The last of the performance rounds of this year’s Helen Wareham performance competitions took place on Friday 5th February with the Vocal Performance Competition. The overall strength of the Vocal Studies department has rarely been higher than this year, with twenty-four individual competitors making for an evening of high quality singing in a packed auditorium. It fell to the adjudication panel of Marcus Pashley (Director of Cranleigh Music), Catherine Beddison (Head of Prep School Music) and David Futcher (Head of Music Technology) and a keen and able singer himself, to make the difficult final decisions.

In the Junior Class, as Mr Pashley pointed out in his adjudication, there was real communication and attention to detail from all, with manyHelen Wareham Vocalist Winners 2016_25439 having come on in leaps and bounds vocally from last year. Bea Pakenham-Walsh, Caitlin York and Freddie Coates showed very considerable strengthening of their tone and greater confidence in performance. Imogen Shepherd, Kate Wili and Emma Grainger chose challenging repertoire by Marcello, Mozart and Gilbert & Sullivan and brought their arias to life splendidly. It was, however, to Ben Wili (3rd Prize), Maya Magee (2nd Prize) and Tabz Francis (Winner) that the accolades were finally given. Although Ben is still getting used to his new baritone voice there are already glimpses of the quality to come and, of course, much natural musicianship. Maya was confident and musical as ever in a delightful Caro mio ben. However, Tabz gave a dazzling display of crisp articulation and communicative confidence in Carissimi’s Vittoria, vittoria! which deservedly won her first prize.

The Senior Class, as we have happily come to expect, yielded some stunningly accomplished performances of some big vocal repertoire fromHelen Wareham Vocalist Winners 2016_25437 Bach to Howells, and on the lighter side from Showboat to Anything Goes! Too many to mention individually, but after much thought the adjudicators put through to the final Fayruz Megdiche, Victoria Parker and Theo Golden for three very different but equally moving vocal portrayals. Fayruz tackled Mimi’s great Act I aria from Puccini’s La Boheme with style and passion, rising superbly and seemingly effortlessly to the romantic climaxes. Theo’s choice of Howells’ song for counter-tenor King David was perfect for him and he brought a great sense of atmosphere and vocal beauty to this wonderful piece. Victoria Parker showed a wide tonal palette, clarity of diction and understanding in ‘Where Corals Lie’ from Elgar’s beautiful song-cycle Sea Pictures.

As always, huge thanks must go to our expert vocal teachers: Graham Wili, Kathryn Harries, Adrian Goss and Birgit Rohowsky for enabling their pupils to give such high quality performances and, as ever, to Richard Saxel and Philip Scriven, the accompanists.

Marcus Pashley