This competition is held biennially at the London Welsh Centre (“Y Canolfan”) at Gray’s Inn Road in central London. It is open to promising singers who must be aged under thirty and with strong Welsh connections, either from Wales, of Welsh descent or studying in Wales. They compete for cash prizes as well as the prestige of winning.
A small band of members made their way there by car to be joined by others already up in town. We met up in the large lounge bar upstairs for drinks and platters of sandwiches before making our way into the small concert hall for the main event.
Six outstanding young singers had made it through to the evening’s final round. They included Rhiannon Llewellyn, who many members will remember for entertaining us so well at the Society’s St David’s Day Dinner back in 2014.The three previous competitions were all won by young men but unusually on this occasion the finalists were two mezzo-sopranos and four sopranos. But what beautiful voices we enjoyed. Each sang three pieces including one song in Welsh. Every member of the audience had been given a voting slip to choose our own favourite based on the singing of the Welsh song, which singer would win the Audience Prize.
As the judges retired to make their decisions, we were entertained by the winner in the “best newcomer” category. This was a young baritone, Lukasz Karauda. A native of Poland, he is a recent graduate from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
We all agreed how difficult it was to judge the overall winner, yet all of us voted for Carly Owen to receive our “Audience Prize”. This Soprano from Bangor duly won not only the Audience Prize but the overall First Prize too. Our very own Rhiannon Llewellyn, who went to school in Chalfont St Peter, won the second prize; with third place going to Celine Forrest, who featured in the final of the BBC Cardiff Young Singer of the World competition on TV in June this year.
Afterwards we were invited to retire to the bar once more to enjoy a drink with bara-brith and welsh-cakes. This gave us the opportunity to chat to the contestants. Rhiannon told her fellow contestants how much she had enjoyed singing for our Welsh Society last year. She is now married and an “Army wife” living in Germany. Celine Forrest had been scheduled to sing at our 2016 St David’s Day Dinner but apologised that she couldn’t now make it due to sponsor commitments. However she assured us charmingly that her replacement is just as good! If so we are in for another treat on March 1st.