HCO SINGER OF THE YEAR COMPETITION 2023
in collaboration with
Following the semi-finals and finals held on 19 November at Bournemouth University, we are delighted to announce the winners of this year's competition:
From left: Lynton Atkinson, Scott Cooper (judge), Sue Spence (judge), Armand Rabot, Myrna Tennant, Francesca Lauri (pianist), Holly Teague, Duncan Stenhouse, Paul Chilvers (pianist) and Michael Chance CBE (judge)
Nigel Beale Grange Festival First Prize - £2000
Anthony Lowrey Audience Prize - £500
and Wendy Blamire Award* - £300
Roger Higgins Second Prize - £1000
Rosalind Armstrong Prize - £750
Sarah Harrison Prize - £500
*The Wendy Blamire Award is given for outstanding linguistic and artistic commitment to text in at least two European languages other than English.
About the competition
Inaugurated in 2018, the HCO Singer of the Year Competition provides an important platform for young vocal talent. Selected prizewinners perform in recital and opera with us, and all entrants may be considered for future opportunities. Details of previous competitions, including lists of prizewinners, are given in the year tabs under HCO Competition, above.
For the second year running, we were delighted to collaborate with The Grange Festival. As well as being invited to perform with Hurn Court Opera, the winner of the 2023 Nigel Beale Grange Festival First Prize was entitled to the offer of a contract in The Grange Festival Chorus in 2024, subject to a sufficient standard having been reached. We are most grateful to our colleagues at The Grange Festival for this valued association, which expands the range of opportunities we can give to young singers.
Judging the semi-finals and finals were Michael Chance CBE, CEO and Artistic Director, The Grange Festival; Sue Spence, Director of Askonas Holt arts management company and Scott Cooper, Director of Artistic Administration, The Grange Festival. The competition accompanists were Paul Chilvers and Francesca Lauri.
Armand Rabot (centre), winner of the Nigel Beale Grange Festival First Prize, the Anthony Lowrey Audience Prize and the Wendy Blamire Award celebrates with Nigel Beale (left) and Anthony Lowrey (right)
Winner Armand Rabot receives his certificates from Chair of Jurors, Michael Chance, watched by Scott Cooper
The 2023 finals day story
Following assessment of 70 first-round online submissions by director of Hurn Court Opera productions Joy Robinson, and composer Philip Curran, eight semi-finalists had been selected:
Stephanie Hershaw - soprano
Morgen Michel - countertenor
Armand Rabot - baritone
Duncan Stenhouse - bass
Holly Teague - soprano
Bethan Terry - soprano
Myrna Tennant - mezzo soprano
Despite three semi-finalists sadly having to drop out due to illness - Daniel and Morgen before the day, and Stephanie part way through her semi-finals' performance - the judges put forward five excellent singers to the final stage: Armand Rabot, Duncan Stenhouse, Holly Teague, Bethan Terry and Myrna Tennant.
Each competitor delivered a 20-minute programme consisting of contrasting repertoire chosen by the finalist. Apart from limiting repetition between rounds, the singer had considerable freedom in their selections. The result was fascinating and engaging range of music.
By common consent, the standard of performances this year was among the highest in the competition's history, a sentiment echoed by the judging panel.
In the final adjudication, Michael Chance, Chair of Jurors, highlighted the three criteria used by the panel in reaching their decisions. First, choice of repertoire: choosing music suited to the tessitura of the individual's voice. Second, communication: ensuring that the song or aria was delivered with conviction, arresting the audience. Finally, text: employing full intention in the voicing of every vowel and consonant. On all these counts the finalists had been impressive.
Michael Chance, Chair of Jurors (left), delivers the adjudiction on behalf of his fellow judges Scott Cooper (centre) and Sue Spence (right)
Prizewinners and prize donors
Armand Rabot with Wendy Atkinson, donor of the Wendy Blamire Award, given for outstanding linguistic and artistic commitment to text
Myrna Tennant (right) with Rosalind Armstrong, donor of the Rosalind Armstrong Prize
Holly Teague, winner of the Roger Higgins Second Prize celebrating with prize donor Roger Higgins
Duncan Stenhouse (centre) with Judy and Richard Haes, donors of the Sarah Harrison Prize, awarded for the first time in 2023
We are deeply grateful to the judges for their careful and kind consideration of the competitors, and for sharing so generously their time and expertise during the finals day.
To the prize donors, as ever, we are hugely indebted. Their generosity in making available these awards is immense and on behalf of the singers, we extend our most sincere thanks.
We thank the pianists, Paul Chilvers and Francesca Lauri for their sensitive and expert playing, which most ably supported the singers.
Thank you too to Ian Davis and the staff of Bournemouth University for your kind helpfulness in giving us the use of your excellent facilities to host this event.
Above all, we thank all the singers who entered the competition. Your contributions have all been greatly appreciated. We wish you well with your future careers, and look forward to hearing you again in the future.