of his pupils as expertly as Philip Scriven and Richard Saxel, the other two pianists. The three-strong adjudication panel’s task in the Junior class was exceptionally difficult, given that all 14 sang so well and with such clear diction. They will all be mentioned in the full ‘Cranleighan’ review but the prize winners were, in third, Nell Mitchell for an unusually swift but dramatically characterful rendition of Madeleine Dring’s wonderful Betjeman setting, ‘Song of a Nightclub Proprietress’. Second was Bethany Porter in an atmospheric but pure performance of ‘The Silver Swan’ by Orlando Gibbons: she pitched some very tricky intervals superbly. First prize went to Fayruz Mediche, whose big sound got ‘Summertime’ off to a sensational start, and she was not afraid to take risks in achieving a really idiomatic Gershwin style with a light transatlantic tang to the vowels.
The Senior section began with the magnificent tenor voice of Tom Going in Ireland’s ‘Sea Fever’: his control of tone was immaculate and his diction impeccable. The other two singers who will join Tom in the final (March 21st) are Tim Ayling, whose lighter tenor was tested by Tosti but whose communication won over the judges; and Phoebe Bagge who sang effortlessly as Paris in the opening aria of the rarely performed Gluck opera ‘Paride ed Elena’. Not only was I astonished by Phoebe’s breath control and consistent beauty of sound, it was a performance that helped me, for the first time, understand why Berlioz venerated Gluck’s music. Space allows me to mention one more of the seven seniors: Cathy Hobbs as Purcell’s Dido used her remarkably mature voice to create a remarkably dramatic mood, as if we were sitting in the opera house rather than the concert hall.