On Friday 8th April 2022, countertenor Alexander Chance was announced as the winner of the International Handel Singing Competition following the final which took place at London’s St George’s Church, Hanover Square. Alexander Chance was also awarded the Audience Prize and fellow countertenor Meili Li was awarded Second Prize.
Alexander Chance was a Choral Scholar and read Classics at New College, Oxford. Recent solo appearances include works by Schütz with Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo at Wigmore Hall; a programme of Purcell and Charpentier with David Bates and La Nuova Musica; a European tour of Purcell’s King Arthur and The Fairy Queen with Vox Luminis; Handel’s Messiah with Le Concert Lorrain; lute songs performed around Europe, including at Musikfest Bremen, with Toby Carr; solo works by Arvo Pärt at Nargenfestival in Tallinn; a performance of songs by 20th century Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi with Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars at the Salzburg Festival; a recital for solo countertenor by J.C. Bach, Schütz and others, at Musikfest Bremen; Bach’s St John Passion with John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists; Blow’s Venus and Adonis in Zaryadye Hall, Moscow; and Alexander’s stage debut as Oberon in The Grange Festival‘s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Gregory Batsleer, Festival Director for the London Handel Festival comments, “the Handel Singing Competition remains the jewel in the crown of the London Handel Festival. With over 150 applicants from all over the world, this year’s competition was one of the hardest to judge to date. I have no doubt that all finalists will go on to have careers of great distinction. Huge congratulations to Alexander Chance who just edged it with a remarkably dynamic performance.”
Laurence Cummings, Musical Director for the London Handel Festival adds, “there is always a buzz at the Final of the Handel Singing Competition. This year was no exception. It was a real joy to work with all of our finalists and I look forward to watching all of their careers bloom. In the end there is only one winner. Huge congratulations to Alexander Chance. The judges were particularly impressed with his expressive and committed singing.”
The composer George Frideric Handel was known to encourage and train young, unestablished singers, many of whom rose to fame as his star soloists. The London Handel Festival aims to continue Handel’s great tradition of nurturing talent through the international Handel Singing Competition. The competition was inaugurated in 2002 with Ian Partridge and James Bowman as the first adjudicators and has grown to become a major international singing event, attracting 120 applicants in 2022.
The calibre of the competition is demonstrated by past winners and finalists who have gone on to become internationally recognised soloists, not just in the baroque music field, and give regular appearances in the world’s leading opera houses. They include Iestyn Davies, Lucy Crowe, Grace Davidson, Tim Mead, Christopher Ainslie, Rupert Charlesworth and Ruby Hughes.
The Competition comprises a preliminary round of reviewing files sent digitally, and then the first live round at Craxton Studios in north London. Then follows the Semi-Final with around 10 singers accompanied by harpsichord, and then the Final with four or five singers who are accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra, conducted by Laurence Cummings. Both the Semi-Final and Final are held at St George’s, Hanover Square in Mayfair, central London (Handel’s own church) and are open to the general public as part of the annual London Handel Festival. These events are well attended, including by many agents and promoters. All competitors are required to submit all-Handel programmes at each stage.
As well as cash prizes (starting with £5,000 for the winner) and the chance to work with a professional baroque orchestra, one of the key benefits of getting through to the semi-finals and finals is the increased profile, through significant press and promoter interest, which leads to numerous engagements; this has been the vehicle through which they have been able to build their professional careers.