Shropshire Star

Soprano Rachel wows judges to win Voice of Black Opera Awards

Soprano Rachel Duckett is the winner of the finals of the prestigious Voice of Black Opera Awards held at Birmingham Town Hall.

Rachel Duckett

She walked away with £10,000 top prize including the Sir Willard White Trophy, along with coaching with the Welsh National Opera and a concert appearance with its orchestra.

Rachel Duckett

Miss Duckett, from London, was the overall winner.

While South African tenor Thando Mjandana was awarded £5,000 and the Samuel Coleridge Taylor Award along with three forthcoming performances of new work with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Thando Mjandana

The Coleridge award was presented to the singer who delivered the best performance of a contemporary song by a black or south Asian composer.

Black British Classical Foundation founder Vincent Osborne said: "The award-winning interpretations we saw from Rachel Duckett and Thando Mjandana were truly riveting.

"Through their passionate and committed performances at the final and throughout the whole competition process, all of our finalists and semifinalists have eloquently espoused the cause of greater diversity and inclusion on our stages. I have no doubt that each of them will continue to inspire us for many years to come."

The pair beat off three other finalists at the ceremony giving performances accompanied by the Welsh National Opera Orchestra conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren.

Rachel Duckett

Each performed in clothing and jewellery designed by students of Birmingham City University.

Composer Tom Randle, of the judging panel, said: "It was a spectacular evening and a very hard decision, like choosing between oranges and apples.

"Every one of the singers was a worthy and deserving winner. In the end it came down to those special, indefinable qualities, listening out for something new, something different - the voice that astonishes and surprises."

Other panellists were Welsh National Opera general director Aidan Lang, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group director Stephan Meier, tenor Jean Ronald La Fond, writer Rupert Christiansen and composers Philip Herbert and Odaline de la Martinez.

The competition saw 12 singers chosen via video auditions open to singers from Commonwealth countries take part in semi-finals held in Birmingham and participate in two weeks of intensive professional development workshops, rehearsals and a masterclass, leading to Monday's grand final concert.

Black British Classical Foundation was set up to address classical music's under-representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

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