The winners of a major new competition, hosted by the Northern Aldborough Festival, for the UK’s best classical vocal talent have been announced.
The New Voices Singing Competition, was judged by a distinguished panel, featuring one of Britain’s best-loved sopranos, Dame Felicity Lott, who announced the winners on the night.
Four finalists performed live at the grand finale of the New Voices Competition on Wednesday 21 June at St Andrew’s Church in the north Yorkshire village of Aldborough. The four were whittled down from eight semi-finalists.
Winners of the top prize – the Seastock Trust Prize of £5,000 – were mezzo-soprano Lea Shaw with Kristina Yorgova on piano. The pair were also awarded The Audience Prize of £500.
Lea Shaw graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a Masters in Opera and was a Scottish Opera Emerging Artist (2021-2023).
Bulgarian pianist Kristina Yorgova is a Master’s student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where she won the Bach Prize, and was a winner at the 23rd National Svetoslav Obretenov Competition in Bulgaria.
Judges praised their programme which included a ‘stunningly sung’ performance of Purcell’s Music for a While, Korngold’s Mond so gehst du wieder auf, and the traditional spiritual, Deep River, creating a ‘hushed audience atmosphere’.
The Yorkshire Music Future Fund second prize of £1500, went to soprano Alexandra Beason, with Ilan Kurtser on piano.
Alexandra has a postgraduate place and scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, and a BMus in Music Performance. She recently made her recording debut under the baton of Barbara Hannigan, and performed at Opera Holland Park.
Ilan Kurtser graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel-Aviv. He is a Leeds Lieder Young Artist and the winner of the two major accompaniment prizes at the Royal Academy of Music.
Judges praised their programme for a ‘beautiful’ set of Rachmaninov songs from the Six Romances Opus 38, and Oscar’s aria from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.
The other two finalists were Victoria Mulley, a late edition to the semi-finals, and soprano Georgie Malcolm, who performed with pianist Edward Campbell-Rowntree.
Robert Ogden, Artistic Director of the Northern Aldborough Festival, said: “It was a tightly fought contest. Alongside the remarkable winners, I’d like to congratulate Victoria Mulley, who wowed the audience and judges with an a cappella performance of folk songs and her own compositions. Georgie Malcolm and Edward Campbell-Rowntree also impressed with a thoughtfully planned programme around the theme of making music, with a particularly beautiful performance of Schubert’s song An Die Musik.”
As part of the prize, winners have an opportunity to perform at festivals including Leeds Lieder, Newbury Spring Festival, Ryedale Festival, Music@Malling, as well as the Northern Aldborough Festival itself.
The competition was open to solo singers and ensembles, aged 21-32 years-old. It aims to celebrate classical vocalism in all its forms.
The distinguished judges represented the worlds of opera, song, and choral music. Judges included the artistic director of The Early Opera Company, Christian Curnyn, director of Leeds Lieder, Joseph Middleton, and artistic director of the Northern Aldborough Festival, Robert Ogden. The panel was chaired by Sir Andrew Lawson-Tancred, chairman of the Northern Aldborough Festival.
Also on the night, Terry Bramall CBE made a short speech about the importance of nurturing young talent, and thanked the Seastock Trust for their funding and the impetus to start the competition.
The live competition was part of the programme of events for this year’s Northern Aldborough Festival, now in its 29th year and a leading fixture on the classical music calendar.
The 10-day festival which started on 15 June has featured world-class acts in the rural village, including Lucy Worsley, BBC Young Musician Matilda Lloyd, Pianist Sunwook Kim, and The Armonico Consort. The festival culminates with its popular Last Night Outdoor Concert in the grounds of Aldborough Manor on 24 June.
A charity, the Northern Aldborough Festival’s core aim is to bring exceptional music to new audiences in rural locations where it would not normally be heard.
The New Voices Competition semi-finalists attended a post-concert party at Aldborough’s late-night venue, The Shed.
Robert Ogden added: “It was refreshing to see how all the semi-finalists mingled and supported each other. It was incredibly inspiring to see such impressive young talent, and we look forward to building on this success in the years to come.”