News & Media

Voice competition ends on high note

Cynthia Abraham and Cecilia Rangwanasha with their medals

The Sixth Unisa International Voice Competition has ended on a historical note with Cecilia Rangwanasha becoming the first South African classical singer to win a Unisa International Voice Competition.

The event literally ended on a high note as three sopranos competed in the final round on 3 February 2018 in the ZK Matthews Great Hall. The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra conducted by Maestro Vito Clemente from Italy accompanied them.

The final round in the Jazz Category took place on 2 February with French vocalist Cynthia Abraham taking top honours as the first winner of the Jazz Voice Category.

Rangwanasha and Abraham each take home R200 000.

In the Jazz Category the second prize was awarded to local vocalist Tshepo Tshabalala and the third prize to the British vocalist Ellie Bignall. They won R130 000 and R80 000.

South African sopranos Thembinkosi Magagula and Palesa Malieloa won second and third prize in the Classical Category.

Special prizes went to America vocalist Tahira Clayton and soprano Frances du Plessis for the best semi-finalists who did not go through to the final round.

Two special prizes were also awarded to Abraham, a Parisian from French/Guadeloupe descent. She visited South Africa as an 18-year old, performing at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival as part of a French big band.

Thembinkosi Magagula received a special prize for the best performance of a South African composition in the Classical Category.

The best second round performance in the Classical Category went to Rangwanasha. She is a student of Virginia Davis and a studio member of Cape Town Opera.

The event was particularly successful from a South African perspective. The panel of international adjudicators, all with impressive biographies, voted four South Africans into the final round. Only Abraham and Bignall were not from South Africa. This was once again affirmation of the tremendous talent and dedication of South African vocalists.

Cecilia Rangwanasha with conductor Vito Clemente

Famous South African singers who have been finalists in Unisa International Voice Competitions include Raoul Beukes, Johan Botha, Kobie van Rensburg, and André Howard.

Celebrated singer Sibongile Khumalo was the only South African on the panel of adjudicators. Barbara Hill-Moore (USA), Oswaldo Iraheta (El Salvador), Damon Nestor Ploumis (Germany), and Tomoko Takeuchi (Japan) judged the Classical Category with her.

The jury members for the Jazz Category were Humphrey Campbell (The Netherlands), Carla Cook (USA), Trudy Kerr (Australia/UK), Judy Niemack (Germany), and Jeff Ramsey (USA).

The classical competitors received excellent support from South African pianists Albie van Schalkwyk, Elna van der Merwe, Susan Steenkamp-Swanepoel, and Laetitia Orlandi. Jazz pianists John Fresk, Roland Moses, and Bokani Dyer were the accompanists in the Jazz Category.

You can watch the final concert here.

*By Alet Venter