Glyndebourne announces first winners of two new awards for young singers

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Glyndebourne has announced the winners of two new biennial awards for young singers, launched to mark 30 years since the creation of its education department.

The Gus Christie Award is for a young singer who has demonstrated outstanding vocal talent, while the Bill Weston Young Singers Award is for an exceptionally promising singer who would benefit from financial support to continue their development.

The inaugural winners were announced at a special event at Glyndebourne on Saturday 15 October, ahead of the opening of the 2016 Glyndebourne Tour production of Don Giovanni. They receive £1,000 to spend on activities to further their musical development such as private singing tuition, specialist courses, masterclasses or workshops.

The winners were selected by a jury made up of representatives from Glyndebourne and local and national music organisations.

2016 winners

Gus Christie Award

JOINT WINNERS: William Rennie and Darwin Prakash

In 2015 William Rennie, 26, originally from Cardiff, and Darwin Prakash, 23, from Delhi in India, were participants of Glyndebourne Academy, a talent development project for outstanding young singers who face barriers to following a standard path towards music college or a professional singing career.

Both discovered their singing abilities relatively late and had catching-up to do to develop their voices. Glyndebourne Academy delivers seven days of intensive instruction in vocal technique and performance to help propel participants forward in their development.

Will and Darwin were nominated by Academy tutors in light of their outstanding potential, which also stood out to the Gus Christie Award jury.

Sebastian F Schwarz, General Director of Glyndebourne, was a member of the jury and said: ‘These two singers show impressive potential, vocally and as dramatic performers. They are both disciplined workers who have demonstrated passion and commitment to their further development, and we are delighted to be supporting them through the next phase of their journeys within opera. Congratulations to them and to all those who made the shortlist.’

Joint winner of the Gus Christie Award, Darwin Prakash, said: ‘The Gus Christie Award will be a vital support as I will be in good position to apply for specialist and short-term music courses to build and improve my command of Italian and German. It will also assist me with travel and to buy myself music scores whenever needed. In the long term I really want to perform and work at the highest level.’

William Rennie said: ‘I had found it hard to fit into the opera world before, but Glyndebourne Academy seemed to be have been crafted for people who hadn’t had the ‘usual’ introduction to opera. I’ve always loved to perform, always enjoyed singing; however, it wasn’t until I began to sing opera that I felt so at home.The prize money will help me to pay for private tuition for the next year as I work towards my goal of winning a place at a conservatoire.’

Jasmine Ai Higgs and Sebastian F Schwarz

The Bill Weston Young Singers Award

WINNER: Jasmine Ai Higgs

Jasmine Ai Higgs, 16, from Hove, was introduced to Glyndebourne through a school project in 2011. She is a member of Glyndebourne Youth Opera (GYO) and has taken part in numerous performance projects, many on the main stage.

Recently Jasmine successfully auditioned for GYO Solo, a project for older members of GYO who show outstanding potential and have an interest in developing their solo voice. Since September she has been attending the Junior Department of Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

‘I love performing because there is a great feeling of adrenaline when I get up on the stage,’ Jasmine says. ‘I have started the next step in my career by attending Junior Guildhall and I plan to study hard there for the next two years so that I can attend the main school. I will spend the award money on further study and sheet music, which I may need to expand my repertoire. My main dream is to return to Glyndebourne as a professional performer.’

Throughout 2016 Glyndebourne has been celebrating 30 years since the creation of its formal education department. Formed in 1986, under the leadership of Katie Tearle, with the initial aim of complementing Glyndebourne’s touring activities, the department has expanded to deliver a year-round programme of work and is responsible for a large percentage of Glyndebourne’s new commissions.