GSMD Gold Medal, Barbican

Friday 5th May 2017

Each year our Livery is invited to attend the Gold Medal concert held at the Barbican by competing Guildhall students. About seven of us turned up including the Senior Warden and PM’s Roger Merton and George Lankester. It’s a vocal competition and the evening is the final run off between the remaining four contenders, thus we had a slightly unbalanced quartet of one soprano, two baritones and one bass baritone to impress us. Beginning at 7pm, the first half is lieder and each student is accompanied by their preferred pianist on a Steinway concert grand. The finalists comprised Daniel Shelvey, Bianca Andrew, Samuel Carl and Josep-Ramon Olivé who were being judged by a panel of four including the new Principal Lynne Williams who took over from Prof. Barry Ife late last year. The programmes were quite diverse as one might expect, but inclined to the late romantic repertoire where I guess they reckoned they could be shown off to best advantage – this was fine, but tended towards the earnest. After an interval glass (of water, honest), we returned for the second half by when the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra had assembled under the baton of Dominic Wheeler. This was much more interesting as it needed a different sort of voice to cope with the larger forces, thus a favourite from the lieder section fell away when we just couldn’t hear him! The contestants also seemed more relaxed and introduced little props such as a little book for Leperello's catalogue aria from Don Gionvanni sung by Samuel Carl; Bianca Andrew finished her set off with a dazzling bit of jazz opera by Kurt Weill, singing ‘I’m a Stranger here myself’ with such zest in her bright red dress I had to offer George some medicated snuff! All students were all excellent, however there can be only one winner and, just as we were thinking of leaving the judges to it (it took an hour and a half for them to decide last year!) they returned their verdict and gave the prize to Spanish baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé. True, he did have a lovely voice, but he had also been far savvier with his musical choices – he sang the only baroque aria of the night (Se il mar promette calma by Handel) and finished with a blazing and funny Largo al factotum from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, thereby showing mastery over three centuries and, with the smaller, more restrained forces needed, could show his voice off so we could all hear him.. clever lad. With concert done and it being the Mistress's birthday, Ralph and Maureen kindly hosted a jolly little supper back at their Barbican flat which was very kind – and we shamelessly overstayed our welcome as it was such fun.. they finally got rid of us all at about 11.30 I think.. I was quite beat after the night before so slept pretty well!