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Voices of the Future: Vocal Award Winners at the Wigmore Hall (ME)

Anna Leese: First Prize winner

Jackdaws Music Education Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2006 Jackdaws Great Elm Vocal Award, the finals for which were held at the Wigmore Hall on Saturday 7 October 2006.  Sponsors included the Worshipful Company of Musicians and Ludmilla Andrew. These prestigious awards have now been running for 13 years, 2006 being the first year that the finals were held at the Wigmore Hall.  Previous prize-winners who have gone on to receive much acclaim include Sarah Fox, Andrew Kennedy, Christopher Maltman, Kate Royal and James Rutherford.

Ten singers were selected from the preliminary rounds and the quality of their singing was exceptional.  The panel of judges, Ludmilla Andrew, David Owen Norris, Neal Davies and Maureen Lehane, commented, ‘"despite the very high standard, making our job very difficult, we are unanimous in our choice of winners."

There were four prize-winners.  The first prize of £2,000 was awarded to the soprano, Anna Leese who the judges praised for having "a very lovely and distinctive voice; great musicality, and detailed attention to the presentation of both the music and the words."

From New Zealand, Anna has recently completed the RCM Benjamin Britten Opera course, and studies with Enid Hartle in London.  Whilst living in New Zealand she won the 2003 McDonalds Aria Scholarship in Sydney, held in the Sydney Opera House.  Since moving to London she has won the 2004 Royal Overseas League Vocal competition, and the 2006 John Warner Memorial Award.

Anna's oratorio credits include Mendlessohn's Elijah, Bach's St John Passion, Handel's Messiah, Faure's Requiem; and Mahler's Second Symphony with Bernard Haitink.  Operatic roles include Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo with the Auckland Opera Studio; Female Chorus in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, Fiordiligi in Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, and Rosalinde in Strauss's Die Fledermaus, all for the Benjamin Britten Opera School; and Juliette in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette with British Youth Opera.  She has performed the role of Tamiri in Mozart's Il re Pastore at the Linbury theatre; Fiordiligi with the Classical Opera Company; and Donna Anna in excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni with the London Mozart Players under Andrew Parrot.  During 2006, Anna has performed in a Mozart Prom with SCO and Sir Roger Norrington; has understudied at the Royal Opera House, and sang the role of Michaela in Bizet's Carmen.  Future engagements include a solo recital at Wigmore Hall, further roles at the Royal Opera House, and a CD recording as part of EMI’s debut series in early 2007.

The second prize-winner was Erica Eloff, who was awarded £1,000.  The South African soprano holds a B.Mus degree and post graduate diploma in performance [Cum Laude] from the North-West University, South Africa.  She is currently studying with Lillian Watson

As soloist Erica has performed with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa and the former National Chamber Orchestra (South Africa). Her oratorio and operatic repertoire and roles include Bach Johannes Passion, Beethoven Missa Solemnis, Haydn The Creation, Mozart Coronation Mass and Exsultate, jubilate, and the Requiem’s of Brahms, Fauré, Rutter and Martin Watt.  She has sung Adina (L’elisir d’amore) Queen of the Night (Magic Flute)) and Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte). In the future Erica will be performing The Messiah from Scratch with the Really Big Chorus under Sir David Wilcocks (Royal Albert Hall; 3 December 2006), The Magic Flute and the Broomstick for Wigmore Hall (8 & 9 December 2006), Messiah with the Royal Choral Society (Royal Albert Hall; 6 April 20007) and Fiordiligi for Garsington opera in 2008.

Anna Devin won the £500 third prize.  Anna, a soprano based in
Dublin, has been a Young Associate Artist with the Opera Theatre Company, Dublin, where her roles included Damigella in the Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea.  In August 2006, she participated in the Young Artist Programme at Aldeburgh Proms, performing in Purcell’s King Arthur, conducted by Laurence Cummings.  In 2007, Anna intends continue her post-graduate training in London.

The Jackdaws Great Elm Vocal Awards also awards an accompanist’s prize of £750.  This year the winner was Mark Nixon, of whom David Owen Norris remarked was a true accompanist; listening all time to his soloist, and supporting her with outstanding musicality.

Mark is a graduate of the University of Cape Town, University of South Africa (UNISA), the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.  From 2000 – 2002 he was the Anthony Saltmarsh Junior Fellow at the Royal College of Music.  He has received many awards, including first prize in the Nederburg-UNISA National Piano Competition in 1998.  In 1999 he won the Guildhall School's Schubert and Ireland Prizes, and the accompanist's prize in the English Singers and Speakers Union Song Competition in London, and in 2000 was selected a 'Young Concert Artist' of the National Federation of Music Societies in the United Kingdom.

Mark has performed as concert soloist with all the South African orchestras, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. As solo recitalist and pianist-accompanist he has appeared extensively in South Africa as well as at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and Linbury Theatre in London. Engagements have included concerts in Holland, France, Britain and recital tours of South Africa in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Mark is a founding member of ‘Ensemble Hans Gal’, which will be touring South Africa in August 2007.  He currently teaches at Kings College School, Wimbledon.


The Awards are organised by Jackdaws Music Education Trust, founded by former international mezzo-soprano Maureen Lehane Wishart.  Jackdaws aims to bring classical music to the widest possible audience.  In addition to the annual Vocal Awards, Jackdaws promotes concerts with leading musicians, such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; provides instrument-specific weekend courses for adults and children, and runs community based outreach projects.



Melanie Eskenazi



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)