Anthony Sandler on stage at the 2015 McDonald's Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
On 22 September, Sydney Eisteddfod presented the finals of the Senior and Junior Singer of the Year titles in an exciting two-tier program at Petersham RSL Club. The juniors opened the show with an amazing display of talent, and as the seniors who followed did equally well, the entire audience seemed convinced that this year’s finals were the best contemporary singing events ever staged by Sydney Eisteddfod.
The velvet-voiced singer and vocal coach Francine Bell, the well-known singer and trombonist DanBarnett and the internationally recognised Michael Lavine who adjudicated both finals clearly enjoyed the show as much the audience. Delighting in the high standard, they applauded both sets of finalists, but while they agreed all were all worthy of the prize, they were adamant the winners of both events finished an edge ahead of their rivals.
In the Junior Final they awarded first prize to Molly Stewart who scored a popular victory singing ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’ from Avenue Q and ‘Never Neverland’ by Scott Alan. A veteran of the McDonald’s Sydney Eisteddfod platform, Molly has been collecting medals for classical and contemporary singing on its stages for the past five years. In everyday life, she appears shy, but onstage she becomes convincingly confident. Blessed with a lovely voice, Molly manages to sing every song as a story she shares with her audience.
Although three of the six finalists in the senior event were established champions of the competition, the 2015 award went to a newcomer. Anthony Sandler of St Ives entered McDonald’s Sydney Eisteddfod for the first time this year, and after attracting in several general events, he sang his way into the Singer of Year Final. A polished performer, Anthony sang ‘Race You to the Top of the Morning’ from Secret Garden, ‘Twenty something’ by Jaimie Cullum and Josh Groban’s ‘Broken Vow.’
In both finals, the adjudicators agreed every singer had something special to offer. Gemma Nha, who claimed the Junior Singer of the Year title in 2014, opened the show and set the pace performing with all the poise and polish of a seasoned professional. Another proven McDonald’s Sydney Eisteddfod talent Juliette Di Bello created positive impression with her strong voice, musicality and vibrant personality, while Celina Sharma astounded all with her powerhouse voice and vibrant stage presence. The youngest finalist Jacinta Gunawan, who accompanied herself on guitar in her second number, won all hearts when she stepped onto the stage in a pretty party frock, complete with a gleaming tiara and sparkling silver boots, while the charming Hannah Mitchell delighted all with her lovely voice and natural grace.
While the six young singers all established themselves as potential stars, adjudicators demanded more from the Sydney Eisteddfod Senior Singer of the Year Finalists who brilliantly exceeded their expectations performing with a four-piece band. In this event, the final line-up included established champion Teagan Denham, who again proved her outstanding potential with another great performance, and two previous winners of the Sydney Eisteddfod Junior Singer of the Year title. Lilia Jackson, who won in 2012 captivated all with a voice that has become lovelier with time, while the 2013 winner Alexander Young sported a fine mature voice, along with a strong sense of showmanship.
In addition to Anthony Sandler, the two other newcomers also made their presence felt. A girl with a big voice who knows exactly how to use it, Sophia Bridget Dalisay succeeded in rocking the rafters, while the Rebecca Qu put on a fantastic show, especially when she sang and danced to Franki Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.’
At the end of the night Sophia Bridget Dalisay and Alexander Young received special prizes from backingtracks.com.au and most of the audience departed with a song in its heart. Once again, Sydney Eisteddfod thanks Petersham RSL Club for making its auditorium available for these wonderful finals and the eloquent Warren Burr who gave a monumental performance as compere. It also thanks the band; Bev Kennedy (musical director/piano), Tom Ferris (guitar), Andy Davies (drums) and Hugh Fraser (bass), the adjudicators who added so much to the show, technical operators Gabby & Toni Venditti and all who came along to applaud the finalists.