The final of the Helen Wareham Competition is a highlight of the individual performance aspect of the musical life of the school. The seventeen performers on show this term won through from the five instrumental category competitions spread throughout the year, and it was within these sections that we heard these highly talented individuals. This year’s external adjudicator was Mr Jonathan Newell, ex-Director of Music at Brasenose College, Oxford.

In the Woodwind category, Joshua Wilson-Khanna (flute), Bethany Porter (recorder) and Ellen Talbot (clarinet) all showed what very accomplished performers they are becoming, but it was to Fayruz Megdiche (oboe) that the prize was awarded for a technical tour-de-force in York Bowen’s virtuosic sonata. Fayruz also showed the broad range of her musical talents by also appearing in the Piano and Vocal categories.

The Vocal category is always hard-fought with so many excellent singers in the school. Even to be chosen for the Final is a remarkableHelen Wareham Winners 2016_26124 accomplishment in itself. Along with Fayruz’s poignant aria from La Bohème, Victoria Parker gave a fine ‘Where corals lie’ from Elgar’s Sea Pictures. It was to Theo Golden, however, that Mr Newell awarded the prize, and few were surprised. Theo performed  Howells’ exquisite King David with all the artistry and beauty of tone we have come to expect from this exciting young countertenor with undoubtedly a great future ahead of him.

The strength of the Strings had already made it impossible for the internal adjudicators of the original competition to only put three through to the final. The audience were therefore treated to four extremely accomplished performances of very different repertoire. Deescha Chandrasma (cello) showed what a fine and subtle musician she is becoming in her subtle Baroque phrase-shaping and Olivia Chesser (violin) dazzled with a range of techniques in a striking contemporary work by James MacMillan. It is fortunate that the talented sisters Ellen and Zoë Dixon (violin, cello repectively) have such friendly rivalry as they both excelled in major pieces of Romantic repertoire. The prize went to Ellen for a passionate and exciting account of the last movement of Franck’s A major Sonata.

Brass was represented by Christian Oldfield (trumpet) and two French Horn players in Eva Solt and Ed Walshe. All three performances had their considerable merits but Eva Solt won the prize for her subtle control of the slow movement from Gordon Jacob’s Concerto for Horn and Strings.

The final three performers, all pianists and all notable for their technical and musical accomplishments, did not disappoint. Alice Simmonds demonstrated a real sense of line and a varied tonal palette in her voicing of an Alwyn Prelude and Fugue and Fayruz Megdiche’s evoked Sinding’s Rustle of Spring with great detail. Krzysztof Widera won the prize for performing the music of his fellow countryman Chopin with understanding of the pianistic style need for this composer.

Mr Newell rightly praised the excellence of the evening and thanked in particular Richard Saxel for his superb coaching and accompanying. Mr Newell commented that it had been “a rich and satisfying evening of music making at an extremely high level”.

Marcus Pashley
Director of Music