That singing is in rude, not to say refined, good health at Shrewsbury School is abundantly clear from the 45 boys and girls who entered the Singing Prize competitions held last Sunday, accompanied by Susie Allen and John Moore. With the school, like much of the rest of the country, bound fast in winter snow and ice, there was some doubt until the last moment whether the judges Dan Ludford-Thomas and Rebecca Ledgard would be able to get to the school, but they were not to be deterred, and the small but appreciative audiences for the three sections of the competition were treated not only to a feast of song but masterclass adjudication of the highest order, as so many styles of song were included in the programme. What mesmerises this reviewer when seeing young people sing, is how innate musicality ‘will out’. Boys and girls who would never normally be seen dead listening to Finzi, Elgar and Schubert songs sing them with intense feeling and evident enjoyment. This is of course partly the genius of our superb singing teachers, Kathryn Turpin and Jonathan May whose inspirational teaching is more than anything else responsible for the astonishing number of young singers at the school.
It was clear from the moment the Junior Section started that we were in for a feast. Appropriately enough, Ned Pring started us off with the ‘The lads in their hundreds’ from Butterworth’s poignant setting of poems from A E Housman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’ and we proceeded via nightingales in Berkeley Square (of which we heard three during the course of the evening), Fauré, traditional English folksong (‘O Waly, Waly’ – sung unaccompanied with courage and aplomb by Ben Higgins) to Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ beautifully sung by Erika Osade, which rounded off this section. The 13 singers waited for the judges to reach a decision, and after a judicial tour de force in which each singer was given the succinctest possible mini-masterclass, prizes went as follows:
Ist prize – George Holder (Ch)
2nd prize - Daniel Powell (Ch)
3rd prize – Alfred Mitchell (SH)
Highly commended: Imogen Richardson (MSH), Tammy Wong (MSH)
Commended: Ned Pring (SH)
A break for lunch for the judges and the Intermediate Section followed in the early afternoon. Sixteen singers in this section. The first singer, Poppy Crowe set the standard with a wonderfully fresh and moving performance of ‘Homeward Bound’, which had my eyes pricking for one. An even greater range of styles was represented in this section: songs from musicals by Lloyd Webber and Sondheim interpreted by Katie Williams, Harry Al Adwani and Rob Shone, Jamie Nugent singing Mumford and Sons’ ‘Lover’s eyes’, a marvellous and smoky performance of ‘Misty’ by Connie Osborne, Will Hargreaves accompanying himself with competent cool, totally absorbed by his song, Nick Entwisle with a beautifully shaped and passionate performance of ‘On the street where you live’ from the evergreen ‘My Fair Lady’, the whole section winding up with Ed Carroll singing a traditional American folk song ‘The Erie Canal’.
An even more difficult adjudication this one, but after much deliberation the judges announced the following prizes, accompanied by much nodding of heads in the audience:
1st prize – Nick Entwisle (SH)
2nd prize – Harry Al Adwani (SH)
3rd prize – Henry Craig (M)
Highly commended – Awen Blandford (EDH), Jamie Nugent (SH)
Commended – Will Hargreaves (SH), Connie Osborne (MSH), Isabelle Codron (EDH)
And finally to the Senior Section, where once again an impressive range of styles and voices was on offer, including promising young counter-tenor Jonti Binns in Purcell’s ‘If music be the food of love’. We were treated to Italian Lyricism by Teresa Fawcett-Wood, classical opera by Sienna Holmes, Lieder by Laurence Jeffcoate, Tom Lloyd and Moritz Bensel, more Sondheim, Gershwin – an astonishing tour de force by Ali Webb, this time unprotected by his piano but as always totally in command of his audience, and much else. The evening finished in lighter mood with Rory Fraser’s calculatedly self-deprecating Berkeley Square nightingale and Will Heyes’s decidedly sinister Madeira-fuelled dinner-and-afters as immortalised by Flanders and Swann.
More difficult deliberation resulted in prizes being awarded as follows:
1st prize – Sam Ansloos (G)
2nd prize – Teresa Fawcett Wood (EDH)
3rd prize – Ali Webb (S)
Highly commended – Rob Cross (S), Sienna Holmes (EDH), Will Heyes (Ch)
Commended - Laurence Jeffcoate (Ch)
Most entertaining performer (boy) – Will Heyes (Ch)
Most entertaining performer (girl) – Sienna Holmes (EDH)