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Mendl-Schrama Prize 2024

Three people standing in recital hall receiving prizesThe annual Mendl-Schrama Prize auditions and recital took place on 27 January in the Holywell Music Room earlier this year. There were eighteen applications from singers, pianists and singer-piano duos; more than ever before. The standard was very high across the board, with some real talent on show.

The winner of the 2024 prize was Edward Freeman, a baritone from The Queen’s College, Oxford, currently in the second year of a music degree. He will give a recital on 1 February 2025 in the Holywell and this will be advertised more fully nearer the time.

There were two other prizes awarded this year; a Special Award went to Alfred Fardell, who not only applied as a solo pianist but accompanied two other singer applicants and played in the evening’s recital. He is a finalist from St Peter’s College, going on to do a Master’s course in Collaborative piano at the Royal Academy of Music in September. The other award was a Best Newcomer’s Prize which went to Matilda Bates, a first year from Queen’s, who was deemed to show the most potential of all the first-year applicants. Congratulations to all three.

The evening saw last year’s winner, Archie Inns from Christ Church, along with Alfred Fardell and a student string quartet, give a performance of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Magic Lantern Tales, and Ivor Gurney’s Ludlow and Teme. Frances-Hoad’s cycle of songs sets poems by Ian Macmillan which were in turn inspired by interviews and recordings of elderly survivors of the Second World War, and the composer weaves a spellbinding narrative with this material. Gurney’s songs are from just after the First World War and use poetry by A E Housman.

Archie Inns gave an impressive and touching rendition of both these substantial sets of songs, bringing the large and enthusiastic audience with him all the way. From the glorious simplicity of “Harry Holmes, who wanted nothing more than a stroll, and a pint, and a kiss” on his return from the war, to the deep poignancy of Housman’s mourning the loss of the country’s youth – “they carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man.”

Published: 11 April 2024

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