Anthony Sandler. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

Saluting More Magnificent Champions


There were so many superb performances at the 2015 McDonald's Sydney Eisteddfod, adjudicators complained about the difficulty of choosing a winner when the overall standard was so high. It is equally hard to shine in a field of champions, but the best still managed to stand out from the rest. In the general events, two teenagers added their names to Sydney Eisteddfod’s shortlist of performers who have attained perfect scores.  Actor and singer Alex Chorley received top marks for  his performance of a passage from King John in the Shakespeare Event (14-16 years), while dancer Ryu Bautista did likewise with a sensational performance in the Jazz Dance (15 years). Another standout was 12-year-old cellist Benett Tsai who won the Viola, Cello or Double Bass (25/u) event, along with the Sydney Eisteddfod Alf and Pearl Pollard Instrumental Awards for Performance Excellence.


Tabatha McFadyen. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

In addition to the Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald's Operatic Aria, there were many superb performances in the classical singing category. A number of fine male voices were heard, but apart from Soonki Park who triumphed in the Sydney Eisteddfod Opera Awards, female singers claimed all the major prizes with their ravishing skills. Tabatha McFadyen won the Opera and Arts Support Group Vocal Scholarship, while Isabella Moore and Josi Ellem triumphed in the senior and intermediate Joan Sutherland Memorial Scholarships.

Molly Stewart

Molly Stewart. Photo: WInkiPoP Media

In the Contemporary Singing category, Anthony Sandler, a newcomer to Sydney Eisteddfod stages, won the Senior Singer of the Year with an attractive cabaret-style performance, while 15-year-old Molly Stewart, who sings every song as a story she shares with her audience, won the junior title. In other events, 14-year Gabrielle Montalbo emerged as the most successful entrant by winning both the Vocal Performance and Song from a Musical/Music for her age group, along with the open-age Singer/Songwriter award.

Mmagnificent performances illuminated every event in the choral program. The Choir of Southern Lights, Fort Street High School Chamber Choir and Barker College Copeland Choir emerged triumphant in the three prestigious Sydney Eisteddfod John Lamble Foundation Australasian Choral Championships. Later in the season, the brilliant Fort Street choristers won the Jury Vote and the People’s Choice Award at the Australian Choral Grand Prix. The superb Frensham Madrigals finished second in both counts, but as the Fort Street singers also collected the prize for the Best Performance of an Australian Composition, it was clearly their day.

The final of the Sydney Eisteddfod Allison/Henderson Piano Scholarship was one of the most exciting in years with David Soo taking top honours.  Halina Leung scored a popular victory in prestigious Kawai Award, and while scores in the high 90’s were commonplace, 12-year-old Corinna Shimeng Chen emerged as the most successful player with three gold medals to her credit.

After winning the Sydney Eisteddfod NSW Drs Orchestra Instrumental Scholarship, Lily Higson-Spence wasted no time in confirming her excellence. Stepping from one platform to another, she played her way into final of ABC Symphony Australia Young Musician of the Year Award, and although she did not win the title, she succeeded in adding the Nelly Apt Scholarship to her laurels along with the Best Recital Award and People’s Choice Awards. In this category, Olivia Hans-Rosenbaum proved herself as another top talent by winning clarinet events for players aged 19 and under and 15 and under, both with a score of 99/100.

The instrumental groups also performed brilliantly with the Ku-ring-gai Youth Orchestra winning the Robert & Elizabeth Albert Community Youth/Secondary School Orchestra (25/u). Terrey Hills Public School triumphed in the hugely popular Primary School Intermediate Concert Band Contest, while Trinity Grammar, Knox Grammar, Chatswood Public School, and the Newtown High School of Performing Arts all finished the competition with two gold medals to their credit.


Alex Chorley. Photo: WinkiPoP Media

The Speech & Drama section was one of the best on record.  Early in the competition, multi-talented Alex Chorley set the pace by attaining a perfect score, while Jussi Jenssen emerged as the most successful entrant by winning the Actor’s Championship (16-21 years) and Prose and Verse Speaking events for his age group, while 15- year-old Hudson Musty won the Actor’s Championship (12-15 years) with a memorable performance. The top scoring female Natasha Nogueira made her mark by winning the Prose Speaking (14 & 15 years), while 12-year-old Charlotte Guest demonstrated her gift of the gab by scoring the highest mark in the Public Speaking program. The most inspiring victory in the 2015 Festival, however, came from 9-year-old Rupert Hughes. Born deaf, Rupert broke through the sound barrier with the help of a cochlear implant, and displayed his mastery in the art of speech by winning the Prose Speaking (10/u).

Ryu Bautista

Ryu Bautista. Photo: WInkiPoP Media

The dance category was studded with stellar performances. Harrison Lee and the graceful New Zealander Katherine Sonnekus, who finished on his heels with the second Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Scholarship, taking top honours. Harrison is now making his mark and living the dream at The Royal Ballet School, while winner of the Robert & Elizabeth Albert Junior Classical Ballet Scholarship Lania Atkins has further confirmed her promise by finishing second in 2015 Genée International Ballet Competition.  There were so many notable performers in this category, it is impossible to name them all, but as talent shone in all dance styles at every age group, both the entrants and their teachers have reason to take pride in their efforts. The Ev & Bow Fulltime Training Centre won the highly coveted Open Jazz Dance Group Final at Sydney Opera House and in the Dance of Champions, a team from The Next Step collected the People’s Choice Award, while a group from St Columba’s Anglican School, Port Macquarie, won the Jury Vote. Bravo all!


Benett Tsai

Benett Tsai. Photo: WinkiPoP Media