© Chris Christodoulou
The composer George Frideric Handel was known to encourage and train young, unestablished singers, many of whom rose to fame as his star soloists. We continue Handel’s great tradition of nurturing talent through our Handel Singing Competition, which is presented as part of the annual London Handel Festival. The competition was inaugurated in 2002 with Ian Partridge and James Bowman as the first adjudicators, and has grown to become a major international singing event, attracting over 170 applicants from 25 countries all over the world in 2019.
The calibre is demonstrated by past winners and finalists who have gone on to become internationally recognised soloists, not just in the baroque music field, and give regular appearances in the world’s leading opera houses. They include Iestyn Davies, Lucy Crowe, Grace Davidson, Tim Mead, Christopher Ainslie, Rupert Charlesworth and Ruby Hughes.
All singers are required to present all-Handel programmes. The Competition comprises a First Round, where the singers are heard live or can submit sound or video files, followed by a Semi-Final of approximately 12 singers which is open to the public, and the Final, held at St George’s, Hanover Square, when five or six singers are accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra, conducted by Laurence Cummings. St George’s is in the heart of London’s Mayfair, where Handel lived, and the church is where he worshipped.
As well as cash prizes and the chance to work with a professional baroque orchestra, one of the key benefits of getting through to the semi-finals and finals is the increased profile, through significant press and promoter interest, which leads to numerous engagements; this has been the vehicle through which they have been able to build their professional careers. All finalists are also offered recitals and roles in future London Handel Festivals and in recent years the winners of the first and second prizes have been invited to give recitals at the Handel Festival in Halle, Germany and the New Walk Museum in Leicester.