A “sensational” young soprano won one of the main prizes at an international festival.
Sian Dicker, 26, was crowned as the International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
She was presented with the brand new Pendine Trophy and a cheque for £6,000 by Mario Kreft MBE, proprietor of the arts loving sponsor, the Pendine Park care organisation.
Sian clinched the title just ahead of Aberystwyth soprano Catrin Woodruff, 27, and Llandudno tenor Elgan Llyr Thomas, 26. The two runners up both received a cheque for £2,000.
No fewer than 18 hopefuls from around the globe took part in a preliminary competition earlier in the day.
A delighted Sian, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, said: “Just performing on that stage was such a thrill. Walking out took my breath away, it’s certainly the biggest stage and audience I have performed in front of.
“It’s the first time I’ve entered a competition such as this and I really didn’t think I could win. The standard has been really high and it’s been stiflingly hot which made it even more difficult.
“The £6,000 cheque is an enormous boost to my finances and will help me pay for my studies. I studied for academic music degree at the University of London and am now doing my Masters in Vocal Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. My one ambition is to be an opera singer.”
Sian is married to Daniel Thorne, who is head of mathematics at the Queensmead School, South Ruislip.
She said: “Sadly, he couldn’t make it to Llangollen for the competition as he was teaching all day and it’s too far to drive after work to make it on time. We live quite separate lives at the moment due to my studies but he’s my biggest fan and supporter.
“And my mum, Theresa, who is a cellist, was teaching today and couldn’t make it to Llangollen either. But I called them both and they are as thrilled as I am. What an incredible day!”
According to Eisteddfod organisers, the competition was “catapulted into a new league” and attracted a host of the world’ best young singers after Pendine Park contributed £5,000 to the total prize pot, with a further £3,000 coming from Sir Bryn Terfel’s Foundation and £2,000 from the Eisteddfod.
After watching the three stunning performances with his wife, Gill, Mario Kreft said: “The standard of performance we have witnessed was absolutely breathtaking. This is the first year of a whole new format for this competition.
“Our vision is to showcase and nurture young talent and the increased prize fund is designed to help advance their careers.
“It chimes perfectly with our ethos as Pendine Park because the arts in general and music in particular are at the forefront of everything we do so we can enrich lives across the generations.
“The adjudicators had a very difficult task but I don’t believe anyone would argue with their final decision. I thought all three performed wonderfully but Sian Dicker was the deserved winner.
“I hope the recognition she will deservedly get after winning this competition will help her achieve her dream of becoming a major opera star.”
Among those in the audience was Ken Skates AM the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure.
It was, he said, “an immense pleasure” to witness the International Voice of the Future competition during the Llangollen Eisteddfod’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
He added: “Few businesses in the UK appreciate, or do more, for the arts than Pendine Park Care Organisation. Their support is remarkable.
“It really is a huge honour to be part of this unique event especially as it celebrates its 70th anniversary. “
Eilir Owen Griffiths, Music Director at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, said: “The quality of candidates for the International Voice of the Future competition is always extremely high, but this year’s entries have really blown us all away.
“This competition is all about providing exceptional talent with a springboard for their professional careers. The increased prize fund, generously donated by sponsor and long-time supporter of the Eisteddfod, the Pendine Park Care Organisation, has really boosted interest and attracted even greater talent to the competition.
“We would like to thank all competitors for their fantastic performances but our winner Sian Dicker was truly spectacular. We hope winning this prestigious award will enable all our finalists to take their careers in music to the next level.”
The unenviable task of judging the competition went to leading soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and composer Gareth Jones who agreed the increased prize money had raised the profile of the event to a whole new level.
She said: “The decision was a tough one but Gareth and I both thought, on this occasion, that Sian Dicker was the clear winner.
“The range of colour in Sian’s voice and her stylistic interpretation of the music along with the way her character shone through all resulted in a very polished performance.”
Runner-up Cartrin Woodruff, of Llanrhystud near Aberystwyth was delighted to make it to the competition final.
She said: “Llangollen is such a respected festival and I have never competed here before. The preliminary round was really tough and I was just delighted to make the final.
“It’s been more like a concert than a competition. I know Elgan really well but had never met Sian before. We have all got on really well and Sian deserved to win. I have no complaints. It was a wonderful competition and I’m just happy to have been part of it.”
Catrin, who studied for a degree in music at the University of York and a Masters in Voice at the Royal Northern College of Music, is due to begin studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in September.
She said: “I’m also married. My husband, Chris Abel, is a physicist and is currently doing his Phd at the University of Sussex but he’s based in Switzerland so we only get to see each other once a month at the moment.
“I have been touring with a pop-up opera company and performing all over the UK for the last few weeks too.”
Tenor Elgan Llyr Thomas added: “I‘m pretty busy at the moment and in fact have performances lined up from now until 2020 which has to be good. I’m working with English Opera and have performances in Paris coming up soon which is amazing.
“And I really enjoyed playing the role of Spoletta alongside Sir Bryn Terfel in Tosca here at Llangollen this week.”
Elgan graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music and completed his studies at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
He said: “I’m still based in Llandudno but to be truthful I’m all over the place travelling, it comes with the job I suppose. My parents were her to support me. My dad Aled, is due to retire from the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and my mum, Eleri is a classroom teaching assistant.
“They are huge supporters and follow my career as much as they are able. They will come to see my performances as often as they possibly can. I also have two sisters, Elen and Alaw and one nephew and two nieces.”