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The Handel Singing Competition 2007

St George’s Church, Hanover Square

Semi-Final & Final Rounds – 16 & 23 April 2007 

1st Prize – Derek Welton

2nd Prize – Christopher Ainslie

Audience Prize – Anna Devin

Accompanists Prize - Asako Ogawa 

This is a 3-stage competition, with all-Handel programmes required throughout and prizes £1000 to £200.  By the time the public were admitted for the semi-final, the original 90 entrants had been whittled down to 16, but even with only a quarter of an hour being allocated to each, a marathon evening of listening was in store.   Sadness at the withdrawal of the only tenor Eamonn Mulhall, who had had extra repertoire added to a programme he was preparing for RTE, was tinged with relief for the time gained.   

Both harpsichord and piano were made available for accompanists (both were in approximately in equal demand) and under the rules instrumentalists other than keyboard players are also welcome (none on this occasion were in evidence). A recitative and two arias were required, one of which must be in English. Inevitably, there was some duplication of choice, but the evening melded into a very enjoyable concert, at the end of which the adjudicators were commendably prompt in announcing their choice of 6 singers for the final. 

So, the competition re-convened in celebratory mood a week later with church be-decked for St Georgestide. This time the London Handel Orchestra were on the platform with Lawrence Cummings directing, and what an evening of music it proved!    

Whilst the jury were adjudicating the audience were kept busy filling in their voting slips, comparing notes in an obviously contended buzz of excitement.  

In summing up, Chairman of the Jury Ian Partridge confirmed that they had found all the singing to be of a very high class.   Their judgement was based on the finer details: variety, communication, phrasing, ornamentation, above all a relationship with Handel and affinity for his style. I noted that the winners chosen by the jury were the two finalists who had taken part in Masterclasses with Michael Chance earlier in the Festival – coaching obviously well absorbed. 

Winner of the first prize was Derek Welton a 24 year old Australian baritone with a commanding presence and a big voice (still a little closed and lacking in flexibility to my mind, but that will come with time) and certainly able to imply even further reserves of power than he used.  His programme focused on oratorio in English, carefully paced to make every word tell.   

Second prize went to countertenor Christopher Ainslie, who is one of those singers who comes onto the platform looking as though he is pleased to be there and can’t wait to share his singing with the audience.  He has a lovely creamy voice and good breath control, amply demonstrated in his opening piece, Ombra mai fu.  Arias from Orlando and Tamerlano followed, clear, accurate and well characterised. 

Irish soprano Anna Devin gave a much more confident performance than she had in the semis, and with everything going well she could relax, enjoying herself and reaching out to the audience – it worked and they voted her the audience prize. 

Joana Seara offered the most varied programme with works in four languages.  Her recitatives were commendably clear and she managed the tongue-twister repetition of words in Suscitans a terra inopen with aplomb.  She followed up with a spirited performance Cleopatra’s Se pieta and acted every bit as well as she sang. 

Mezzo Julia Riley showed off a glowing, well rounded voice.  She sings with complete sincerity, making As with rosy steps a most appropriate choice.    

Serena Fenwick 


Ian Partridge (Chairman);  Michael Chance;  Catherine Denley;  Lindsay Kemp;  Stephen Roberts 


Julia Riley – mezzo soprano

Gillian Ramm – soprano

Joana Seara – soprano  

Semi - Finalists

Lina Markeby –soprano;  Emmanuelle De Negrisoprano;  Sarah Moule - soprano

William Townend – baritone;  Rhona McKail – soprano;  Suzanne Lommier – mezzo soprano

Alexandra Rawohl – mezzo soprano;  Karolina Gorgol – soprano;  Andrew Radley - countertenor

Eamonn Mulhall – tenor (withdrew)