Classical singer hits a high note

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By Western Gazette - North Dorset | Thursday, October 27, 2011, 08:00

A YOUNG opera singer from Castle Cary has beat off competition from seven other aspiring classical singers to win first prize in the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards.

Mezzo Soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons, 25, studied at the University of Birmingham in 2007 and is now in her second year of postgraduate vocal training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the tuition of Marilyn Rees.

Marta won the top prize of £2,000 at the event, held at London's Wigmore Hall on Friday.

Established by Jackdaws Music Education Trust in 1993 and renamed in memory of the organisation's founder who died last year, the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards are acknowledged as a major opportunity for young singers aged between 22 and 30 years to compete at international level and perform in one of the UK's most prestigious venues.

Entrants had to perform classical works from composers Peter Wishart and George Frederic Handel, plus one of their own choosing.

The final's judging panel, chaired by Jackdaws Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg comprised distinguished singers Sarah Walker CBE, James Bowman CBE and acclaimed accompanist Roger Vignoles.

Mr Bowman said: "The standard of this year's finalists has been exceptionally high and choosing an eventual winner from such an impressive array of talent was a real challenge.

"We congratulate all the entrants for delivering such outstanding performances today."

Previous award winners who are now forging successful singing careers include Christopher Maltman, Mary Nelson, Sarah Fox, Andrew Kennedy, Anna Devin and Ruth Jenkins.

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