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Talented students impress in Rotary Young Musician competition at Bishop's Stortford College

Winners, from left, Justin Man, Harry Collier-Smith, Olivia Rnjak and Henry Y-R Li (9548197)
Winners, from left, Justin Man, Harry Collier-Smith, Olivia Rnjak and Henry Y-R Li (9548197)

A 14-year-old pianist beat older instrumentalists and singers to win Bishop's Stortford's Rotary Young Musician crown.

Justin Man, a student at Bishop's Stortford College, the competition venue, gave an inspiring performance of Polonaise in C-sharp minor by Chopin to win his intermediate age group. The three adjudicators agreed his unusually mature and perceptive performance warranted the overall title too.

The 2019 competition attracted around 120 talented youngsters who either go to school or live in the Bishop's Stortford area. It was held at the College for the fifth successive year.

The 15 winners from the five classes – piano, woodwind, strings, brass and vocal – in each of three age groups – senior, intermediate and junior – held during the day took part in an evening winners' concert.

They were performing in the hope of winning their age group and being chosen as Young Musician (Instrumentalist) or Young Vocalist of the Year 2019.

After outstanding performances, the three adjudicators – Florian Mitrea (piano), Nathan Williamson (strings and woodwind) and Richard Balcombe (vocal and brass) – had a near impossible task to choose the winners.

Junior winner was Henry Y-R Li, an 11-year-old pianist from New Hall School, Chelmsford, who lives in Little Hallingbury, who performed to a standard well above his years. He played a Chopin waltz – Valse in C sharp Minor Op.64 No.2 – and Ridicolosamente by Prokofiev.

Harry Collier-Smith, 16, a saxophonist from The Bishop's Stortford High School, was the senior winner with brilliant performances of Beebe by Jimmy Dorsey and Aria by Bozza.

The Young Vocalist award went to Olivia Rnjak, 12, a student at Hockerill Anglo European College, who sang I'd Give My Life For You from Miss Saigon, by Schoenberg and Boublil, and I'm Not Afraid of Anything from Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown.

Justin and Olivia go forward, in February 2020, to the Rotary District 1240 Young Musician final in Chelmsford Cathedral. Success there and subsequent success in the regional final can lead to places in the Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) Young Musician final, competing against young performers from all over the UK and Ireland.

A winner from the Bishop's Stortford competition – most recently, Herts and Essex High School singer Madelaine McCarthy – has reached the national final in three of the last four years, which demonstrates the standard achieved.

Next year's Stortford Rotary Young Musician contest will take place on April 25. Entry is open to anyone aged 18 or under on the date of competition and living in, or in full-time education in, postcodes CM21, 22, 23 and 24.

Although there are likely to be high standards of performance among participants, Rotary also wishes to encourage entries from young instrumentalists and singers at the start of their musical journeys who will benefit from the experience of performing and from sympathetic and positive adjudication. To be added to the mailing list, contact margaretwebb01@gmail.com.

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