L-R: Samuel Sakker, Rowan Pierce, Božidar Smiljanic
Rowan Pierce wins inaugural Grange Festival International Singing Competition10:40, 2nd October 2017
Soprano Rowan Pierce won first prize at the inaugural Grange Festival International Singing Competition. She receives £7,500 and a role in a future production at the Grange Festival.
Pierce also won the song prize, worth £2,500, for her performance of Mendelssohn’s Die Liebende Schreibt in the semi-finals. An alumna of the Royal College of Music, the 27-year-old is a Samling Artist and was part of the first cohort of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Rising Stars scheme.
Tenor Samuel Sakker won second prize and bass-baritone Božidar Smiljanić was awarded third prize; both received cash prizes of £5,000 and £2,500 respectively, and will appear in future productions at the Grange Festival. Sakker also won the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Prize.
The other finalists, Katie Coventry, Sam Furness, and Dominic Sedgwick, each won £1,000. Sedgewick won the audience prize (worth £2,000), and his pianist Ceri Owen received the accompanist award.
The final round of the competition took place on 24 September, with the singers accompanied by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Peter Robinson. Members of the jury included Dame Felicity Palmer, Michael Chance, Roger Vignoles, and Jonathan Groves.
Michael Chance, artistic director of the Grange Festival, praised Pierce’s ‘beautifully balanced programme’, adding: ‘The judges felt that hers was the most accomplished performance. She dazzled in effortless, nuanced coloratura in an aria from Handel’s Semele, chose Mozart’s famous concert aria “Vado, ma dove?” – which perfectly suited her well-projected, unforced sound – and moved us all in the surprising choice of Finzi’s “Dies Natalis” in which so much of Thomas Traherne’s luminous text of wide-eyed innocence glistened.
He continued: ‘We were blessed with six young singers all at the start of successful careers and all capable of making the audience feel that they would wish to be nowhere else in the world at that moment than listening and watching them.’